Community Members in the Arts Honored at Spirit Awards

23nd annual awards ceremony recognizes Charlotte’s top arts supporters

The Mint Museum and Donald Haack Diamonds & Fine Gems honors the recipients of the 2009 Spirit Awards February 1, one of the Charlotte metro area’s highest honors in the arts.

“The Spirit Award recipients embody the excitement and vitality of Charlotte’s arts supporters,” said Fred Dabney, event coordinator. “Their work for the arts enriches the lives of all Charlotteans and helps us appreciate the diversity of art in our community.”

The 2009 Spirit Award recipients are: Jeanne Brayboy, Dorothy Hodges, Christie Taylor, Jane and Hugh McColl, Pat Riley, Kristine Matthews and Neiman Marcus.

The annual awards ceremony will be held Monday, February 1 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Mint Museum Randolph. Created in 1986, the Spirit Awards honor community members whose contributions of time, talent or resources have significantly enhanced the relevance and vitality of the arts in Charlotte and surrounding areas. A recipient of the 1999 Spirit Award, Donald Haack Diamonds & Fine Gems has been co-sponsoring the Spirit Awards for several years. For more information, contact Fred Dabney at (704) 258-8887.

Two Parties Celebrate Final Weeks of Warhol Exhibition at the Mint

Two events on Friday, January 23 will celebrate the final weeks of the Mint’s Andy Warhol exhibition and will pay homage to the artists legendary parties.

Enjoy a free walk-through of Andy Warhol Portfolios: Life & Legends from 7:00-10:00 p.m. during a Takeover Friday at the Mint Museum of Art. Hosted by The Mint Museum, Takeover Friday, the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund, and Wesley Mancini, the evening features an exhibition viewing and discussion with the curator, hors d’oeuvres and cash bar, dancing to the hottest tunes spun by DJ Edward Jones, and a special guest appearance by Miss Shelita Hamm. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit Take Over Friday.

The Garden & Gun Club is also hosting a Warhol-themed party January 23. From the psychedelic 60s and the glittery disco of Studio 54 to the progressive sounds of today, DJ Andy Kastanas delivers a musical biopic of Warhol’s world. Local nightlife impresario Scott Weaver recreates Warhol’s studio, The Factory, with live models, video and slide projections and live art exhibits. Doors open at 8:00 p.m., tickets are $20/person with a portion of proceeds to benefit The Mint Museum. For more information, visit The G&G Club or call (704) 246-1752.

Museum Visitors Will Select Mints Next Acquisition of American Art

Come and join in the “Vote for Art” contest sponsored by the Mint Museum Auxiliary. Visit the museum anytime between November 8-30 and cast a vote for your choice of paintings to be added to the American Art Collection.

While visitors to the Mint Museum of Art after November 4 can no longer vote for the next American president, they will be able to cast a deciding ballot for the next American presence in the galleries. The Mint Museum Auxiliary is sponsoring a “Vote for Art,” which will allow visitors to choose between two works of American art currently under consideration for purchase. The voting kicks off on Saturday, November 8 and runs through Sunday, November 30.

“We are delighted to offer this opportunity to residents and visitors to Charlotte,” said Jonathan Stuhlman, Curator of American Art. “I am extremely grateful to the Museum’s Auxiliary for making it possible for the Museum to acquire one of these fabulous pieces, either of which would be a meaningful addition to our collection.”

The works under consideration for acquisition are both still lifes, but strikingly different examples of the genre. Laura Coombs Hills’ Peonies and Velevet is a sumptuous turn-of-the century pastel that exemplifies the artist’s exquisite technical skill and fabulous sense of color. Blanche Lazzell’s Bouquet of Flowers, on the other hand, was painted in 1914 and shows the artist’s synthesis of the latest trends in European modernism. With its high-keyed palette and patchwork of thick brushstrokes, Bouquet of Flowers demonstrates why Lazzell has come to be regarded as one of the most cutting edge and inventive modern artists working in this country in the early 20th century. These two selections represent the diversity of styles among American women artists and underscore the Museum’s efforts to broaden its holdings by female artists. The winning painting will be purchased for the Mint through the Auxiliary’s endowment funds.

Established in 1956, the Mint Museum Auxiliary is an affiliate group of the Mint that supports the Museum’s acquisitions and education programming. The Auxiliary has added hundreds of works to the Mint’s collections since its inception. Most recently, the Auxiliary purchased a striking version of Augusta Savage’s important sculpture Gamin.

Visitors can view Gamin in the Museum’s American art galleries before casting their votes in the ballot boxes by the two paintings under consideration.
For more information, visit

What:      “Vote for Art” Contest sponsored by the Mint Museum Auxiliary
Where:    Mint Museum of Art ~ 2730 Randolph Road
When:     November 8-30, 2008 during regular museum hours.
Why:       Voters will select the Mint’s next acquisition of American art.
How:       Ballots can be picked up at the Museum’s reception desk.

