W|ALLS: Defend, Divide, and the Divine

Ami Vitale. Ripple Effect, 2009. Photographer @amivitale

Mint Museum Uptown | February 24, 2021 ⁠– July 25, 2021

This exhibition examines the historic use and artistic treatment of walls over the centuries—whether they are made of stone, steel, sand or wire. The exhibition brings together 67 makers from around the world with 132 images, the earliest from 1897 and the most recent from July 2019. There also is a 26-minute documentary film by award-winning director Jeremiah Zagar that accompanies the exhibition. The space is divided into six sections—Delineation, Defense, Deterrent, The Divine, Decoration, and The Invisible—with each section anchored by a central photo essay. This photography exhibition was made possible by Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles, California.

Carol Guzy. Albanian refugee camp, March 3, 1999. © 1999, Carol Guzy/The Washington Post

About The Exhibition

W|ALLS: Defend, Divide, and the Divine explores the various aspects of walls—artistic, social, political, and historical, as well as how there are literal walls or barriers, such as fences or sand berms. From antiquity to today, walls have been central to human history. Societies have built walls to delineate their borders, but the resulting structures define the civilizations on both sides. From east to west, north to south, walls have fortified cities, transformed ink lines on maps into stone, protected communities, and separated families.

On Nov. 9, 2019, the world celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down. Most can easily call up images from that exhilarating evening in 1989: young Germans in T-shirts and jeans destroying the concrete dividers with sledgehammers, armed soldiers looking on with stoic reserve, people rushing through holes and rubble to embrace their counterparts on the other side. The world saw the joy of people uniting, and as the end of the 20th century approached, the toppled wall felt like the dawn of a new age of reason. 

As the violence of World War II receded into history, it appeared that so, too, was the ancient, simple brutality of dividing people with walls. And yet, the numbers offer a different narrative. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, there were 15 border walls around the world, in May 2018, there were nearly 80, according to Elisabeth Vallet, a geography professor at University of Quebec-Montreal. Over one-third of the world’s nation states now define their borders with a barrier.

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, there were 15 border walls around the world. In May 2018, there were nearly 80. 

SHAN Wallace. The Makeover of Progress, 2019.


Walls aren’t limited to a particular culture, region or era. The exhibition includes images that span six continents from photographers of all stripes: commercial photographers, documentarians, photojournalists, artists, protestors, explorers, and in one case, a Tibetan Buddhist monk. 

The exhibition, which runs from February 24 to July 25, 2021 in the Level 4 gallery space at Mint Museum Uptown, explores various aspects of “walls,” whether they are made of stone, steel, sand or wire. The space is divided into six sections—Delineation, Defense, Deterrent, The Divine, Decoration, and The Invisible—with each section anchored by a central photo essay. Two of those essays were commissioned for the exhibition by the Annenberg Space for Photography. Magnum photographer Moises Saman documented the Peace Walls in Northern Ireland, while SHAN Wallace photographed Detroit’s Eight-Mile Wall, a painted-over wall that was originally built to segregate a black community from an adjacent white community.  

We constantly contend with walls, whether they are solid, porous, real or imaginary. This photography exhibition invites you to reflect on the omnipresence of walls and to consider your own. Where do the barriers start in your life? And do you need them to live the life you want?

Interested in learning more?

W|ALLS: Defend, Divide, and the Divine is generously presented by PNC Financial Services.

PNC logo circular with three triangles in the middle

With additional support from The Mint Museum Auxiliary

Mint Museum Auxiliary logo

Individual support from Laura and Mike Grace, Deidre and Clay Grubb, Leigh-Ann and Martin Sprock, and Betsy Rosen and Liam Stokes.

Constellation CLT

Constellation CLT logo

Constellation CLT  is designed to connect visitors of The Mint Museum with the universe of talent in the local community.

In its second year, Constellation CLT is an exhibition series designed to connect visitors to The Mint Museum with artists in our community and to activate the public spaces of the museum. The installations rotate three times per year and can be seen in four places at Mint Museum Uptown: in the entrance; at the foot of the atrium escalator; and on the landings of the Mezzanine and 4th levels.

