One year after Covid-19 shutdowns began, Silent Streets: Art in the Time of Pandemic reflects how it shaped a societal shift
By Liz Rothaus Bertrand
When the world came to a halt in early spring 2020, so did museums everywhere. Doors closed, shipments stopped, planned exhibitions were put on hold. Then cities across the nation erupted in protest, as communities faced a reckoning with long-term injustices and systemic racism. The concurrent events posed a challenge: How could the Mint best serve the community through the crisis and uprising, while also facing financial uncertainty and logistical challenges caused by the pandemic?
“This gave us [an] opportunity,” says Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, the Mint’s chief curator and curator of contemporary art. “Instead of showing an exhibition that seemed incongruous with the times, we were able to construct something that reflected the times.”
Silent Streets: Art in the Time of Pandemic opened April 21 at Mint Museum Uptown. The Mint commissioned new works by three North Carolina artists—Amy Bagwell, Antoine Williams, and Stacy Lynn Waddell. Their task: create works of art that respond to something that has happened since the pandemic began and reflects some change in their practice.
CAPTURING A MOMENT WE’RE STILL EXPERIENCING
As poet and mixed-media artist Amy Bagwell reflects on the past year, she lands on one overriding sensation: dissonance. Bagwell, who also teaches English at Central Piedmont Community College, watched her students grapple with both the dire consequences of COVID-19 and racial injustice. And yet she also heard people deny the virus’s existence and claim the protests were unjustified.
“That dissonance is terrifying,” Bagwell says. “Absurd in a painful way.”
Poetry she wrote during the Covid-19 pandemic inspired the three large-scale collages she created for Silent Streets. “As artists we’re trying to document this moment of multiple vexations,” Bagwell says, “but it will be an interim document because we’ll be going through this during and after the show. We don’t yet have the benefit of distance.”
CONFRONTING SYSTEMIC RACISM
Greensboro-based artist Antoine Williams says 2020 was shaping up to be a great year—but ended up being one of the worst. The pandemic upended his personal and professional lives while exposing, once again, systemic racism across the nation.
An assistant professor of art at Guilford College, Williams says his work is influenced by critical race theory. For Silent Streets, his mixed-media work looks at the uprisings and their meaning. He explores the objectification of Black labor and culture, and the absurdity of public shock when Black people speak up against injustice.
Creating during this challenging time has been cathartic, Williams says. “It’s a way of me shouting at the universe … or to feel like I’m contributing to this conversation.”
RECLAIMING SYMBOLS OF POWER
Artist Stacy Lynn Waddell of Durham often takes tools and uses them in new ways, redefining how we communicate. She has used branding irons on paper and acid to paint, among other experimental techniques.
For Silent Streets, Waddell explores themes like representation and inclusion in symbols of power. Working alongside a master quilter, she used homemade textiles to create flags. By using a technique from a domestic realm and bringing it to a public sphere, she envisioned a way to reclaim symbols such as flags that are often weaponized, and explored how they could be redesigned to be more inclusive.
“I think we’ll look back on this years later [and say] ‘This was an opportunity, even in all the bleak, difficult, sad lolling out of all of it,” Waddell says. “It’s still been an opportunity.”
OTHER PANDEMIC-BORN PERSPECTIVES
These three commissions form the core of the exhibition, but Silent Streets also features a wide spectrum of artists’ works during the pandemic. The exhibition also includes photo highlights from Diary of a Pandemic, a collaboration between Magnum Photos and National Geographic that features images taken by stranded photojournalists around the world in 2020.
In the Pandemic Comics part of the exhibition, the focus is on how syndicated comic strips such as “Pearls Before Swine,” “Liō,” and “Tank McNamara” changed course suddenly as COVID-19 upended our lives. Silent Streets will also features As the Boundary Pulls Us Apart, a video and soundscape projection created by Charlotte artists Matt Steele and Ben Geller.
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.
Some of our favorite photos from Coveted Couture Gala: A Little Night Magic
Our annual Gala fundraiser was virtual this year, but that did not stop the party. These guest went above and beyond to set their tables, get dressed, and support the Mint’s mission of serving the community. Here are some of our favorite photos from the night.
“Lost Soul Found Spirits” by Robert Ebendorf – Curators’ Pick
Rebecca Elliot, assistant curator or craft, design, and fashion, shows us a necklace constructed of crab claws by Robert Ebendorf on view at Mint Museum Uptown.
