Using Art to Break Barriers and Bring People to the Table

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Why This Matters: Arts and culture can act as the entryway that allows people to come together to talk about the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community as part of the second On The Table CLT, a day that encourages meaningful communitywide conversations.
Charlotte artist Nico Armortegui holding the On The Table | CLT bag featuring his artwork.
Charlotte artist Nico Armortegui holding the On The Table | CLT bag featuring his artwork.
By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Art can be the icebreaker that allows uncomfortable conversations to happen, says Charlotte artist Nico Amortegui.

“Our job as artists is to make sure our work has that impact on the viewer where they want to ask questions and talk about it,” Amortegui said. “The more that art can have that impact, the easier it is to break the ice around things people sometimes don’t want to talk about because they’re taboo or because you don’t want to offend people.”

ASC recently provided Amortegui the opportunity to use his artwork to get people talking. In August, ASC partnered with Foundation For The Carolinas to host the On The Table community SWAG Design Challenge.

ASC managed the artist call and selection for the challenge, which asked participating artists to tackle Charlotte’s legacy of segregation and its ongoing impact on the community, as well as the opportunity for community change and growth.

Amortegui’s design was selected and, as a result, will be seen by the more than 6,000 people who participate in On The Table CLT on Wednesday, Oct. 24. His work will also be shared nationally with the Knight Foundation and the 10 other cities participating in On The Table.

“To this day I’m like, ‘Holy cow I won this!’” he said. “I think it has a lot to do with the meaning of it.”
In his On The Table artwork, the Queen City is at the center of a female form representative of different races and ethnicities found in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. There’s frustration in her face but a shared love of the city in her arms.

The winning design Charlotte artist Nico Armortegui created for On The Table | CLT.
The winning design Charlotte artist Nico Armortegui created for On The Table | CLT.

“The idea was she is hugging the city, this is her city,” he said. “She’s a mother. She’s a daughter. She gives life to new beginnings, new families, new everything. But at the same time, you have that little connection of segregation and what’s happening in Charlotte.”

Amortegui, who was born in Colombia, has called Charlotte-Mecklenburg home for more than 15 years. He said his personal ties also influenced his artwork.

“It has a connection to the place where I live, the place I love, the place where my kids are from, my wife is from,” he said. “I owe a lot to this city so I wanted to try to bring that out in this.”

Find Your Seat at the Table

On The Table CLT takes place in locations throughout Charlotte-Mecklenburg on Wednesday, Oct. 24. To host your own table, visit To join an open table:

Charlotte artist Marcus Kiser will host a community-wide open arts table for On the Table CLT from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24 at Goodyear Arts (1720 Statesville Ave., Charlotte). Hear from talented local playwrights, visual artists and performance artists as they share how the legacy of segregation impacts their work. This will be followed by an interactive activity. Featured artists include Bree Stallings, Q Talley and Carmen Neely. Click here to RSVP.

On the Table.