The Mint Museum celebrates its 85th anniversary with a weekend of festivities and complimentary museum admission

The Mint Museum celebrates its 85th anniversary with a weekend of festivities and complimentary museum admission 

For Immediate Release 

Charlotte, North Carolina (October 12, 2021) — October 22, 2021 marks the 85th anniversary of The Mint Museum. A weekend celebration is planned October 22-24 to commemorate the opening of North Carolina’s first art museum. Festivities, presented by Chase, kick off 5-9 PM October 22 at Mint Museum Randolph. Events include the opening of the newest Interventions installation by local artist and muralist Irisol Gonzalez and an artist talk with Gonzalez at 6:30 p.m., live painting by local artists Elisa Lopez Trejo and Arthur Rogers, plus a cash bar, food trucks, music by DJ Claudio Ortiz, cupcakes, and giveaways with free mini art kits compliments of Chase. 

The celebration continues at Mint Museum Uptown noon-4 PM October 23, and includes live music by Groove Masters and Orquesta Mayor, live painting by local artist Arthur Rogers, a cash bar, cupcakes, raffle prizes, docent tours of the John Leslie Breck: American Impressionist exhibition, and giveaways. Museum admission is free throughout the weekend at both museum locations. 

“We are excited to help the Mint Museum celebrate 85 years of being a key part of the Charlotte community,” says Justin Brovitz, Chase’s Consumer Banking Market Director in the Carolinas. “This past year and a half has taught us so much about the value of art and the arts to boost our spirits, to inspire our creativity, and to strengthen our communities. It is with that in mind that we are supporting a free weekend of the Mint Museum’s new exhibitions, installations and other fun activities in celebration of this milestone.” 

The Mint Museum was established in 1936 thanks to the efforts of many women who were devoted to bringing art to the Charlotte community, especially Mary Myers Dwelle. As chairperson of the Charlotte Woman’s Club Art Department, Dwelle arranged art exhibitions and lectures that were eagerly received by Charlotte audiences. Recognizing the need for a free-standing arts institution, she and other arts advocates identified the historic U.S. Mint building on Tryon Street as a viable location. Despite financial hurdles, Dwelle and her team of arts advocates marched forward ultimately inspiring funding for the purchase and relocation of the building to the Mint’s current Randolph Road location. In 2010, Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts opened at 500 South Tryon Street. 

The Mint Museum recognizes that throughout its history it has not always been the welcoming place for all people that it aspires to be today. Through initiatives, such as showcasing works by diverse groups of artists, providing added accessibility through special events and free museum days, and special programming, the museum strives to be inclusive for all people, races, and backgrounds. 

“The Mint has connected generations through the power of art,” says Todd Herman, PhD, president and CEO of The Mint Museum. “As we look forward to the next 85 years, we are guided by a commitment to welcome and inspire artists and visitors of all backgrounds with the amazing art in our collections and through special exhibitions and programming.” 


About The Mint Museum 

Established in 1936 as North Carolina’s first art museum, The Mint Museum is a leading, innovative cultural institution and museum of international art and design. With two locations—Mint Museum Randolph in the heart of Eastover and Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts on South Tryon Street—the Mint boasts one of the largest collections in the Southeast and is committed to engaging and inspiring members of the global community. 


Caroline Portillo, Senior Director of Marketing & Communications at The Mint Museum| 704.488.6874 (c) 

Michele Huggins, Communications and Media Relations Project Manager at The Mint Museum | 704.564.0826 (c) 

Curators’ Pick: “Siamese Twins” by Virgil Ortiz

Curators’ Pick: Siamese Twins by Virgil Ortiz

Virgil Ortiz was born there and lives in Cochiti. Coming from a place where clay and life are synonymous, Ortiz did not know that making things out of clay was art until he was a teenager. The earliest Cochiti hand-built clay figures may have been inspired by circus performers or other itinerant entertainers, since the characters are usually depicted in an active state with an open mouth, suggesting singing.  Those early figures were much smaller in size than Ortiz’s sculpture, but the way he made and decorated this form is consistent with the way historic objects, including those made by his mother and grandmother, were made. 

Credit: Virgil Ortiz (American, 1969-). “Siamese Twins,” 1997, clay, slip, stain. Gift of Gretchen and Nelson Grice. 2002.124.1. Copyright Virgil Ortiz Creations 1997.