Constellation CLT is generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

On View Now

Georgie Nakima

Georgie Nakima’s kaleidoscopes unite shards of color with a tight contour line and act as metaphors for her approach to life and art. She builds her abstract spaces on a foundation of complicated geometry.

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Previous Installations

HB2 Squirrels shake up expectations of social norms and shine spotlight LGBTQIA+ issues

HB2 Squirrels shake up expectations of social norms,  shine spotlight on LGBTQIA+ issues

HB2 Squirrels, a pair of gender-symbol-wielding squirrels covered in multicolored war paint greet visitors in the main entryway of Mint Museum Uptown. The squirrels, part of The Mint Museum collection, pose a striking opposition to expectations of social norms and what one expects to be met with in a museum.


Michelle Erickson. “HB2 Squirrels,” 2016, salt-glazed stoneware, porcelain slips. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by the Charles W. Beam Accessions Endowment. 2019.3a-b

The HB2 Squirrels were inspired by North Carolina’s House Bill 2, commonly referred to as the “bathroom bill.” HB2 required residents to use the bathroom in public facilities that matched the gender on their birth certificate, launching a national outcry over civil liberties. The bill was criticized for impeding the rights of transgender people and other people in the LGBTQIA+ community who do not identify strictly within the gender binary, and was later repealed by N.C. Governor Roy Cooper.

Artist Michelle Erickson, outraged, took to her potter’s wheel. The result: two salt-glazed stoneware squirrels, grasping the gender symbols—one drenched in the colors of the American flag, the other in the colors of the LGBTQIA+ rainbow flag. “Congressional acts are temporary,” she says “but art is forever.”

The composition of the squirrels also was crucial. The squirrels face each other, seemingly holding their assigned gender symbols as weapons used to fight one another. The female symbol, a circle with a cross stemming down, is inverted and held by the squirrel to mirror the way the male symbol is held. Erickson said inverting the symbol was a call to uprooting the traditional view of women as a shield. 

The color of the squirrels is also indicative of the message being sent. Both have rainbow colored lines covering their face and body. Erickson said she wanted to use the rainbow motif instead of the colors of the transgender flag, to place a gentle reminder that transgender individuals are included as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The squirrels also have different base bodies. The choice to make one black and one white was a conscious decision to ground it in societal tensions involving race, and to highlight the different viewpoints that stem from race within the LGBTQIA+ community.

When working with a new piece Erickson says she “allows the work to take [her.]” She starts with a design, but as the piece of clay is being shaped, it gradually takes on a new form. The overall product is as much a reflection of the process as it is the original idea.

HB2 Squirrels are a part of the past and present, she says, representing the processes of the Moravian potters, as well as speaking to the heightened political atmosphere surrounding LGBTQIA+ issues, and specifically the HB2 bill that was introduced in North Carolina in 2016. The resulting work of art challenged norms through revitalizing old processes and questioning societal implications.

The idea that became the HB2 Squirrels began as a study of a set of figural bottles from the 18th or 19th century. Erickson says the bottles originally intrigued her due to their lack of clear function and their unique construction. The bottles’ unglazed interior and overall shape indicated that they were made using a cast or mold. During her artist residency  at STARworks, Erickson began using traditional techniques with salt-glazed stoneware to see if she could create a similar design. The original designs of the squirrels were modified to be reflective of the modern era.


Summer Wheat (American, 1977–). Foragers, 2020, colored vinyl on mylar, 805.5 x 738.5 inches. T0263.1a-qqqq. Photo credit: Chris Edwards


On View through September 6, 2022
Mint Museum Uptown

Brooklyn-based artist Summer Wheat’s Foragers is a monumental work of art spanning four stories and 3,720 square feet in Mint Museum Uptown’s Robert Haywood Morrison Atrium. A myriad of vibrant panels that give the illusion of stained glass fill the atrium’s 96 windows and weave a story of women who labor to build the communities that form the spine of modern society.

