Cultural Moments That Defined Charlotte’s 2010s

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Why This Matters: From events that gained national attention to initiatives that celebrated artists, the 2010s were a decade of Culture For All in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

The 2010s can be remembered as the decade Charlotte’s arts community grew up.

Several events brought the national spotlight to the city—some good, others necessary. Others cultivated creatives that would go on to earn national acclaim. Throughout the past 10 years, arts and culture continued to define our region’s growth and bolster our local economy.

Here are some of the decade’s cultural highlights:

Levine Center for the Arts
Levine Center for the Arts.

Levine Center for the Arts

The opening of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in January and Mint Museum Uptown in October completed the cultural campus on South Tryon Street in 2010. (The Harvey. B. Gantt Center and Knight Theater both opened in 2009.)

Thanks to a $15 million gift from The Leon Levine Foundation and a $5 million gift from Duke Energy in honor of Leon and Sandra Levine to complete the capital campaign for the cultural facilities, the campus was named Levine Center for the Arts.

John W. Love Jr., “FECUND.”

McColl Award winners

John W. Love Jr. unleashed “FECUND,” his multidisciplinary performance and installation event (funded by ASC’s $25,000 2011 McColl Award), at Mint Museum Uptown in 2013. Since then, Love went on to win a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 2017.

Nouveau Sud.

Meanwhile, 2014 McColl Award recipient CarlosAlexis Cruz dazzled with his project “Nouveau Sud, Nouveau Cirque” (“New South, New Circus”) that used cirque-style performance to tell the stories and traditions of multi-ethnic communities in Charlotte-Mecklenburg in 2016.

The Blumey Awards.
The Blumey Awards.

From Charlotte to Broadway

High school theater throughout the Charlotte region received a boost when Blumenthal Performing Arts, in partnership with Wells Fargo, gave birth to the Blumey Awards in 2012. Several Blumey Award winners have gone on to post-high school success—most notably Northwest School of the Arts’ Eva Noblezada. After winning a Blumey in 2013, Noblezada scored an audition and was cast as Kim in “Miss Saigon,” which went to Broadway and earned her a Tony nomination for Best Actress in 2017. In 2019, she also earned a Tony nomination for Best Actress for her role as Eurydice in “Hadestown.”

"Ascendus" was dedicated in the 2010s in memory of former Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Susan Burgess.
“Ascendus” was dedicated in the 2010s in memory of former Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Susan Burgess.

Democratic National Convention

In 2012, the DNC brought exhibitions by television personality Tavis Smiley and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Charlotte-Mecklenburg, as well as exhibitions featuring the works of artists Alberto Giacometti and Thorton Dial.

In addition, the dedication of a prominent public artwork served as a poignant remembrance of one of our own. “Ascendus,” the monumental artwork on Billy Graham Parkway close to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, was dedicated in memory of former Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Susan Burgess.

Studio 345.

Studio 345

ASC launched Studio 345, its out-of-school time program that uses the arts to inspire students to stay in school, graduate and pursue goals beyond high school, in 2012. In its first year, the program attracted 133 students; there are now 2,500 alumni.

Studio 345 “connected me to more artistic people,” said program graduate Savaan Wallace, a student at Savannah College of Art and Design. “There was a big sense of community. People were very kind. Through the apprenticeship program, I realized I love to teach art to other people.”

“Spiral Odyssey” by Richard Hunt.

Romare Bearden Park

Named after influential Charlotte-born artist Romare Bearden, the park opened in 2013 with a design based on Bearden’s collage work as detailed by Seattle artist Norie Sato.

In 2017, the public artwork “Spiral Odyssey” was installed. The artwork was created by Chicago artist Richard Hunt, who shares the distinction with Bearden of being the first two African-American artists to have solo exhibitions at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1971.

ArtPop creator Wendy Hickey.


Wendy Hickey brought ArtPop to Charlotte in 2014 and local billboards haven’t been the same since. Over the past seven years, more than 100 local artists have been featured on millions of dollars’ worth of donated billboard space throughout the region.