The Mint Museum from Home is Presented By Chase.

Curator’s Pick: “Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet Sewing” John Leslie Breck

Curator’s Pick: Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet Sewing by John Leslie Breck

Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet Sewing, was created in 1888 by American artist John Leslie Breck. Breck was born in 1860, grew up near Boston, and trained in Germany, Belgium, and France. In 1887, he and seven of his colleagues visited the village of Giverny which lies approximately 40 miles northwest of Paris where the French Impressionist painter Claude Monet had settled in 1883. 

Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet Sewing was painted in the summer of 1888, not long after Breck had converted to Impressionism. In the painting, Suzanne sits in dappled sunlight under a leafy tree and in front of a field of golden hay. Breck’s skill at capturing the play of light and shadow is on full display. A canvas by Monet, completed at the same time, features his stepdaughter Blanche at work at her easel and in the distance, Suzanne, who peers over Breck’s shoulder as he, too, works on a painting.   

See this painting and 70 others by John Leslie Breck in the exhibition John Leslie Breck: American Impressionist on view at Mint Museum Uptown through January 2, 2022.

Credit: John Leslie Breck (American, 1860-99). “Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet Sewing,” 1888, oil on canvas. Gift of the Mint Museum Auxiliary and courtesy Heather James Fine Art. 2016.25

The Mint Museum from Home is Presented By Chase.

The Windgate Foundation awards The Mint Museum two $1 million gifts to grow its Craft and Design Collection

The Windgate Foundation awards The Mint Museum two $1 million gifts to grow its Craft and Design Collection


Charlotte, North Carolina (September 9, 2021) — The Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina has received two $1 million dollar gifts from the Windgate Foundation. One of the $1 million gifts will be used to establish an acquisition endowment for the purchase of works by living craft artists for the Mint’s permanent collection. The other $1 million is designated for operating expenses to advance the museum’s mission.

“We are both honored and thrilled that the Windgate Foundation has recognized the strength of The Mint Museum’s programs and the importance of our Craft and Design collection,” says Todd Herman, PhD, president and CEO of The Mint Museum. “Their generous gift will allow us to continue to grow this important collection with an emphasis on living and diverse artists.”

The Mint Museum collects international contemporary decorative arts in the areas of glass, fiber art, metal, studio jewelry, design, studio furniture, wood art, and clay. The Craft and Design Collection, housed at Mint Museum Uptown, includes works of art from the mid-20th century to the present, with a focus on 21st-century pieces. The Windgate Foundation gift will be used to grow The Mint Museum’s Craft and Design Collection with works of art made by a diverse group of artists.

“Craft is central to the identity of the Mint, one of a few art museums in the country with permanent collection galleries devoted to the ongoing presentation of local, national, and global craft,” says Annie Carlano, senior curator of Craft, Design & Fashion at The Mint Museum. “We are honored that the Windgate Foundation has once again recognized the importance of the craft collection at the Mint, as well as our exhibitions, programs, and publications.”

By forging alliances regionally, nationally, and internationally, the museum continues to find new ways to integrate craft and design into the broader conversation about art and society. The new gift to The Mint Museum is a significant expansion of the Windgate Foundation’s commitment to the museum’s Craft and Design program. Previously, the Windgate Foundation has supported Covid-19 Relief, the Michael Sherrill Retrospective exhibition and catalogue, Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs 1851-1939 educational programming, and other art acquisitions at the Mint.


The Mint Museum

Established in 1936 as North Carolina’s first art museum, The Mint Museum is a leading, innovative cultural institution and museum of international art and design. With two locations — Mint Museum Randolph in the heart of Eastover and Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts — the Mint boasts one of the largest collections in the Southeast and is committed to engaging and inspiring members of the global community.


Caroline Portillo, Senior Director of Marketing & Communications at The Mint Museum| 704.488.6874 (c)

Michele Huggins, Communications and Media Relations Project Manager at The Mint Museum | 704.564.0826 (c)

The Mint Museum renames its planned giving program The Dwelle-McBryde Society in honor of longtime supporter Neill McBryde’s commitment to the museum

The Mint Museum renames its planned giving program The Dwelle-McBryde Society in honor of longtime supporter Neill McBryde’s commitment to the museum

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Charlotte, North Carolina (July 20, 2021) — The Mint Museum’s planned giving program, The Dwelle Society, is being renamed The Dwelle-McBryde Society in honor of Charlotte attorney Neill McBryde’s steadfast support of the museum.