Scene in America Explores Black Male Identity through Contemporary Art

The groundbreaking exhibition Scene in America: A Contemporary Look at the Black Male Image explores how artists address race and identity when using images of Black males in their work.

On view at the Mint Museum of Art from April 19 to November 2, 2008, the exhibition features works from the collections of The Mint Museum, the Van Every/Smith Gallery of Davidson College, and private collectors and artists.

“Scene in America undoubtedly marks an important cultural event for Charlotte and the region,” said Dr. Jae Emerling, Assistant Professor of Art at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  “By addressing the ways in which Black males have been represented in contemporary art, the exhibition offers viewers the opportunity to contemplate a series of complex issues ranging from the continued effects of racial stereotypes to the importance of extended families in the African American experience.”

The exhibition investigates shifts in power—from usurpation to attainment—found in contemporary portrayals of black masculinity. The South’s painful past of persecution and stereotyping is a recurring topic explored by the exhibition’s artists. Conversely, images of activism, family and community, and a positive and resilient identity hint at overcoming the societal obstacles left by the legacy of slavery.

Elizabeth Catlett invokes these positive attributes in her loving sculpture Family, while her lithograph To Marry portrays a couple sharing a kiss over the contradictory image of a lynched man, suggesting that the memory of past brutalities is present even in moments of intimacy. Similarly, Benjamin “Old Folks” Davis’ woodwork, Black Men Pledge Unity, shows that activism in great numbers can overcome many barriers.

Other works in the exhibit provide positive alternatives to past stereotypes. Chuck Close’s Lyle, a portrait of contemporary artist Lyle Ashton Harris, is created from many colors and forms, perhaps suggesting the complexity and beauty of Harris’s identity. Tommie Robinson incorporates an image of Charlotte’s Public Library into the background of his portrait titled Product, suggesting that one can achieve a positive self-identity through education, achievement and embracing an African heritage.

Many contemporary artists have found the history and persistence of racial stereotypes to be a compelling source of subject matter for their work. Robert Mapplethorpe’s Untitled #1, portrays model Ken Moody as physically beautiful: an object of desire striking a classical pose. Mapplethorpe acknowledges the stereotype of the black male as a physically powerful being, and seems to celebrate this quality rather than casting him as a figure to be feared.  Photographer Larry Fink’s Black Hand, Checkered Rump depicts a black man with a white female companion at a high society function, and asks viewers to consider his or her own views on mixed-race relationships and the cultural bias that often accompanies them.

Other prominent artists featured in Scene in America include Hale Woodruff, Romare Bearden, Camille Billops, Samella Lewis, John Hairston, Jr., Antoine “RAW” Williams, Juan Logan, Willie Little and John Biggers.

“This is not simply a show about race; rather, it is a promising example of how art instigates discussions, raises questions, and forms communities of viewers,” said Emerling. “With this exhibition, The Mint Museum has taken another important step in promoting not only contemporary art, but cultural diversity as well.”

The exhibition was curated by Kimberly Thomas under the direction of Carla Hanzal, curator of Contemporary Art. Curatorial and library staff have created a blog linked to the Museum’s Web site to encourage dialogue about this exhibition and the important themes it investigates.

Mint Museum of Art Presents Major Andy Warhol Exhibition

The iconic works of Andy Warhol, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, will be on display at the Mint Museum of Art beginning this October.

The landmark exhibition Andy Warhol Portfolios: Life & Legends presents rarely seen selections from Bank of America’s prized Warhol collection. Sponsored by Bank of America Corporation, the exhibition will be on view October 4, 2008 – February 15, 2009.

“Warhol’s enduring influence on American art establishes him as one of the most important artists of our time,” said Phil Kline, Executive Director of The Mint Museum. “This exhibition will allow viewers to experience and discover anew the profound impact of his art.”

Andy Warhol (1928-1987), born Andy Warhola, became the central figure of the Pop Art movement that emerged in the United States in the 1950s. The 1960s was an extremely prolific decade for Warhol. Appropriating images from popular culture, Warhol created paintings and silkscreens that remain icons of 20th century art, such as the Campbell’s Soup Cans, Disasters and Marilyns. Warhol, as an artist and an avant-garde filmmaker, became a renowned celebrity who created often controversial works. His art has been the subject of numerous exhibitions and is highly collected.

Andy Warhol Portfolios: Life & Legends spans the artist’s career from the 1950s through 1986, and features key early works from landmark series such as Endangered Species, Flowers, Jews, Myths, Muhammad Ali and Space Fruits. Using mass production techniques to create works, Warhol erased traditional distinctions between fine art and pop culture. From household objects to Hollywood starlets, Warhol’s subjects captured the essence of American culture.