“In so many ways, Foragers is a monumental tribute to all those anonymous female makers and laborers who have made North Carolina the place that it is today: the Catawba clay workers, the Cherokee basket makers, the enslaved and freed African-American fishers and farmers, the countless woodworkers, weavers, and quilters,” says Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, the Mint’s chief curator and curator of contemporary art.

Foragers is part of a larger exhibition, In Vivid Color, opening Oct. 16, 2020, that brings together contemporary artists Summer Wheat, Gisela Colon, Spencer Finch, and Jennifer Steinkamp who create works celebrating the power of color. Their work is juxtaposed with a selection of paintings and works on paper, drawn primarily from The Mint Museum’s permanent collection, which showcase artists’ more traditional exploration of color.

While standard admission rates apply to the museum’s Level 3 and Level 4 galleries, access to Mint Museum Uptown’s atrium and the Foragers installation is free.

Summer Wheat (American, 1977–). Foragers, 2020, colored vinyl on mylar, 805.5 x 738.5 inches. T0263.1a-qqqq. Photo credit: Chris Edwards

Foragers is generously presented by Wells Fargo Private Bank

Wells Fargo 'the private bank' logo

with additional individual support from Laura and Mike Grace, María-José Mage and Frank Müller, Kati and Chris Small, Rocky and Curtis Trenkelbach.

Scholastic Art Awards

Scholastic Art Show

Mint Museum Uptown
Level 5

The Mid-Carolina Region of the Scholastic Art Awards, showcases art from students in 26 counties in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. It is on view on Level 5 of Mint Museum Uptown. Admission to see the show is free.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards date back to 1923. Over the years, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have grown to become the longest-running, most prestigious program for creative teens in the U.S. and the nation’s largest source of scholarships for young artists and writers. A noteworthy roster of past winners includes Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Robert Redford, Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, and John Updike.

Interactive CLT

Interactive CLT

The Mint is partnering with the Bechtler, Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture, and the Levine Museum of the New South to unroll a joint project known as Interactive CLT that brings augmented reality into museum galleries.

With support from the Arts & Science Council, AVO Insights have created an app that allows visitors to the museum the opportunity to see videos about select pieces in the galleries.  After opening the app, hover your phone over the indicated works of art, and a video about the art appears. Senior Curator of American Art Jonathan Stuhlman, PhD, and Community Relations Director Rubie Britt-Height lead visitors thorough the galleries to highlight works of art that speak to racial justice and the experience of being black in America.

by Leo Twiggs

by Augusta Savage

by Barbara Pennington

Dora’s Dance
by Beverly McIver

Philip the Fair
by Kehinde Wiley

Messages for the City

Messages for the City

Throughout the fall of 2020, The Mint Museum will present Messages for the City, artist-made images and animations that recognize and celebrate the work of frontline and essential workers during the COVID pandemic, on the Wells Fargo screen located on the Levine Center for the Arts. An array of five images for five minutes will play every hour on the hour, with each image or animation playing for 55 seconds, followed by the artist’s credit.

This project originated with Times Square Arts, a New York City agency that commissions and presents work primarily in Times Square. Messages for the City began in April 2020. With collaborators Poster House, PRINT magazine, and For Freedoms, Times Square Arts launched a public art campaign of public service announcements and messages of gratitude in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement, Times Square Arts explains: “The public art initiative began with a sense of urgency to express solidarity and gratitude to the city’s most vulnerable workers, and it continues as a way to honor their work and acknowledge the myriad of challenges still facing us through both pandemic and protest.” The Mint Museum is proud to extend the reach of these messages to Charlotte. Here, too, we are seeing our neighbors and fellow citizens with new appreciation.

Over three dozen artists participated in this original campaign; The Mint Museum will present 17 in the Charlotte iteration. They include from For Freedoms: Paula Crown, Nekisha Durrett, Alixa Garcia, G.O.N.G./Mel Chin, Jenny Holzer, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Pedro Reyes, Duke Riley, Christine Sun Kim, Carrie Mae Weems, and Christine Wong Yap; and from Poster House: Pablo Delcan, Joe Hollier, Maira Kalman, Richard McGuire, Gemma O’Brien, and Klaas Verplancke.

