What grabbed our attention in 2018? And how will those moments roll forward or be matched in the new year? Here’s a look, from arts correspondents Lawrence Toppman, Cristina Bolling, Emiene Wright and Lia Newman:
A major collaboration
For almost four decades of writing about the arts in Charlotte, I’ve lamented the lack of collaboration among major performing arts groups. The joint production of “The Rite of Spring” by Charlotte Ballet (which supplied invigorated young dancers under choreographer Peter Chu) and the Charlotte Symphony (which played Stravinsky’s score with brio) gladdened my heart in every way. — LT
Coming up in January/February: Cue Chu again, plus choreographer Stephanie Martinez, as Charlotte Ballet and UNC Charlotte — via Shakespeare experts Andrew Hartley and Lynne Conner — collaborate in “Shakespeare ReInvented,” in the Ballet’s Innovative Works show.
The year’s premieres
Every art form requires new blood. Some will be rich, some anemic, but it must keep pumping. I celebrate each new attempt, from composer Nkeiru Okoye’s smartly condensed depiction of local history in “Charlotte Mecklenburg” (Charlotte Symphony) to Gloria Bond Clunie’s adroit re-working of the picture book “Last Stop on Market Street” (Children’s Theatre of Charlotte). Both were winners, but the important thing is to get new ideas flowing. — LT
Coming up in March/April: A remarkable two-fer collaboration and premiere. Children’s Theatre and Actor’s Theatre commissioned Steven Dietz to write two plays about one night in the same house — “The Great Beyond” is what happens with the adults, produced by AT; “The Ghost of Sprinter Cove” is what happens with the kids, in the basement, from CTC.
Queens University becoming a cultural center
Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, the city’s only professional theater for adult audiences, has found a comfortable home in Queens’ Hadley Theatre. And Little Fine Arts Center, that venerable building at the corner of Wellesley and Selwyn avenues, is undergoing a renovation that potentially makes it a venue for Opera Carolina, the Charlotte Symphony and others. — LT
Coming up: The Gambrell Center is slated to be completed in 2019 and open in early 2020.
‘Hamilton’ and what it proves
I pick it not because it was one of the most remarkable productions of the last 40 years here – though of course it was – but because it proves to producers and theatergoers across America that we’re a top-tier destination for Broadway tours. If you missed it this time, start saving for the next go-round: The most expensive tickets may not cost $600, but they’ll still break a lot of banks. — LT
I saw Danai Gurira’s play about Liberian women trying to survive a civil war at intimate Duke Energy Theatre, in an underfunded but vital version by Brand New Sheriff Productions. It represents all the valuable work done by BNSP, Three Bone Theatre, PaperHouse Theatre, Actor’s Gym and other small companies operating at the grassroots level. Drama does not live by “Hamilton” alone. — LT
This exhibition of photographs by Alvin C. Jacobs Jr., commissioned and now showing at the Gantt Center, took viewers beyond the crumbling property narrative surrounding the long-standing, low-income African-American neighborhood at South Tryon Street and Remount Road, and focused on its residents’ agency and vitality. The interactive project, which required Jacobs to embed for months in Brookhill Village, invites viewers directly into the living rooms, front porches, and birthday parties of an area surrounded by the rapid gentrification and prosperity of the South End, and to consider — through a related discussion series —affordable housing and other factors of inequity at work in the Queen City. — EW
Ahead in 2019: More photographs will be added to the exhibition, Jacobs says, and the next discussions on economic mobility will come at the Center’s next “Talk About it Tuesday,” Jan. 15. On the panel: Jacobs and Patrice Funderburg, a Leading on Opportunity Council member and founder of Educate to Engage.
Zun Lee at The Roll Up CLT
On June 1, Charlotte pulled up for The Roll Up CLT, an artist-in-residence program based in the Camp Greene neighborhood on Charlotte’s West Side. Breaking with the familiar model of artists toiling in isolation, Roll Up founder Jessica Moss envisioned them partnering with and developing the skills of community members. Lee, the inaugural artist, intentionally sought ways to become an active and engaged neighbor for the six-month residency. In addition to creating a hauntingly beautiful series of black and white photographs, Lee taught an eight-week photography course to teens at Lorien Academy of the Arts. — EW
Ahead in 2019: Baltimore-based photographer SHAN Wallace will be the 2019 artist in residence, Moss says, beginning in May, after a stint teaching photography at the Getty in Los Angeles.
Charlotte played host in April to a jaw-dropping number of fashion VIPs and celebrities who came both to view the Oscar de la Renta exhibition curated by N.C. native Andre Leon Talley and to fete boutique owner/national tastemaker Laura Vinroot Poole’s 20th anniversary in business. Honored at the Mint Museum’s annual gala (making the fashion/art weekend a triple): The late Marianna Sheridan, a Charlottean who befriended de la Renta and went on to create an archive of the designer’s work. — CB
Coming up: On Jan. 9, look for local designers and stylists talking about the ongoing “African-Print Fashion Now!” exhibition at the Mint (the show’s on view through April 28).
‘Interconnected’ public art
I serve on the Public Art Commission (so call me biased if you want), but I don’t think anyone can deny that the biggest art-related incident for Charlotte this year was the commissioning of Refik Anadol’s 2,000 square feet of permanent public artwork for Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. Located in Concourse A, it’s a digital work that relies on operational data from the airport (including baggage handling, parking, and ground shuttle transportation) to present a series of changing visuals across three high-definition LED media walls. It’s one of the largest public art data visualization projects in the world, and the largest project to date by Anadol, a Turkish-born artist currently based in Los Angeles. What a coup for Charlotte! — LN
Coming up in early February: More public art at the airport: A kinetic work by Christian Moeller, plus four murals on Concourse B from Charlotte artists Raed Al-Rawi and Nico Amortegui. And keep looking at the airport, because following those will come five more murals, at Concourse A, from Charlotte artists Nellie Ashford, Jonathan Grauel and Ben Premeaux.
This story is part of an Observer underwriting project with the Thrive Campaign for the Arts, supporting arts journalism in Charlotte.