Printed from the Charlotte Observer -
Posted: Wednesday, Jun. 06, 2012

Charlotte museums planning special exhibits for DNC visitors

By Steven Brown
Published in: Arts Alive
  • Arts in DNC spotlight

    Some of the cultural events during the Democratic National Convention:

    Bechtler Museum of Modern Art: “Giacometti: Memory and Presence” will spotlight the Swiss sculptor along with his brothers. Opens Aug. 31.

    Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture: “America I Am: The African American Imprint” will contain more than 200 artifacts illustrating five centuries of U.S. history and culture. June 30-Jan. 1.

    Levine Museum of the New South: The museum showcases its hometown through its permanent exhibition, “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers.” A photography show, “Silent Heroes,” will depict Charlotteans who are working to improve today’s city. As a complement to another show, “Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina,” the museum will bring back “Families of Abraham,” a 2006 exhibition exploring the relationship between Christianity, Judaism and Islam. “Down Home” runs through Sept. 9. “Families of Abraham” is June 24-Sept. 9. “Silent Heroes” will be July 7-Oct. 14.

    Light Factory: “Out in the Streets” will feature historic photos of the demonstrations and violence that surrounded the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. Aug. 27-Jan. 21. For “Speak Your Mind,” Charlotte high school students are creating works about political issues. Aug. 20-Oct. 14.

    McColl Center for Visual Art: “America Now” will feature five artists who will be in residence Aug. 6-Sept. 2. Their works will be exhibited Aug. 31-Nov. 3.

    Mint Museum Uptown: “Read My Pins” will exhibit jewelry that Madeleine Albright wore as secretary of state. June 30-Sept. 23. “Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial” consists of works that examine U.S. history and culture. June 30-Sept. 30.

  • Related Images

    Charlotte’s cultural groups will share in the action during the Democratic National Convention.

    As soon as the delegates and political operatives hit town in September, many will start passing through uptown’s cultural venues for social events and other functions. During the official welcoming parties Sept. 2, for instance, delegates by the hundreds will converge on the Mint Museum Uptown, Levine Museum of the New South and Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.

    Those and other groups hope to lure the guests into the galleries and theaters to look and listen – and gain a new impression of Charlotte. The museums are tailoring exhibitions to the visitors.

    Madeleine Albright’s jewelry will show how fashion statements can be political statements. Centuries worth of artifacts will illustrate African-Americans’ place in U.S. history and culture. A show spotlighting a prominent Swiss sculptor will show Charlotte’s cultural scene striving for the world stage.

    A side effect: The convention events and security restrictions are likely to crimp the hours when the groups can open to the nonconvention public. But the exhibitors hope to limit the disruption.

    “It’s sort of our civic duty to open our doors for the visitors to show off Charlotte,” Levine Museum President Emily Zimmern said.

    Will museums stay open?

    There will probably be side effects on when the museums will open to the nonconvention public. Bookings for the DNC may tie them up.

    Convention organizers have dibs on the Mint Museum Uptown for the convention week and a couple of days on either side of it, but “we’ve made it clear that we would like to remain open if possible,” Mint communications director Hillary Cooper said.

    Scheduling will be the main factor, but there’s another: street closings or other security clampdowns, especially for arts facilities near the convention sites, could push them to limit hours.

    “We don’t know what level of restrictions we’re going to have,” Zimmern said. “We will almost certainly be closed some of the time if not all the time.”

    Renting their facilities – for events from weddings to nonprofit meetings – is part of how cultural groups bring in money. With the convention, Zimmern said, the rent paid by organizers could exceed what the groups give up in admissions. The Levine Museum “budgeted conservatively,” she said, and projected an extra $15,000 from DNC events.

    “Our hope is that it will be much more,” she added. Regardless, “we’ll certainly not lose revenue. We’re not doing it for free, and we don’t expect to take a hit.”

    The festivities could pay off for the Mint even after the convention is gone, Executive Director Kathleen Jameson said. The museum has gotten event planners’ attention, she said, and the pace of inquiries about 2013 has picked up. Because of unknowns about costs related to the events, Jameson wouldn’t predict how much the museum might make from the DNC.

    The cultural groups expect scheduling and security issues to settle out by early summer. Then they’ll be able to set their hours they’ll be open to the public.

    Special exhibitions

    The exhibitions the groups are planning will run for weeks outside the convention dates, so Charlotteans will still be able to see everything the conventioneers do.

    The Mint will showcase Albright’s jewelry at the same time as works by Thornton Dial, an artist who is “trying to figure out what it means to be an American, a Southerner and African-American Southerner,” Jameson said. Both shows spotlight “how art can be used to express who we are as a people.”

    As another perspective on the nation, the Gantt Center will host “America I Am,” which includes 200 artifacts illustrating African-Americans’ place in the country’s history and culture. The show, spearheaded by broadcaster Tavis Smiley, includes items connected to Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and many others.

    “By telling the stories of the events of the past,” Smiley said in a statement, “we can help the leaders of the future set the stage for active participation in the democratic process for years to come.”

    Looking beyond the United States, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art will spotlight Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti, who made headlines when a work of his fetched more than $100 million at auction.

    The convention week isn’t the only time there will be an influx of visitors, said Tom Gabbard, president of Blumenthal Performing Arts. Cultural groups can aim at the advance crews. So Blumenthal hopes to schedule performances during the preceding weeks. Blumenthal is trying to schedule performers such as comedians Bill Maher and Jon Stewart, Gabbard said, but plans are not set.

    “We’re going to have a lot of people around here in the weeks before (the convention),” Gabbard said. “So we intend to have some entertainment options for them.”

    Brown: 704-358-6194

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