Women’s artistry shines as Charlotte Symphony Orchestra concertos inaugurate Mint Museum Uptown’s newly installed Foragers

By Michael Solender

Charlotte Symphony Orchestra violinist Jenny Topilow could barely contain her enthusiasm when she learned she’d be performing in a special filmed concerto in the Mint Museum’s Robert Haywood Morrison Atrium uptown earlier this fall.  

 Topilowalong with three of her symphony colleagues, were part of a unique celebration showcasing the space and the brilliant newly installed 96-panel “stained glass” installation, Foragers, by contemporary American artist Summer Wheat.

“The beauty of great art is of importance to all of us,” Topilow says,I love spending time at the Mint, go there often, and am excited to be part of this collaboration between two of Charlotte’s favorite cultural institutions.” 

Bringing people together to enjoy beautiful artistry is at the core of the museum’s mission. As part of the Mint Museum’s 10th anniversary year uptown and in recognition of the challenges many in our community face getting out of their homes during the time of Covid, the Mint partnered with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra in creating a short film featuring a pair of duets performed by symphony musicians.  

 The collaboration came at invitation of the Wells Fargo Foundation, longtime supporters of both cultural institutions. “Our foundation uses different mediums to help tell the story of impact and reach into the communities we serve,” says Jay Everette, Wells Fargo’s senior vice president of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility. “The film represents a celebration of the power of women in art presented at the intersection of architecture, art and music. The film will ultimately be made available at no charge to the entire community.” 

Charlotte Symphony Orchestra players, cellist Sarah Markle and violinist Alaina Rea, teamed up for a performance that was filmed in front of “Foragers.” Photo courtesy Kelso Communications

Each duet is performed under the backdrop of Summer Wheat’s transformative atrium window installation. Bathed in glowing jewel-toned light, the compelling musical performances are elevated by the sublimity of the space. Topilow and CSO harpist Andrea Mumm Trammell paired to play contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Part’s Fratres, an enthusiastic set of frenetic activity juxtaposed against contemplative stillness. Charlotte Symphony Orchestra players, cellist Sarah Markle and violaist Alaina Rea, teamed for the contemplative and reflecting duet Limestone and Feltby contemporary North Carolina composer and Pulitzer Prize for music recipient Caroline Shaw.  

“During this time of COVID, we want to provide content that is uplifting, hopeful, positive, and optimistic,” says Hillary Cooper, Chief Advancement Officer for The Mint Museum. “It’s a gift to our donors and partners and comes with a promise of a brighter future.”

Foragers was realized through the generous support of the Wells Fargo Foundation Women Artists Fund, a special fund developed to support broader representation of women artists in museum collections. The work showcases Wheat’s commitment to telling the stories of women as laborers and makers. She redefines historic artistic gender representation in ways that make her work resonate loudly today. 

We asked our musicians to find inspiration in Foragers, and to select music that would complement it,” says David Fisk, president, and CEO of Charlotte Symphony Orchestra.To continue our focus on the impact of women in the arts, we feature two duets by female musicians, and one work by a contemporary female composer. I am pleased to highlight musicians from the Charlotte Symphony here at The Mint Museum for a performance that is at once classical and contemporary.” 

 For Topilow, the performance is a joyful experience at a happy junction of art and music.  

Everything right nowduring Covidhas unique aspect,” Topilow says, “We wanted to create a large amount of powerful music with a small number of players and the result is truly special.”

Michael J. Solender is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, American City Business Journals, Metropolis Magazine, Business North Carolina, the Charlotte Observer, and others. He develops custom content and communications for businesses and organizations.