Robert Ebendorf created his “Lost Souls Found Spirits” series of necklaces during a period of introspection and recovery while going through a divorce. He collected the crab claws during walks on the beach; on other pieces in the series, he incorporated found squirrel paws and bird heads. Ebendorf often uses found objects on his jewelry, an act he describes as making order out of chaos. However, the materials of “Lost Souls Found Spirits” are especially startling: claws, nails, and beaks, once lacerating, then dead, now live on as jewelry.
The Mint Museum From Home is Presented By Chase.
Show your pride with these rainbow-themed items from the Mint Museum Store
These luxury-quality 22-karat gold gilt lapel pins are decked with vivid cloisonné colors and have a magnetic backing. They are Delicate enough for your favorite tops but with magnetic strength that allows them to be worn on even heavy-weight denim. $14.
Pride only happens once per year, but your own personal pride is an everyday thing that you carry wherever you go. These STRETCH-IT Team Pride Wide Calf Socks are the perfect pair to wear to Pride this year. Tell people who you are, and show them that you support the ongoing fight for equality. $12.
Artist Naomi Devil combines whimsy and a masterful painting technique in this playful puzzle celebrating difference, beauty, and freedom. This 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle is thoughtfully commissioned and beautifully designed to offer a screen-free, relaxing way to practice contemplative mindfulness or share a gentle cooperative activity with friends and family. $24.
What do Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, and Andy Warhol have in common? If you’re thinking, “They were all gay,” you’re only half right. They’re also all included in this amazing Great Gays Out of the Closet Mug. When the mug is empty, it shows fourteen closet doors. But when you pour in a hot beverage, 14 of the world’s most famous gay men proudly emerge. $16.
These cotton crew socks are made from the softest cotton with long combed fibers for a luxurious hand feel. Most importantly, they are made following the highest ethical, labor, and environmental standards. $12.
Celebrate your pride all year round with handmade fruit punch flavored candy from Hammond’s! Hammond’s Candies are handmade with the finest locally sourced ingredients for superior quality flavor for over 100 years. $14.
Colorful wooden bead necklace that makes a perfect gift for that artsy person in your life. Wear it as a piece of jewelry or incorporate it into your home as a bright decoration. $22.
Embrace the blossoms of spring with new items from the Mint Museum Store
Sarah Cavender Metalworks Jewelry
All of Sarah Cavender’s Jewelry is handcrafted by local artisans under her supervision. Each piece is unique, and every aspect of its creation is hand done. Her pieces are light and airy, beautiful, and extremely special.
The sister scarf to our black Salvador Dali inspired scarf, this tone-on-tone scarf has charming wool flowers melting off white chiffon. This scarf is handmade and felted by artisans in Nepal and is a Fair Trade piece. $68.
Miss Ellie beautifully captures the elegance of a regal garden in this hammered cuff. It is cast in pewter and electroplated in 10 karat gold. An antique patina is hand-applied to bring out the unique features and contains small cream pearls. This is proudly handcrafted in New York City. $108.
This incredibly special necklace from Miss Ellie features a bird cage with crystal rhinestones, an antique gold finish and a tiny white bird swinging on its perch – complete with a cage door that opens. This piece is proudly handcrafted in NYC. $88.
Inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting, this scarf has a Merino wool night sky motif felted over silk chiffon. This scarf is handmade and felted by artisans in Nepal and is a Fair Trade piece. $68.
Turn heads with this stunning hand sculpted statement piece from the studio of Sarah Cavender Metalworks in Alabama. This showstopper features dogwood blooms (the North Carolina state flower), leaves, and twisted “branches” with a tubular mesh chain. There are oxidized brass meshes with hand painted mixed metal lacquered details. $240.
Embrace spring with this beautiful hand-crafted necklace from the studio of Sarah Cavender Metalworks in Alabama. This enchanting passion flower bloom necklace, with an equally special scalloped mesh chain, is sure to dazzle and impress anyone! This necklace is like a sculpture you can wear! It is made of oxidized brass meshes with hand painted mixed metal lacquered details. $180.
Inspired by Monet’s Water Lilies painting, this Merino wool and silk chiffon scarf is full of color, art and texture. This scarf is handmade and felted by artisans in Nepal and is a Fair Trade piece. $68.