McBryde was recognized as one of the top 45 estate planning lawyers in the U.S. by Town & Country magazine in the course of his career, and was named in Best Lawyers in America, Trusts and Estates, 1983-2021; Litigation & Controversy – Tax, 1983-2021; Tax Law 1983-2021. He also was a leader in the Charlotte-based Moore & Van Allen law firm for decades. A champion of legacy giving, he understands the value of planned giving programs for the long-term sustainability of institutions and nonprofits, whether The Mint Museum or his beloved Myers Park Presbyterian Church and its outreach ministries. This honor also marks the occasion of McBryde’s retirement from the practice of law at the end of 2021, after many years of dedicated service to his clients, the firm, and the community.

Neill McBryde
Neill McBryde

McBryde was a driving force behind the establishment of the Mint’s Dwelle Society in 1996. In 2010, he was a founding member of the Mint’s Crown Society, an annual giving circle comprised of museum patrons contributing $1,200 or more to The Mint Museum’s Annual Fund. He also served on the Mint’s board of trustees for multiple terms, once as board chair, as well as on numerous committees, and is now a member of The Mint Museum’s advisory board. In addition, his wife Peggy McBryde served as the publicity committee chair for the 1997 Antiques Show and co-chaired the Antiques Show committee in 1998, and has held multiple committee leadership roles with the Mint Museum Auxiliary.

The Mint Museum’s planned giving program was originally named for Mary Myers Dwelle, who in 1933 began to raise funds to relocate the Charlotte Mint building to house the first art museum in North Carolina. Her pioneering efforts inspired the establishment of the Dwelle Society, now the Dwelle-McBryde Society, which recognizes the generosity of donors who make a planned gift or bequest to The Mint Museum.

“This renaming and the generous gifts in honor of Neill McBryde have invigorated our planned giving program at the Mint,” says Todd A. Herman, PhD, president and CEO at The Mint Museum. “We are optimistic that Neill’s stature in the community and commitment to lifelong giving will serve as a catalyst for growth.”

Moore & Van Allen has been a longtime corporate supporter of The Mint Museum and has sponsored many exhibitions, ranging from Portals to the Past: British Ceramics 1675-1825 (currently on view at Mint Museum Randolph) to The Glamour & Romance of Oscar de la Renta in 2018, and most recently Classic Black: The Basalt Sculpture of Wedgwood and His Contemporaries in 2020.


The Mint Museum

Established in 1936 as North Carolina’s first art museum, The Mint Museum is a leading, innovative cultural institution and museum of international art and design. With two locations — Mint Museum Randolph in the heart of Eastover and Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts — the Mint boasts one of the largest collections in the Southeast and is committed to engaging and inspiring members of the global community.

Moore & Van Allen

Moore & Van Allen PLLC (, founded in 1950, has more than 330 attorneys serving clients in over 60 areas of focus. The attorneys at Moore & Van Allen provide sophisticated legal services within nationally recognized Litigation, Corporate, Financial Services, Intellectual Property, Bankruptcy, Wealth, Trust and Estate, and Commercial Real Estate law practices for international banks and financial services companies, domestic and global manufacturers, retailers, individuals, and healthcare and technology organizations. The firm is ranked in the prestigious “Am Law 200” list, and U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers have recognized Moore & Van Allen in their 2021 “Best Law Firms” rankings, both regionally and nationally.

Contact: Caroline Portillo, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at The Mint Museum | 704.488.6874 (c)

Michele Huggins, Communications and Media Relations Project Manager at The Mint Museum | 704.564.0826 (c)

Local artists and artist collectives are expanding opportunities to create and experience art in Charlotte

Styled word mark for It Takes a Village: Charlotte Artist Collectives

Local artists and artist collectives are expanding opportunities to create and experience art in Charlotte

By Liz Rothaus Bertrand 


The Mint Museum’s exhibition It Takes a Village: Charlotte Artist Collectives puts local artists and the organizations that nurture them in the spotlight. Opening June 12 at Mint Museum Randolph, the exhibition will feature individual and collaborative pieces by artists who are part of three of Charlotte’s innovative artist collectives: BlkMrktClt, Brand the Moth, and Goodyear Arts.

