When Dan Butner, 31, moved to Charlotte last year, it was for the express purpose of opening Plaza Muse, a new gallery, wine bar and collaborative studio space on Central Avenue that brings together an eclectic mix of local multimedia art and artists, both established and emerging.
Situated in a three-story house, one of Plaza Muse's most unique features is its ability to showcase art in separate rooms to create more cohesive and intimate gallery spaces for individual art forms like crafts, textiles, jewelry, pottery, paintings, sketches and photography.
"Art should be fun, hands-on, and accessible to everyone," Butner says of his gallery's mission. "We present contemporary and traditional art and craft; offer both affordable and fine art; and provide a meeting place for artists to exchange ideas, teach classes, and give lectures."
According to Butner, Plaza Muse's leasing policy for its six studios also supports this mission. Artists who apply for space are selected through a juried process, which not only takes into account quality and originality of work but also seeks to build a collaborative team of artists representing various media.
Currently, selected studio artists include BlueSky photography, graphic artist Scott Partridge, and painter Bethany Hadden. With three studios still open, Plaza Muse is now taking applications for printmakers, jewelry makers, textile artists, potters, glass artists, and wood artists to join the team.
"Charlotte has a lot of young, emerging artists. So, naturally, the biggest thing we want to feature is a lot of local artists to help them get started," said Butner. "And we hope, by showcasing various types of art, the artists can help each other and work together on exhibits and community projects."
Butner, who will also provide custom framing services from the Plaza Muse location, began his career as a gallery owner in the small town of Wilkesboro in 2007. There, he opened Gallery 315, which featured traditional art exhibits on a monthly rotation.
According to Butner, the small conservative town had a mixed reception to exhibits that featured nude art or events that benefited nonprofits like the Regional AIDS Interfaith Organization. Nevertheless, he gained valuable experience as a gallery owner, including organizing the town's first gallery crawl.
"The gallery crawls really made a difference in the town. At first, we were the only gallery, but before long, another gallery opened," Butner said. "At one point, we had three galleries and 600 people attending each crawl, all in one tiny little town."
Butner has brought to Charlotte that same drive to make a difference, including plans to host community trunk shows, arts markets, and poetry readings. The gallery will also be made available for local arts groups to meet, in support of Charlotte's growth as an artistically progressive city, said Butner.
In fact, Butner said, he hopes collaborations between exhibiting artists, studio artists, and arts groups will help improve how Plaza Muse operates within the community, allowing grassroots efforts to make the gallery a place that serves as an arts incubator and catalyst for artist development.
"Since I've always been a shy person, I prefer to listen since I learn more that way. And as a gallery owner, it's good to listen - particularly to artists and their needs - instead of just doing what I want to do," said Butner. "If I'm stuck on an idea and don't listen to others' ideas, the gallery can't grow."