Things to do

This is how you binge on art in Charlotte

My Netflix binges last about 40 minutes, times two or three. (Curse you, “Grey’s Anatomy.”)

Having the same problem with mindless TV, or video games, or general couch-potato-ing? They say it’s beneficial to swap a negative habit with a positive one. I decided to replace my mindless Netflix habit with an art binge for 40 minutes yesterday, working my way down the Charlotte Rail Trail, stepping into five art establishments.

What I found:

(1) “The Harvest of Presence”

Hidell Brooks Gallery is featuring exhibitions “Shaping My Intangibles” by Johan Hagaman and “Sailing in Place” by Jenny Nelson through June 25. The gallery is a bright white, hushed space. There’s a faint, clean scent of paint in the air and benches to perch on.

In Hagaman’s “The Harvest of Presence” figure, I saw four-leaf clovers sprouting from energy centers (the throat, the heart, the pelvis), as if luck and good fortune come from within a person in brilliant bursts.


1910 South Blvd., Suite 130

(2) “The Starry Night”

I was told Studio Cellar turns up with drinks (there’s a bar inside) and music and a painting frenzy on Saturday nights. Inside, canvases are lined up along paint-splattered work spaces, and rap music punctuates the place.

A version of Vincent Van Gogh’s masterpiece spills across the back wall. My eyes couldn’t stay still on it and it gave me this sense of flowing forward or sideways but not caring about direction.


1800 Camden Road

(3) “Immeasurably More”

Anne Neilson Fine Art is open and acrylic-scented, and is taking on an Art for Soles initiative to donate 10 percent of proceeds during May and June to Samaritan’s Feet.

The canvas that grabbed me, “Immeasurably More” by Marcy Gregg, kept my eyes pinned to its central, thick streaks of white oil paint. It brought to mind the haze you see when you squeeze your eyes shut. How there is immeasurably more going on in a mind than what is expressed by the face.


118 East Kingston Ave., Suite 16

(4) “Swift Encounter”

Lark & Key Gallery and Boutique has creaky wooden floors and an earthy aesthetic with whimsical folk music. Their current exhibition, “Wild Life,” explores “the wonder and the whimsy of the natural world” and extends through July 30.

My eye was drawn to a piece outside the exhibition, “Swift Encounter” by Duy Huynh. What I saw in it: One quick encounter, one unexpected encounter, can lift you off your feet, make you levitate.


128 E. Park Ave., Suite B

(5) “For the Joy of the Book”

Ciel Gallery has a cool, warehouse feel and is a burst of blue on the walls and paint-splatters on the floor. The current exhibition, “Re-Action,” lasts through June and explores how “creating art and experiencing art inspire powerful human effects.”

The sculptural paper of “For the Joy of the Book” by Jackie Radford gave me happy-writer-nerd syndrome. What you take in through reading can shape what we put out through creating.

128 East Park Ave.


Radford happened to be in the gallery and caught me staring. I asked her if she wants viewers to understand her meaning, or if she minds them conjuring up their own. “What the viewer brings is just as valid as what the artist is trying to say,” she said.

The reactions I experienced at these five artistic spaces made me feel revived. Invigorated. Un-couch-potatoed and awake to live my day through.

Even with travel time, an art experience in the South End gallery cluster shouldn’t take you more than an hour. Take your turn — try an art binge.

Make your own meaning.

Photos: Katie Toussaint