Painting of a man smoking a pipe. The man is wearing a trench coat and a matching top hat.

American Art

American Art

  Mint Museum Uptown 

The Mint Museum’s collection of American Art includes paintings, unique works on paper, prints, sculpture, and photographs created from the Colonial Era through the Second World War.

About The Collection

The Mint Museum’s collection of American Art includes paintings, unique works on paper, prints, sculpture, and photographs created from the Colonial Era through the Second World War. Within these chronological boundaries are three areas of strength: Federal portraiture, 19th century landscape painting, and early 20th century realism.

Portraiture was the dominant form of art in America until the middle of the 19th century. The museum’s collection includes portraits by many leading artists of this period, including John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, and Thomas Sully. Their paintings create a window through which to view the personalities, fashions, and cultural values of our ancestors. Featured sitters range from important historical figures to charming young children.

As the 19th century unfolded, landscape painting became increasingly popular. Through the Mint Museum’s collection you can trace the evolution of this genre from the work of the Hudson River School painters such as Thomas Cole and Sanford Gifford, who focused on the natural beauty of our country’s topography, through the rise of Impressionism: a movement whose artists celebrated a more abstract, subjective view of their surroundings.

By the 20th century, a new generation of American artists sought an alternative to Impressionism. These new realists, sometimes known as The Ashcan School focused on everyday life and the common man. The museum holds significant works by many of these artists, including their leader, Robert Henri, and his associates William Glackens, George Bellows, George Luks, Everett Shinn, and Ernest Lawson.

The American Art Collection has relocated for a featured space at the Mint Museum Uptown. In a suite of five galleries, old favorites, new additions, and works not seen for a decade or more will be reinstalled alongside furniture, ceramics, and historic costumes that, experienced as a whole, will provide viewers with a meaningful view into this country’s rich artistic and historical past.

Purchase Tickets

Interested in seeing more collections like this? Consider purchasing a ticket today to visit both of our museums.

Not a Mint Member?

Consider becoming a Mint Member.
Get early access to see exhibitions, attend member-only events, and more!

Craft + Design

Craft + Design

  Mint Museum Uptown 

This collection celebrates moments of artistic and design excellence in the areas of glass, fiber art, metal, studio jewelry, design, studio furniture, wood art, and clay.

About The Collection

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 + Design Collection celebrates exceptional moments of artistic and design excellence. While works range in date from the mid-twentieth century to the present, the museum’s collecting focus is on the twenty-first century. Mint Museum Uptown, which opened in October 2010, offers an incredible opportunity to exhibit more of the museum’s permanent collection with expanded exhibition space. The Mint Museum continues to build a collection of masterworks, produce scholarly publications, and collaborate closely with contemporary artists, keeping the museum at the forefront of the world of contemporary decorative arts.

The craft and design world has seen significant changes since the Mint Museum of Craft + Design opened its doors in 1999. In response to these changes the museum strives to become a forum for dialogues about current issues of concern in the field, such as craft theory, aesthetics, and technology. Forging alliances within Charlotte, North Carolina, nationally, and internationally, the museum is finding new ways to integrate craft and design into the broader conversation about art and society.

For more information on the Mint’s Craft + Design affiliate group visit The Founders Circle information page.

Online Resources

Mint Wiki
Created by The Mint Museum Library Mintwiki provides online information on the special exhibitions and permanent collections of The Mint Museum

Purchase Tickets

Interested in seeing more collections like this? Consider purchasing a ticket today to visit both of our museums.

Not a Mint Member?

Consider becoming a Mint Member.
Get early access to see exhibitions, attend member-only events, and more!
Large rods lay stacked atop one another, seemingly as if they are defying gravity. The piece is located on UNC Charlotte's main campus, behind the Fretwell building.

Mint Around Town

Mint Around Town

Location: Off-Site

The Mint Museum’s collection extends well beyond museum walls. For many decades, the Mint has kept its commitment to sharing its art with the larger community. From the heart of Uptown to the campus of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), the Mint has installed significant works from its collection in public spaces. Click each image for more details.