Curated by the Mint’s chief curator and curator of contemporary art, Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, sees the exhibition as a wonderful way to showcase the collaboration of local artists who are producing intriguing and inspired works of art. “One of the things I’ve found really wonderful about this city is the number of collectives that were created for artists to support each other. I rarely have encountered that in the other places I’ve lived.”

"Blocked" by artist Will Jenkins

Building artist communities

Collectives build something special for artists, says Todd Stewart, a member of the artist-led residency program Goodyear Arts. “There’s a reciprocal relationship within an art community, creating and seeing things,” he says. “Personally, I feel like I get more than I give.”

For Stewart, a trained sculptor who also explores painting in his mixed-media creations, working as an artist can be lonely. He says collectives really help to push past the feeling of isolation, even if you’re not actively collaborating with the artists around you. “That to me is just a huge boost of energy … seeing what these folks are up to really propels me forward,” he says.

The wide spectrum of artists—visual, performing and literary—and creative work at Goodyear Arts helps draw diverse audiences to events, most of which are free and offered in an accessible location. This expands relationships and exposure for other artists, too.

Matthew Steele, Division Phase. Courtesy of Artist.

Having the opportunity to show their work in a museum the caliber of the Mint is an exciting for collective members, Stewart says, with the potential to reach people who don’t yet know them and what they contribute to the community.

People often think of art coming from “meccas” like Los Angeles, New York, or London, Stewart says, “but Charlotte is building this creative capital, too. It’s rewarding putting your buckets down where you’re at and creating where you are,” he says.

Artists collectives depend on public and private support to continue their work. Goodyear Arts, for example, turns donated space into art galleries and studios. This kind of partnership is key to building opportunities for artists to create.

The fruits of such collaborations can already be seen around Charlotte through various public art initiatives.

Members of Brand the Moth and BlkMrktClt were pivotal in orchestrating Charlotte's Black Lives Matter mural on South Tryon Street in 2020.

What public art brings to the city

Besides beautifying and enriching the city’s landscape, public art like murals serve important social functions. Art inspires conversation and brings different communities together, says painter Sam Guzzie, partner and director of programming for Brand the Moth.

Last summer, Brand the Moth and BlKMrktClt were two of the key groups leading local artists in creating the Black Lives Matter mural on Tryon Street. The iconic project involved 20 different artists, who were each able to put their own distinctive mark on this collaboration.

Bringing community members into the creative process is important, too. For example, Brand the Moth’s 16th Street Bridge Mural was directly inspired by conversations with homeless residents at the nearby Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, who then volunteered side-by-side with Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department officers, and others to revitalize the area. Such efforts help create community dialogue over the paintbrush, says Hannah Fairweather, partner and director of curation at Brand the Moth.

Another unique collaboration took place at the McGill Rose Garden, where the Brand the Moth created a mural with UMAR, a nonprofit that promotes community inclusion for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Efforts like these strengthen community bonds and allow people all over the city to experience the arts. For some people, seeing or participating in a public art initiative may be the only chance they have to experience art. “Often public art is the gateway into that world for them,” Fairweather says.

Visitors to The Mint Museum can gain an appreciation for the role artist collectives play in our community through this exhibition. “It’s really something to be proud of and to invest in,” Sudul Edwards says.

Liz Rothaus Bertrand is a Charlotte-based freelance writer who has a love of the arts in all its forms.

This story was originally published in the January, 2021 issue of Inspired, the Mint’s biannual member magazine.

The Mint’s community relations director recognized as an icon of the Latino community

The Mint’s community relations director recognized as an icon of the Latino community

By Rafael Prieto 

The Comité de Fiestas Patrias y Tradiciones de Charlotte (CFPTC) recognized Rubie R. Britt-Height, director of community relations at The Mint Museum, as an Icon of the Latino community, for her contribution to culture and the preservation of the Hispanic heritage.

“For years, we have wanted to cherish Rubie’s support to the local Hispanic artistic talent and the presence of the Afro Caribbean rhythms on the Charlotte Region,” says Rafael Prieto, co-founder of CFPTC.

