New Mint Museum exhibit presents ‘real celebration’ of Charlotte artists of color
The Charlotte Observer
Inside its 85-year-old space on Randolph Road, the Mint Museum offers an historical walk through art. An earthenware plate from early Middle Ages Panama is one of thousands works in the Art of the Ancient Americas galleries, a mainstay at the Mint’s original location.
“It’s art made by indigenous and First Nation tribes, said Jen Sudul Edwards, the Mint’s chief curator and curator of contemporary art. “And then, you are walking through the Spanish colonial galleries, which are Europe’s invasion into the Americas,” she said.
Next comes something fresh and current: A bold collage of blues and blacks, a menacing panther mixed up with cartoon cats and contemporary photographs and writings — the gateway to the Mint’s latest exhibition: “It Takes a Village: Charlotte Artist Collectives.”
“There, you have this real celebration and presentation of African-American culture in Charlotte now,” Sudul Edwards said. “You have collages and paintings that are very much celebrating Black culture and imagery.”
Artists from BlkMrktClt, a Camp North End-based gallery space and studio that supports artists of color, created the work. Co-owner Dammit Wesley was integral to creating the Black Lives Matter mural in uptown Charlotte last summer.
Including BlkMrktClt, plus two other collectives — Brand the Moth and Goodyear Arts — the exhibition highlights over 25 local artists: Hannah Fairweather and Sam Guzzie, founders of Brand the Moth; vibrant fiber art by Kat Sánchez Standfield; work by Arko and Owl; and Carla “King Carla” Aaron-Lopez, among others.
The exhibition opened June 12 and runs through Sept. 12. It spans three adjacent galleries: Belk Gallery (Goodyear Arts), Dwelle Gallery (Brand the Moth) and Jones Gallery (BlkMrktClt).
“It Takes a Village” references the conversations and collaborations held within the Charlotte art community during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sudul Edwards said.
“There really was this camaraderie within the cultural community that developed out of necessity, and that’s also the real story behind the collectives,” she said.
“Sir Will” Jenkins is a co-owner of BlkMrktClt and described the experience as “amazing.”
“It’s important to see three very approachable, very real artist collectives in the community, inside of a major gallery,” he said. “It’s also important to see Black Market Charlotte, because our collective is heavily Black and brown … mostly artists of color, and you rarely get to see collectives that look like us inside these organizations.”
Brand the Moth promotes public art throughout Charlotte, especially murals. Fairwearther and Guzzie started the collective in 2016.
CELEBRATION OF CULTURE
When it came to the curatorial direction, Sudul Edwards said she largely got out of the way, allowing the collectives to call the shots.
“(The galleries on this floor) are a celebration of various cultures coexisting,” Sudul Edwards said. “It becomes that myriad of cultures, coexisting. But righteously, and empowered, not in some sort of marginalized or surreptitious way.”
Featuring local artists isn’t new to the museum: In 2018, the Mint launched Constellation CLT, showcasing the work of Charlotte artists. https://4e9be44160bbb19ef67ce2651ef00ecb.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
For “Silent Streets, Art in the Time of Pandemic,” the museum commissioned works by Goodyear Arts co-founder Amy Bagwell and two other N.C. artists, Stacy Lynn Waddell and Antoine Williams, to address art in the time of the global pandemic and social unrest.
In the recent exhibition “Classic Black: The Basalt Sculpture of Wedgwood and his Contemporaries,” the Mint commissioned a mural by Brand the Moth artist Owl (who also was part of the first Constellation CLT) to contrast the black basalt sculpture works of Josiah Wedgwood and other notable late 18th-century English potters. Owl’s response to that work is now part of “It Takes A Village.”
“We have really made this commitment to showing local Charlotte artists in the museum regularly,” said Sudul Edwards. “With Constellation, we always have a Charlotte artist or artists on view and we rotate that three times per year.”
PAST AND PRESENT
Last year, the museum launched “Interventions,” a series that juxtaposes contemporary works with those from its permanent collection.
“It’s another way we are making sure we are not only having artists from all over the world, and throughout time, on view,” Sudul Edwards said, “but also contemporary artists, who are making work in our city about issues directly related to our place and time.”
Goodyear Arts will program a performance series, the closing weekend Sept. 11 and 12. A second phase of the exhibition will take place in the Mint Museum Uptown later this fall.
The original version of this story appeared on July 7, 2021 in The Charlotte Observer.