The Mint Museum Announces New Director of Community Relations

The Mint Museum announced today the appointment of Rubie Britt-Height as Director of Community Relations. She will begin work at the Museum on September 30.

Britt-Height brings a strong combination of community outreach, education and public relations experience to The Mint Museum. For the past four years, she has served as Director of Community Affairs at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, where she successfully collaborated with culturally diverse community groups to develop programming related to those groups’ historical and contemporary art contributions. While there, she also hosted speaking engagements to promote VMFA’s message of accessibility to all and oversaw four of the museum’s support groups, along with a new initiative to engage 100 community business and non-profit opinion leaders in experiencing the museum’s amenities.

In her new position at the Mint, Britt-Height will work closely with the Executive Director and board of trustees to cultivate and enhance partnerships and educational opportunities with diverse civic, academic and arts organizations, and existing community partners, and will speak to audiences throughout the region about the Museum’s featured exhibitions, collections and programs.

“This is an exciting time to join The Mint Museum as it prepares to open its new facility in Charlotte’s Center City,” said Britt-Height. “I’m thrilled to be a part of the Museum as it continues to serve the city, state and region as a first-class arts destination. I look forward to collaborating with other arts venues, businesses and civic groups to promote cultural education and understanding through proactive museum outreach and community inclusion.”

Previously, Britt-Height worked in Durham as Executive Director of Sister 2 Hermana, a two-year grant program for African-American and Latin American women to help eradicate breast cancer. She has also served as Head of Communications, Community Relations & Cultural Arts for Greater St. Paul Baptist Church in Durham; Head of Public Affairs for the North Carolina Department of Transportation in Raleigh; and Information and Communications Specialist for the City of Charlotte. Britt-Height also established the “Black Art Expo” and African-American contemporary art collection at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, which showcases works donated by local artists during the annual expos.

“We are extremely pleased that Rubie will be joining the Mint,” said Cheryl Palmer, Director of Education. “She has a great wealth of experience in developing accessible programs and building appreciation for the arts across generations. Her passion for serving the community, combined with her creative leadership, makes her the right person to expand our outreach initiatives and build and enhance relationships with Charlotte’s leaders and its citizens.”

Britt-Height received a bachelor’s degree with honors in mass media arts from Hampton University and has begun advanced coursework in the master’s program for technology and communications at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is also a 2006 graduate of Leadership Metro Richmond, a member of the Public Relations Society of America and Americans for the Arts, and has served on the boards of the YWCA and YMCA for the Richmond region. Britt-Height has two daughters, Brittanie, 20, and Chauncie, 10.

Museum-Raising Kickoff Celebration

Join us on Sunday, September 7 to kick off the countdown to the new Mint Museum in Center City! The community is invited to help celebrate as we raise excitement about our new location, raise awareness of what the new facilities will offer, and ultimately, start to raise a new Museum!

New plans for the Museum and its collections and programs will be unveiled at this family-friendly celebration. The festivities will take place on The Green (directly across from the Charlotte Convention Center) from 2:00-4:00 p.m. Enjoy live entertainment, refreshments and art-making activities for all ages!

The new Mint Museum in Center City will be housed on the Wachovia First Street Cultural Campus in a five-story, state-of-the-art facility. Construction on the new building is scheduled to start during the fourth quarter of 2008 and we expect to celebrate our grand opening in Fall 2010. Come be a part of the excitemint!

Ornament as Art Challenges Viewers to Look Beyond Jewelrys Traditions

Ornament as Art: Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collectionplaces contemporary jewelry within a larger framework of 20th and 21st century art. Opening at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design this fall, the exhibition showcases a broad array of national and international works from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s celebrated Helen Williams Drutt Collection of contemporary jewelry.

Over her lifetime, the legendary scholar, educator and gallery director Helen Williams Drutt, has assembled arguably one of the most comprehensive collections of contemporary studio jewelry in the world. Ornament as Art features approximately 275 pieces of jewelry spanning the 1960s through today, as well as drawings, watercolors, sketchbooks and sculptural constructions by the artists. Placed in context with significant movements in the non-craft art world, the exhibition encourages the appreciation of contemporary jewelry beyond its traditional boundaries without ignoring its roots.

Objects on view include necklaces, bracelets, brooches, earrings and rings culled from 15 different countries. Highlights include a sterling silver and polyester resin Torque 22-D Neckpiece (1971) by Stanley Lechtzin, a leading innovator in electroforming technologies; Claus Bury’s Ring (1970), a revolutionary work that blends precious metal with alternative materials; and Bernhard Schobinger’s Scherben vom Moritzplatz Berlin necklace (1982-1983), a distinctive combination of antique crystal beads with shards of Coca-Cola bottles found in a politically charged section of Berlin.