The award was presented in person to Britt-Height by Charlotte’s Patriotic Celebrations and Traditions Committee on June 25 at CFPTC’s Third Encounter of Directors, Founders, and Volunteers on the Artesan Gelato Ice Cream place in Matthews. The award recognizes her initiative Mint to  Move, created in 2012, which represents the spirit of Afro-Latino culture through music and dance by Africans in the Caribbean and the rest of Hispanic America.

“We intended to honor Rubie in the Third Afrolatinos-Black History Month commemoration, held at Johnson C. Smith University on February 27, 2020, but imponderable circumstances prevented it,” Prieto says. The Third Encounter of Directors, Founders, and Volunteers was a perfect event to recognize Britt-Height. Representatives of many Hispanic nationalities affiliated with Fiestas Patrias applauded her work and accomplishments.

Thanks to the intervention of Britt-Height, the idea of preserving the beautiful and meaningful Colombian tradition of Candles’ Day became a reality. With the help of artist Edwin Gil, CFPTC proposed the commemoration be held at the Mint after the Colombian painter closed his gallery. Since 2016, Fiestas Patrias, Soy Latino Como Tu (SLT), Colombian American Foundation (COAMFO), Lideres Colombianos en Charlotte (LCC), and Manolo’s Bakery have been proactive partners of Candles’ Day.

Britt-Height created the event’s motto, “celebrate the LIGHT in CommUNITY, Family, Oneness, Sharing, Faith & Love for All of Humankind, based on a Colombian tradition.”

Manolo Betancur, from Manolo’s Bakery, and owner of Artesan Gelato, provided the appetizers and pastries for the CFPTC Third Encounter of Directors, Founders, and Volunteers.

Celebrating Women’s History Month at the Mint Museum Store

A curated selection of items from the Mint Museum Store that celebrate women’s stories, art, and artists

Women in Art: 50 Fearless Creatives Who Inspired the World

A charmingly illustrated and inspiring book, Women in Art by Rachel Ignotofskyt highlights the achievements and stories of 50 notable women in the arts, from well-known figures like painters Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keefe to lesser-known names like 19th-century African American quilter Harriet Powers and Hopi-Tewa ceramic artist Nampeyo. $16.99

Mamas knit throw blanket

This cozy cotton and acrylic throw blanket, made in the USA, celebrates females, chicas, women, ladies, girls and mamas. $130.

Votes for Women Suffrage felt doll

These dolls are handcrafted using natural fibers and eco-friendly resources by talented artisans in Kyrgyzstan, and make a great bookend while reminding us all who blazed a path before us. All details are hand stitched and embroidered. $36.

You Go Girl mug

This mug commemorates some of the most influential women artists who have made their stamp. If there’s one thing to say about the accomplishments of women, it’s this: Girlfriends, we’ve come far! $26.

Ruth Supreme zipper pouch

Perfect for storing pencils, cosmetics, art and school supplies, or organizing the resistance. 100% Made in the USA, including the fabric. $18.

Greta Thunberg felted 0rnament

These dolls are handcrafted using natural fibers and eco-friendly resources by talented artisans in Kyrgyzstan. All details are hand stitched and embroidered. $24.

Poet’s Garden 1000 Piece Puzzle

This puzzle features seven beloved women poets and lyricists spanning centuries and continents whose wisdom and words continue to influence the world, including Sappho, Maya Angelou, Mary Oliver, Miriam Makeba, Kamala Das, Li Qingzhao, and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz in a lush, heavenly floral garden.  Illustrated by Jennifer Orkin Lewis. $24

A Chat with ‘Constellation CLT’ Artist de’Angelo Dia

Just part of the story: A chat with Constellation CLT artist de’Angelo Dia

By Rubie R. Britt-Height, Director of Community Relations at The Mint Museum

In September 2008, after 20 years away from Charlotte, I was drawn back to the Queen City and its art scene by what felt like a magnetic force and wide-open door. I was coming from the prestigious Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as its community affairs director. I had worked with numerous amazing statewide artists, yet the springing up of talented Charlotte artists was nothing I had experienced. Charlotte and the Carolinas were rich with young, creative, thoughtful minds, and The Mint Museum was where I saw myself. At that time, it was showcasing a Charlotte-born, renowned artist whose work I loved—Romare Bearden. At the same time, the Mint was presenting an exhibition called A Contemporary Look at the Black Male Image. Two wows! I was impressed.