This delicate pair of drop earrings feature a beautifully handcrafted metal mesh pansy blossom and are proudly made by Sarah Cavender Metalworks in Alabama. They are made of oxidized brass meshes with hand painted mixed metal lacquered details with a small stone center accent and a hypoallergenic titanium post. $104.
Beautiful colors interlocked together with a ring design. Bring some color to your world! This scarf is handmade and felted by artisans in Nepal and is a Fair Trade piece. $62.
“The Poetry of Science” by Carlos Estévez – Curators’ Pick
Cuban artist Carlos Estévez uses his art to explore the relationship between the natural world and the one made by human ingenuity. Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, chief curator and curator of contemporary art at the Mint, gives a close look at this newly accuisitioned work of art in the Mint’s permanent collection. On view at Mint Museum Uptown.
The Mint Museum From Home is Presented By Chase.
Gallery Chat with Curator and Community, Part 1
Jon Stulhman,PhD, senior curator for american, modern, and contemporary art, and Rubie R. Britt-Height, director of community relations at the Mint, look at two pieces of contemporary art in the museum’s collection. This video is a part of new video series that examines and compares works of art currently installed in the Mint’s Contemporary Gallery at Mint Museum Uptown.
September 25, 2010
The Metamorphosis Gala celebrated the opening of Mint Museum Uptown. Partygoers were serenaded by an opera diva from the grand staircase.
April 29, 2011
The Mint Museum Auxiliary’s Room to Bloom celebration kicked off with the Art of Style gala at Mint Museum Uptown with guest of honor, Oscar de la Renta. The event included a runway show of the designer’s fall 2011 fashion line, and a display of more than 30 de la Renta pieces owned by Charlotteans, as well as items from the Mint’s Fashion Collection.
July 13 & 14, 2012
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited The Mint Museum in conjunction with the Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection exhibition. The weekend included an exhibition walk-thru, VIP reception, an education program for college students, “A Conversation With Madeleine Albright” program that packed Mint Museum Uptown ’s James B. Duke auditorium, plus a book-signing by Albright.
September 3–6, 2012
Mint Museum Uptown hosted events related to the Democratic National Convention and launched its “Vote for Art” campaign that allowed guests to vote for their favorite work of art from six candidates on display. Even Queen Charlotte cast her ballot! Voting continued through November and the top three pieces were purchased by the museum.
February 18, 2013
Motoi Yamamoto created Floating Garden, a saltwork on the floor of the Robert Haywood Morrison Atrium. During a community dismantling ceremony on March 3, 2013, the piece was removed from the floor by participants who were invited to return the salt to the sea.
May 6–20, 2013
Charlotte-based artist John W. Love, Jr., performed his interdisciplinary work FECUND, which combined a residency, interactive installation, and one-man performance.
June 19, 2014
Redesigned Charlotte Hornets basketball uniforms were unveiled in Mint Museum Uptown’s Robert Haywood Morrison Atrium.
October 22, 2016
The Year of the Woman kicked off with the opening of two exhibitions at Mint Museum Uptown: Fired Up: Women in Glass and Women of Abstract Expressionism on the 80th anniversary of the opening of The Mint Museum.
October 28, 2017
Devolar y Detonar (Reveal and Detonate) made its debut in the United States at The Mint Museum, featuring the work of over 40 contemporary Mexican photographers, and was the central exhibition in a community-wide initiative celebrating Mexican photography titled In Focus/Enfoque. Other participating organizations include the McColl Center for Art + Innovation, the Light Factory, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and LaCa Projects.
When Charlotte hosted the NBA All-Star Weekend, Mint Museum Uptown became the home for Nike and Jordan Brand events. A fully enclosed basketball court was built in the Robert Haywood Morrison Atrium, and a temporary gallery of Nike shoes was also on display.
This story was originally published in the January, 2021 issue of Inspired, the Mint’s biannual member magazine.
Mint Música & Poesía Café
This event will premiere at 7 PM on March 31.
Mint Música & Poesía Café features talented poets, dancers, and musicians from the Charlotte area. Special guests: Singer Joseph Gallo, and poets Irania Patterson and Kurma Murrain.
This biannual event conveys renowned artists and rising stars. Listen to the voice of the classics through our guest artists or be inspired by new lyrics and verses. Mint Música & Poesía Café celebrates Women’s History Month, and it is also tied with the current Latin American exhibitions at the Mint.