Ornament as Art is accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue available for purchase in The Mint Museum Shops. Cindi Strauss, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s curator of modern and contemporary decorative arts and design, will give a public lecture about the exhibition on Sunday, August 24 at 3:00 p.m. at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design.

The exhibition is on view at the craft museum August 16, 2008 – January 4, 2009. Ornament as Art is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston with generous funding provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rotasa Foundation. It is sponsored by The Founders’ Circle Ltd., the national support affiliate of the Mint Museum of Craft + Design.

Jaguar: Power in the Ancient Americas

The exhibition Jaguar: Power in the Ancient Americasfeatures the remarkable diversity of jaguar representations in earthenware, stone, wood and the fiber arts throughout the ancient Americas and among modern indigenous peoples. From intricate masks to delicate ceramics, visitors will experience the extraordinary artistic variations unique to each culture and explore the layers of meaning behind these representations.

Regarded as the most powerful predatory animal in the ancient Americas, the jaguar’s strength and prowess prompted its use as an important symbol of royalty.  From Mexico to Peru, the jaguar and puma symbolized the power of rulers. The jaguar was also associated with the underworld and its many deities, often adorning funerary objects such as burial urns that entombed the bones of honored ancestors.

These mighty felines also made reference to the belief in the spiritual transformative abilities of rulers and special religious practitioners who, in their animal spiritual forms, could harness sacred powers to affect worldly affairs. The jaguar was the prime companion spirit of the most powerful shamans, symbolizing the exceptional abilities of these potent practitioners.

Objects on view in the exhibition include ancient ritual drinking vessels, feasting ceramics, stone sculptures, textiles and modern performance masks, all decorated with the image of the mighty jaguar. Through these artworks we can glimpse the social, political and spiritual richness of the indigenous cultures of the ancient Americas.

The exhibition is on view at the Mint Museum of Art July 19 – December 14, 2008.

Quiet Spirit, Skillful Hand: The Graphic Work of Clare Leighton

The Mint Museum of Art has originated a traveling exhibition of more than 100 rare and unique works by British-born artist and writer Clare Leighton.

This collection of Leighton’s work, assembled and donated to the Museum by Charlotte resident Gabby Pratt, is one of the largest in the country and includes more than 180 of the artist’s finely-detailed engravings, drawings and watercolors, spanning Leighton’s career from 1923 to 1965.

Quiet Spirit, Skillful Hand: The Graphic Work of Clare Leighton provides a full survey of Leighton’s career, from her earliest prints in the 1920s that depict the labors of the English working classes to a selection of her rarely seen watercolors. Unique to the Pratt collection is a set of 12 Wedgwood plates, titled “New England Industries,” for which Leighton designed the transfer-printed images. Among the exhibition’s highlights are the prints that resulted from Leighton’s early visits to North America, including The Breadline, New York and Snow Shovelers, New York, as well as the artist’s entire Canadian Lumber Camp series.

Born to an artistic family, Leighton studied wood engraving in Great Britain before moving to the U.S. during World War II. Settling first in Baltimore, she moved to Chapel Hill in 1943 and served as a visiting art lecturer at Duke University from 1943 to 1945. During her career, Leighton wrote 15 books and created more than 700 intricate prints. The Pratt collection includes numerous examples of her critically-acclaimed scenes of agrarian life in both England and the American South.

During her lengthy career, Leighton illustrated her own writing as well as classic and contemporary literature, including notable commissions for books written by Thomas Hardy, Emily Brontë and Thornton Wilder. Quiet Spirit, Skillful Hand will feature numerous wood engravings that Leighton created specifically as book illustrations, including those for her own book, Southern Harvest, and those commissioned for the seven-volume set of The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore.

To accompany the exhibition of Leighton’s work, the Museum presents Coming Home: Selections from the Schoen Collection. This outstanding exhibition features 22 paintings from the collection of Jason Schoen of Miami. Schoen’s holdings of American Scene painting trace the social, economic and political changes that occurred across this country between World Wars I and II — roughly the same era in which Leighton created her compelling engravings.

The paintings from the Schoen Collection, by artists such as Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, Joe Jones, Robert Gwathmey, Kenneth Hayes Miller and Ben Shahn, provide a broad national context for the themes and subjects found in Leighton’s work. This exhibition is not only a rare opportunity for visitors to see numerous works from one of the top collections of American Scene paintings held in private hands, but also to reflect upon our country’s history as seen through the eyes of some of its most important artists.

Quiet Spirit, Skillful Hand: The Graphic Work of Clare Leighton and Coming Home: Selections from the Schoen Collection are on view at the Mint Museum of Art from May 17 through September 14, 2008. The Leighton exhibition will then travel to the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington, N.C.

Both exhibitions include beautifully illustrated catalogues available for purchase in the Mint Museum Shops. The Clare Leighton catalogue is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art, as well as a grant from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation.