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.