Museums In A Minute: Mint Museum Uptown
Begin your exploration of craft in Charlotte at the Mint Museum Uptown. Its permanent collection documents contemporary studio craft, outlining the movement's historical roots in the 19th century and its connections to traditional decorative arts and industrial design. You'll find collections of ceramics, fiber, glass, metal and wood, handicraft revival works and contemporary works including furniture by Randy Shull, studio glass by Harvey Littleton and ceramics by Michael Sherrill. Four works commissioned by the Mint also are on display: a glass chandelier by Seattle artist Dale Chihuly, an architectural glass wall by Massachusetts artist Tom Patti, a glass work by Danny Lane and a work by Czechoslovakian glass artists Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová, two of the most influential glass artists of the 20th century.
The Mint Museum Uptown is part of the Levine Center for the Arts at the corner of First and South Tryon Streets in the heart of Charlotte's business district. In addition to the Mint, the cultural campus includes other notable visual and performing arts organizations, including the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.
The McColl Center for Visual Art is a dramatically restored 1926 church serving as an urban artists' community. Although craft is not an exclusive focus here, the center does celebrate contemporary art with exhibitions, educational programs and artist residencies - check their schedule. During each residency, you can see new contemporary work and meet the artists at open houses or Open Studio Saturdays. Workshops and lectures are held in conjunction with curated or traveling exhibitions.
Drive six miles beyond the McColl Center and you'll find yourself in the middle of the North Davidson, or "NoDa," Historic Art District, home to galleries, a theater, bookstore and restaurants catering to an artful crowd. Experience all of the art and entertainment attractions in the NoDa Historic Art District during first and third Friday Art Crawls every month from 6 to 9 p.m. Begin your exploration of this lively neighborhood by viewing a list of art galleries and other attractions at http://www.noda.org.
Plan your visit to Charlotte with information on lodging, dining and other activities found at the Charlotte Culture Guide, Charlotte Travel and Tourism, and VisitNC.com.
Charlotte (Bev Nagy)
Museums In A Minute: Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
Bev Nagy is a self-taught fiber artist who lives and works in uptown Charlotte. She is a North Carolina Arts Council fellowship recipient and spent 2009 as an affiliate artist at McColl Center for Visual Art. A long-time Charlotte resident, Bev shared some of her favorite free and inexpensive ways to enjoy the art and culture of the Queen City.
1. The new Mecklenburg County Courthouse - 832 East Fourth St., corner of Fourth and McDowell - features kinetic sculpture by Ralph Helmick and Hoss Haley's Integrity sculpture.
The real scene stealer here is a kinetic sculpture by artist Ralph Helmick that hangs in the main atrium of the courthouse. More than 3,000 small cast metal heads, created as likenesses of local faces from all walks of life, hang from cables from a platform on the ceiling. (Helmick and artist Stuart Schechter have a kinetic work in the permanent collection at the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh.) See Hoss Haley's large, beautifully rendered Integrity hand in the courtyard.
2. Walk up Trade Street from the courthouse and stop at Time Warner Cable Arena, home of the Charlotte Bobcats.
The arena is full of artwork, but without setting foot inside, there is really cool - and really different - work from two artists on the Trade Street Plaza between Fifth, Trade and Caldwell Streets. J. Paul Sires, a Charlotte artist, has created large, N.C. granite benches, beautifully carved and a good place to a rest as you walk. Andrew Leicester, a Minneapolis artist, has created 35-foot-tall columns, The Flying Shuttles, whose bright colors and forms reference the N.C. textile industry.
3. Levine Center for the Arts on South Tryon and First Streets.
The site of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture and the Mint Museum is a sight to behold, and Charlotte's commitment to culture going forward is inspiring.
While you're there, step into the Bank of America lobby to see the frescoes by Ben Long, each measuring 18 feet by 23 feet. There is so much going on in each painting that you can view each one dozens of times and always find something new. The bank also curates smaller, rotating shows in the lobby that highlight diverse and interesting work.
4. Walk or ride the Gold Rush trolley - an old-school trolley that gives free rides up and down Tryon - up to Hearst Tower at 214 North Tryon St.