ASC Culture Blocks (photo by Jon Strayhorn).

Culture For All.

The driving force for ASC the second half of the decade has been the recommendations of the community’s 2014 Cultural Vision Plan and the 2014 Cultural Life Task Force recommendations.

Notable updates include:

LGBTQ Perspectives on Equality
LGBTQ Perspectives on Equality.

“LGBTQ Perspectives on Equality”

The powerful 2014 Levine Museum of the New South exhibition is thought to be the first in North Carolina to explore LGBTQ history. In addition to telling Charlotte’s LGBTQ history, the exhibit helped preserve stories and memorabilia to ensure that history isn’t lost.

Patricia McBride. Photo by Jeff Cravotta.

Kennedy Center Honoree

When The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced Patricia McBride would be one of five individuals to receive the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors, it felt like she was being recognized for more than the unparalleled versatility, spontaneity, stamina and warmth she displayed as a dancer.

To Charlotte, it was also a recognition of what she’s meant to this cultural community. McBride and her husband, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, are Charlotte Ballet icons and their name graces the ballet’s home and ballet academy.

Goodyear Arts

In 2015, artists Amy Bagwell and Amy Herman converted the former Goodyear building on Stonewall Street scheduled for demolition into an artist residency. Their vision evolved into Goodyear Arts, an artist-led, nonprofit residency and events program at Camp North End focused on local visual, performing and literary artists.

Goodyear Arts is a prominent example of how creative individuals rose to the forefront of the local cultural scene in the 2010s.

Chris De'Sean Lee & Hamilton Chicago Company. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2016.
Chris De’Sean Lee & Hamilton Chicago Company. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2016.


The musical of the decade made its way to Charlotte in October 2018 and it was a big deal. Both online and box office tickets were sold out in a matter of hours. Before “Hamilton” arrived, star Leslie Odom Jr. helped Blumenthal celebrate its 25th season.

If you missed it, don’t worry. It’s slated to return to the Queen City in 2021.

“K(NO)W Justice, K(NO)W Peace."
“K(NO)W Justice, K(NO)W Peace.”

The Uprising

During one of Charlotte’s most challenging times, one that forced the city to confront its history of racial inequity, the arts led the way in bringing the community together and bridging differences.

Individual artists helped beautify uptown after protests in 2016 following the death of Keith Lamont Scott, while the Charlotte Symphony’s “One Charlotte: A Performance for Peace” brought the community together to heal.

Levine Museum hosted a community forum within a week of the uprising and continued its community response with the exhibition “K(NO)W Justice, K(NO)W Peace: A History of Policing in Charlotte’s African-American Community and the Origins Black Lives Matter Charlotte.” The exhibit included the first exhibition of noted Charlotte photographer Alvin C. Jacobs Jr.’s work.

Graciela Iturbide -Vendedora de zacate Oaxaca México 1974. This is one of the many works that will be on exhibit during “In Focus/Enfoque.”

In Focus/Enfoque: Contemporary Photography in Mexico

The ambitious initiative, funded by Bank of America, spanned multiple visual arts institutions and galleries in Charlotte from August 2017 through June 2018 and gathered more than 50 artists from Mexico and the United States to explore diverse topics and themes, including design, gender, activism, identity, globalism and borders.

The Mint Museum became the first U.S. venue to feature the initiative’s anchor exhibit, “Reveal and Detonate,” which explored the Muxe culture in Southern Oaxaca, identified as a third gender (trans-individuals; typically, men who identify as female).

The Light Factory, McColl Center for Art + Innovation, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, LaCa Projects and SOCO Gallery all participated in the cross-venue initiative.

Charlotte SHOUT!

Charlotte SHOUT!

The celebration of art, music, food and ideas in Uptown Charlotte took place in April and May 2019 and served as the grand finale of CLT250, the year-long commemoration of Charlotte’s 250th anniversary. It brought 200+ concerts, installations, performances and more to the Center City, including giant bunnies.