As I settled in the City once again, in summer of 2009, I was invited by God City artist-educator John R. Hairston, Jr. to the opening night of a NoDa art show that he and artist de’Angelo Dia had put together to debut their latest works. The atmosphere, the creative works, and the vibe of North Davidson were soulful, and light. I knew Hairston as this hip surrealist artist, and he introduced me to Dia. We chatted, he showed me his work, and we discussed his artistic views, society, and what he envisioned. It was a great show.

After that, I engaged the God City art collective members, including Dia, to engage with the Mint’s Grier Heights Community Youth Arts Program as enlightened artist-educators that our students could engage with, and who were young, cool, and looked like them. God City connected with the students like a magnet, and Dia’s sessions brought out the best in the students’ abilities to be critical thinkers. They talked about current events, what they would do if they were the mayor, and how they could change their community by changing how they viewed themselves and “Griertown.” He was a newer member of the God City, and art, education, and social activism seemed his platform too, especially with young minds.

As an instructor at Trinity Episcopal School and through the Mint’s Grier Heights art program, Dia challenged his students and they enjoyed his teaching style and socially-conscious poetry. I also invited Dia to the Mint to present on his service projects, where youth were introduced to the concept of being more spiritual, with introspection, and of giving back to the community, and learning to delve deeper within to discover their own style and individuality.

Over a short time, Dia branched into several modes of art exploration, including photography, poetry, creative writing, oral presentations, and painting. Interestingly, he also was drawn into religious studies and received a Master of Divinity degree. He intertwined his growth as a young radical artist and theologian with his desire to be a social activist through his works of art and his engagement with youth in the Black church. He currently serves as the minister of social justice at St. Paul Baptist Church in Charlotte where he is known as Reverend de’Angelo Dia.

Dia’s Constellation CLT installation is on view at Mint Museum Uptown through March 7. I had a chance to recently chat with Dia and see where he was with creating this body of work on exhibition at Mint Museum Uptown, his art projects, his religion, his thinking, and his latest vibe.

RBH: What was your inspiration in creating these works featured in Constellation CLT?

Dia: Works featured in Constellation CLT are part of an on-going passion project. At this point, I have created 70 large-scale pastel drawings exploring representation and the celebration of creating cultures within a culture. The works of Maurice Sendak and Shel Silverstein inspired this collection. The book Where the Wild Things Are was the Holy Grail for me as a kid, however, I couldn’t identify with the main character Max, so I decided to place my cultural embodiment into Max and the Wild Things and create a pantheon of original characters. Each drawing was created at Goodyear Arts while listening to the works of assorted jazz artists (Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Ghost Tree). Each drawing has a poem reflective of what I was theologically and culturally processing at the time.

RBH: In relation to your installation and viewing today’s America amid a divide, at what phase do you see African American art and culture as social commentary/activism?

Dia: African American art and culture has always been a mirror to America, exposing its hypocrisy and systemic oppression. The work of AfriCOBRA, Emory Douglas, Elizabeth Catlett, Gordon Parks and so many others exemplify this. However, I want to be clear, African American art and culture are not a monolith. Through this body of work, I am attempting to balance the tension of processing our daily reality of being Black in America, to highlight our resilience and tenacity, and to celebrate our inherent ability to thrive amidst a divisive social and political climate. The childlike elements of these drawings are my attempt to reclaim my own sense of Black Boy Joy with the understanding that joy is an act of resistance. These drawings are reminiscent of my drawing style in the second and third grade before any teacher attempted to socialize a “standard of quality art,” which often hinders the creative spirit.

RBH: Art is a catalyst for change. How do you view that perspective, and how can artists and art today bring about positive change in America?

Dia: Again, this goes back to representation for me. Representation in creatives, and creations and experiences inspire and ignite social movements that supersede any of my academic training.

RBH: Does poetry and theology impact your approach to your visual works of art? If so, in what way?

