Local Arts

Charlotte’s culture to love in 2015

What will Observer writers remember from 2015, in the realms of Charlotte’s arts and style? Take a look:

Lawrence Toppman, arts writer

The longer I do this job, the more I realize that the highlights of my cultural year are things I never knew existed or things I never expected to see. Here are three that stood out in 2015.

The Phantom of the Opera” at CPCC Theatre in November. Blumenthal Performing Arts has raised the bar for top-quality national tours over the last decade, but every so often a local group proves itself worthy to stand alongside the expensive touring productions. This show had everything it needed: fine voices, a large and capable orchestra, stage tricks that worked smoothly and an off-the-charts level of creative passion.

Behzod Abduraimov playing Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto with the Charlotte Symphony. One of Christopher Warren-Green’s virtues as music director is that he finds tremendous talent under 30, soloists who are insightful and (luckily for a midsized orchestra) affordable. Abduraimov represents all the people (including pianists Natasha Peremski and Lukas Vondracek) in this group. Next up: Cellist Cicely Parnas in January.

The simultaneous arrival of Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester and the biggest M.C. Escher exhibit ever assembled in North America. Both run through Jan. 17 at N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh. Two geniuses who lived four centuries apart (and had more in common than you might suspect) blew me away with their polymath skills – visual ability, mathematical concepts, scientific curiosity – in joint exhibits I’m still contemplating.

Cristina Bolling, style writer

Beyonce in Harbison. It’s probably hard for Charles Harbison, a Lincolnton-born New York fashion designer who is getting hotter by the minute, to pick out his top style moment of 2015. So we’ll do it for him. Last spring, Harbison was asked to rush-create a red jumpsuit and cape for singer Beyonce. (She’d worn head-to-toe Harbison three months earlier, on the front row of Kanye West x Adidas fashion show at New York Fashion Week.) He had no idea where the jumpsuit would turn up, but suddenly, there it was – on Beyonce at the Manny Pacquiao/Mayweather fight in Las Vegas.

Potter and designer Jonathan Adler gracing the Queen City for the first time. This king of modern American design came to Charlotte in October, entertaining a sold-out crowd of more than 300 at the Mint Museum Auxiliary’s Fall EnrichMINT Forum with tales of his career and the growth of his lifestyle brand. Adding to the city’s style points that weekend was the fact that Adler was joined by husband Simon Doonan, creative ambassador for Barney’s New York.

Tabor. Laura Vinroot Poole, one of Charlotte’s biggest style makers, ramped up options for Charlotte men this summer when she opened this new boutique devoted to upscale menswear. The Myers Park shop oozes style, from the complete redesign by Vinroot Poole’s husband, architect Perry Poole, to the art gallery also within its walls, Chandra Johnson’s SOCO Gallery.

The post-game fox tail. Last year, it was his “Cam-pris,” fitted calf-length jogger pants that looked like, well, capri pants. This season, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton made headlines after the Nov. 22 home game against the Redskins for another fashion look: the post-game fox tail. “It was a fox tail, man. You know, a lot of people can wear it and a lot of people can’t,” Newton told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt on SportsCenter. “I think I’m fortunate that I have the swag to be able to pull it off.”

Courtney Devores, popular music correspondent

Two major venue losses. Charlotte lost two historic pieces of its music and nightlife scene this year, in the once-rundown, then-fringe-and-artsy, then-drooled-over-by-developers South End and NoDa neighborhoods. Last weekend, Tremont Music Hall closed its doors for good after 20 years – just a month after NoDa’s Chop Shop closed after its 4 1/2 year run. Tremont survived several transitions, three owners, the mainstreaming of alternative music and the opening of numerous competing venues over the past two decades, and was one of the only all-ages venues in the area. Chop Shop, always a spot for unique events from aerial acts to rock and hip-hop shows and small festivals, had really found its footing in the last year. Each leaves a void.

Opening night of Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield’s “Sing Elliott Smith” tour. The duo didn’t play Avett Brothers’ songs at McGlohon Theater in March – they performed solo tracks, covers and Smith’s work – and the audience witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime show. Spontaneity and warmth radiated from the stage, giving fans a new respect for Avett as a solo artist and introducing those not already in the know to Mayfield and Smith. Many fans were moved to tears.

Helen Schwab, style editor

#Nomakeupselfie. When Miss Statesville 2015 Katie Knowles posted a no-makeup selfie next to one of her pageant shots on Facebook this summer, she was responding to an anonymous Twitterer who’d posted candids of young contestants, saying “YUCK.” She and others rallied behind the young women and the effort went viral, with hundreds of postings, including one from the then-Miss America. When we called to get an opinion, former N.C. secretary of commerce (and Miss Gastonia 1978) Sharon Decker shared a corporate bio photo and a current one, sans makeup, noting: “We need to encourage women to be themselves.” Many of the side-by-sides were startling, and Knowles, for one, had no problem with that. “This is what I look like, take it or leave it. ... We wear makeup as an accessory, not a necessity.” A loaded, fascinating, thought-provoking moment in 2015.

Local, little-bit celebs got progressively younger this year. Last year, 9-year-old Peyton Murray of Fort Mill, S.C., was grabbing our attention modeling for Gap Kids and Toys R Us. This year, we checked in on the youngest of the Vine-famous siblings of Nash and Hayes Grier, 6-year-old Skylynn, and realized she’d topped a million followers on both Instagram and Vine. Then we watched as 2-year-old Riley Curry stole dad Stephen’s thunder at his Western Conference post-game news conference (that headband!) and by this fall had a gig modeling shoes. Now comes Brex: Brexton Busch, all of 6 months old, put other Vegas red-carpet-goers to shame at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series awards, displaying massive cool and a fish gape (the expression supplanting duckface on Instagram) unmatched by Mom’s or Dad’s. Next up: vogue-ing ultrasounds, we presume.

... and a wish

Lia Newman and Grace Cote, arts correspondents and bloggers at www.happeningsclt.com:

Our wish is for “Wednesday Art Night.” A few months ago, we were pleased to hear about Levine Center for the Arts’ new collaborations planned between the Mint Museum, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. We’d love to see one simple move: The Bechtler and Gantt offering free “evening hours” Wednesdays, coinciding with the Mint’s. (Currently, the Bechtler plans to start #BechtlerByNight Jan.15, with free admission every third Friday evening, while the Gantt has no free evening hours.) If all three of our major art museums uptown were open on the same night, with no special programming, we believe there’d be widespread benefits. We’re willing to bet the New Gallery of Modern Art would jump on board, and maybe some restaurants and bars would offer specials to those who present museum tickets. Get the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority on board and all of a sudden you have yourself a little event – and we can only imagine how it could grow when Childress Klein’s museum apartments (2016) and Crescent Communities’ Tryon Place development (2017) are open!

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