Added bonus: a rotating display of artwork is showcased in the Sixth Street windows of the tower. Artists apply for and are selected for six-month stints in the windows. They are required to change the work in the windows three times during the show.
At the main entrance to the Hearst Tower in Hearst Plaza is a great cast glass and bronze fountain which sets the stage for interesting things inside. The building is art deco-inspired - wander around and soak in all the architectural detail. The best bet? Head around to the lobby on the College Avenue side of the tower and see an original bronze staircase from a 1920s Paris department store.
5. Hang a right on Seventh Street as you head north on Tryon and check out Spirit Square located at 345 North College St. - home to The Light Factory Contemporary Museum of Photography and Film.
Their galleries are free and open to the public and feature cutting edge exhibitions and work that is always thought-provoking.
6. Visit the Mint Museum Uptown, which includes the holdings of the Mint Museum of Craft + Design (as well as the Mint Randolph's American Art and Contemporary Art collections and selected works from its European Art collection).
7. Continue down Seventh Street where you'll encounter a parking deck.
But it's no ordinary parking deck - Touch My Building by artist Christopher Janney graces the wall. Created and installed in 1998, this 36-foot-tall interactive piece invites people to touch the pads and produce both light and sound.
If you get there on the hour, the piece doubles as a clock, and the sound and light pads put on a synchronized display and play a song. Before you head into Reid's Fine Foods, there's a plaque on the wall with a riddle on it - if you answer it correctly and play the right pattern into Touch My Building you'll be rewarded with a tune. You're on your own for the answer!
While you're there, Reid's is a great place to pop in for a snack. There's a gourmet coffee bar inside, an incredible selection of locally made desserts, sandwiches made to order, hot food and more. If you don't get your fill at Reid's, another block down Seventh is Villa Francesca's Italian eatery.
8. Back on North Tryon St. between 10th and 11th is McColl Center for Visual Art, a refurbished Gothic Revival church building.
It's free and open to the public 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with rotating exhibitions on the first floor and artists-in-residence studios on the second and third floors.
Take a few minutes to check out sculptor Hoss Haley's Tonic Arch on the front lawn of the McColl Center. Artists-in-residence come from all over the country and world, along with local artists, to work in this amazing facility. But unlike other residency programs, there's an "open-door policy" which means that members of the public are free to pop into artists' studios and watch them work, ask questions and get up close to the creative process. More than looking at contemporary art, they get to experience it.
9. On Church Street, kitty corner from McColl Center for Visual Art are the Dovetail Gardens, community gardens for the residents of Edwin Towers, a senior living development.
The garden is home to numerous birdhouses by artist Joan Bankemper. Dovetail Gardens is a great example of the intersection between art and community. Walk through them on your way to Poplar Street where beautiful restored Victorian houses line the streets in cool contrast with the skyscrapers just a block or two away.
10. A short bus ride or long walk from Uptown to Davidson Street brings visitors to NoDa (North of Davidson) which is widely recognized as Charlotte's arts district.
There are numerous galleries in a condensed area and quaint shops, restaurants and bars. Highlights include Green Rice and Lark and Key. I like Lark and Key because it features the work of one of my favorite local pottery groups, Circle of Eight. Other attractions include Smelly Cat Coffeehouse, Salvador Deli and The Dog Bar.
Coffeehouses are the ultimate artist hangout, so it's no wonder that the best shop in Charlotte is in the heart of NoDa. Smelly Cat has funky décor inside and out, and it feels like everyone's a regular. You're probably rubbing elbows with some of Charlotte's art elite anytime you walk inside. Have an extra cup to make it to Amelie's in the middle of the night.
Salvador Deli is a great spot with an even better name. Sandwiches are made to order (try the Salvador or the New Familiar), and there is an unbeatable selection of microbrew and artisan beers. If something cool is going on in the neighborhood, there will be a flyer at Salvador Deli.
Finally, The Dog Bar. Just like it sounds, it's a bar where four-legged friends are welcome. Bare bones with easy outdoor seating and minimal indoor space, it's a great spot to enjoy a nice evening in Charlotte. Whether you have a dog or just love them, it's a unique spot to see Spot sit!