Dia: Absolutely. Poetry and visual art coexist as theological outlets for me. Every drawing is preceded with a writing prompt intended to help me gain a better understanding of self, others, the communities I navigate and negotiate with. Writing is my primary outlet and my area of academic training, and yet I cannot separate the literary from the visual. This body of work was always intended for me. They are my mind maps, holistic outlet, visual journals. For example, Epiphany, which is on display in this collection, was my template for a poem titled shallow words. With deep investigation, the viewer can find the words “what if I was your child” throughout the drawing. This is in reference to the biblical children of Israel, Isaac, one of the three patriarchs of the Israelites, and in a contemporary context every Black and Brown child of God killed as a result of power and authority. “What if” is also a reference to a Marvel comics anthology series of alternate reality stories titled What If?

RBH: You noted being a comic book scholar? What does that entail and how did you arrive there?

Dia: I earned a master’s in literature from UNC Charlotte. My thesis project was “Black Images in Comics: An examination of what does 200 years of cartoon images depicting Black people tell us about ourselves.” The images displayed for Constellation CLT are a continuation of this study. While the comics scholar in me values and appreciates the impressive archeology of images that present Black history, this work is a visceral reminder of the barrage of racist depictions intentionally created to oppress us. Currently, I am working on my doctorate with a proposed dissertation topic of theopoetics, an interdisciplinary field of study that combines elements of poetics, narrative theology, and postmodern philosophy. My comic passion was sparked by Milestone Media, a comic company created by three Black men with the intent to provide a diverse spectrum of representation in comics. Comics have always been one of the mediums intended for theological analysis (i.e. God is Disappointed in You, 2013, Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler).

RBH: With thoughts of the fantastical and your love for comic books, who are your most celebrated superheroes/sheroes? If you could create one, what attributes would he/she possess?

Dia: I love this question and it is a tough question because there are so many amazing characters to select from. Shaft (Richard Roundtree) was my gateway to superheroes. His Blackness was and is his superpower. I recommend Shaft written by David F. Walker (Dynamite Entertainment). Luke Cage (written and drawn by Genndy Tartakovsky) and Misty Knight (Marvel Knights), who deserves her own comic series, are two street-level characters presenting a slice of Black life that is relatable. Two series I recommend are Excellence and Bitter Root both produced by Image Comics, written and drawn by creatives of color. If there was a comic character I would love to write about, it would be Doctor Voodoo (Marvel Comics with art created by artist Wolly McNair and Marcus Kiser, inked by Reco Renzi. This would be a dream project. If I could create a character, the attributes would be resilience, tenacity, creativity, and the superpower would be superspeed. Often, there is never enough time in a day to accomplish all I desire to do.

RBH: Which world or American leaders and artists have most impacted your life and works of art?


• Poet, professor, Jericho Brown (The Tradition) for his narrative transparency.

• Poet, professor, Gary Jackson (Missing You, Metropolis) for his beautiful work that is a hybrid of introspection and comic mythology.

• Poet, educator, and should be the Poet Laureate of Wakanda, Nikki Giovanni for the diversity and scope of her work.

• Artist Brain Stelfreeze for his incredible art and more than that, his compassion and willingness to take time to talk with emerging artists.

• TJ Reddy (August 1945-March 2019) for constantly reminding me that creativity and sleep are acts of defiance.

• My parents, Betty and Charlie Jessup, for providing me with creative outlets for artistic expression, introducing me to the music of Parliament Funkadelic, and affirming Black Boy Joy.

• Growing up I thought Shel Silverstein was Black, so I am going to give him honorable mention.

RBH: What is your preferred art medium and why?

Dia: I love drawing, it is a basic instinct. I have a passion for photography, and it is perhaps the best medium to consistently document our collective narratives. However, writing is in my primal nature. I will always find comfort with writing. It was the first artistic outlet that made me feel at home.

RBH: How do you hope your works of art will impact the viewer?

Dia: I hope viewers see them as a reflection of childhood, joy, and solidarity.

RBH: What’s next for you with respect to art projects, works, inspirations?

Dia: I had work recently published in the anthology 2020: The Year that Changed America edited by Kevin Powell. I am currently working on a chapbook that will be part of my doctoral dissertation, which will include poetry and drawings. I am contributing to a performance titled Codex with performance arts members of the Goodyear Arts Collective. I am also working on a performance inspired by the life and music of Marvin Gaye. This is a collaboration with sound artist Dylan Gilbert.