The Mint Museum’s upcoming Silent Streets: Art in the Time of Pandemic puts spotlight on works created in isolation by local, regional and international artists
Charlotte, North Carolina (March 26, 2021) — When the city streets fell quiet in March 2020 due to Covid-19, followed by social justice reckoning across the country, people and communities were changed. The Mint Museum’s newest exhibition, Silent Streets: Art in the Time of Pandemic, opening April 17 at Mint Museum Uptown, showcases thought-provoking works of art by regional, national, and international artists. From collage and comic strips to abstract painting, video and photography, the exhibition installations illuminate discord while also providing solace and insight in challenging times.
At the core of the show, which is presented by Fifth Third Bank, are commissioned pieces by North Carolina artists Amy Bagwell of Charlotte, Stacy Lynn Waddell of Durham, and Antoine Williams of Greensboro. Each artist created works during isolation that reflect how the pandemic and events of 2020 affected their worlds.
“In March 2020, we found ourselves looking at a depleted exhibition schedule, between pandemic-related shipping delays and budget cuts,” says Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, chief curator and curator of contemporary art at the Mint. “The Mint’s President and CEO Todd Herman said, ‘Why don’t we reallocate those remaining spaces and funds directly to artists?’ I selected these three artists, confident we could do remote studio visits and it would still be a successful collaboration. By April, artists around the world were creating profoundly powerful and poignant work responding to all that was going on, and I realized the show could go beyond three North Carolina voices and become an international chorus.”
Bagwell, a poet and mixed-media artist, who has more than 20 public murals throughout Charlotte, produced three large-scale collages inspired by poetry she wrote during the pandemic. Mixed-media work by Williams addresses social injustice, systemic racism, and the objectification of Black labor and culture. And Waddell, working alongside a master quilter, used textiles to create flags that explore themes of representation and inclusion in symbols of power.
Also included in the exhibition is As the Boundary Pulls Us Apart, a short film by Charlotte-based artists Matthew Steele and Ben Gellar. The digital project enabled the two artists to collaborate and volley ideas from separate spaces, ultimately creating a piece that embodies a spirit of unity while being apart.
Additional installations include Diary of a Pandemic and Pandemic Comics. Through a collaboration between Magnum Photos and National Geographic, Diary of a Pandemic showcases images taken by photojournalists around the world stranded during the pandemic. Pandemic Comics highlights syndicated comics—La Cucaracha, Liō, Curtis, Pearls Before Swine, and Tank McNamara—that suddenly changed course, as long-planned strips were replaced with ones that related directly to the pandemic.
The one work that predates the pandemic—Gregory Crewdson’s Funerary Back Lot (2018-19) from his An Eclipse of Moths Series—eerily relays an aura of isolation and quiet destitution that feels consistent with the pandemic times, reminding us that these are human states, not temporary or conditional ones.
“Artists are often the first to respond and react to societal forces and create work that manages to encapsulate abstract concepts of emotion,” says Todd A. Herman, PhD, president and CEO at The Mint Museum. “I am excited to see the result of their efforts and to celebrate the necessary role that creatives play in healing communities.”
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.
Fifth Third Bank
Fifth Third Bancorp is a diversified financial services company headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio and the indirect parent company of Fifth Third Bank, National Association, a federally chartered institution. As of September 30, 2020, Fifth Third had $202 billion in assets and operated 1,122 full-service banking centers and 2,414 ATMs with Fifth Third branding in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee, West Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. In total, Fifth Third provides its customers with access to approximately 52,000 fee-free ATMs across the United States. Fifth Third operates four main businesses: Commercial Banking, Branch Banking, Consumer Lending and Wealth & Asset Management. Fifth Third is among the largest money managers in the Midwest and, as of September 30, 2020, had $422 billion in assets under care, of which it managed $53 billion for individuals, corporations and not-for-profit organizations through its Trust and Registered Investment Advisory businesses. Investor information and press releases can be viewed at www.53.com. Fifth Third’s common stock is traded on the Nasdaq® Global Select Market under the symbol “FITB.” Fifth Third Bank was established in 1858. Deposit and Credit products are offered by Fifth Third Bank. Member FDIC.
Caroline Portillo, Senior Director of Marketing & Communications at The Mint Museum
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