A few months ago, while driving down Tryon Street, I almost wrecked when I passed a giant, silver, shiny bird-like creature. I thought the city had been invaded by aliens ... Then I realized it was just the Firebird statue decorating Wells Fargo Cultural Campus — all of those new buildings and apparent giant bird statue make up the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Knight Theater, the Mint Museum of Art (which opens Oct.1), The Harvey B. Gantt African American Cultural Center … and the NASCAR Hall of Fame museum?
Hilary Howards of the New York Times calls it an arts oasis in a sporty town: "Nestled amid these modern-day shrines to sweat and gasoline is a brand-new cultural oasis where high art reigns.”
But Howards forgot to mention that nightlife also reigns on the campus of culture under the new Duke Power building. Is it just me or does it look a lot like a martini. So, inevitably, it’s nightlife-centric. You just need a ticket to kick it for the ever-changing plays, concerts, art exhibits and special events.
The intimate Blumenthal’s Knight Theater has a great roster of shows — such as the Jewel concert, whom I saw when Knight first opened. Mid-concert Jewel asked, “Is Ryan Dokke (from 96.9 The Kat) here?” He was — with us — but had just gotten up to go to the bathroom. My friend Jacinda didn’t want Jewel to think he wasn’t there, so she shouted, “He’s in the bathroom!” — informing the entire theater.
And if you’re lucky (luckier than Ryan at least) when exiting the theater, someone will give you an invitation for a post show complementary glass of wine at Aquavina nearby on The Green.
Speaking of The Green, which is now essentially the campus’ quad area, they host various events such as The Charlotte Shakespeare Festival and ice skating. Unfortunately, Ratcliffe on the Green and their quaint bar and restaurant has graduated from the campus and closed its doors.
So, like you did in college, hit the campus for some nightlife — and though it's of the culturally-enriching versus partying kind, you can always appreciate a place that gives you free alcohol.
Some upcoming events on the campus calendar include...
• Cool Summer of Hot Jazz at the Bechtler: on Aug. 6 from 6 to 8 p.m. The Ziad Jazz Quartet will play in the museum lobby. The Bechtler is open late the first and third Fridays of the month until 9 p.m. Regular admission applies during the late hours; the jazz series is free.
• Mike Phillips & The Hidden Beach Experience? perform and celebrate their CD release on the rooftop terrace on July 29, 6 – 10 p.m. Unlike the Bechtler, this jazz is not free; however tickets are $15.
• And here's a full list of events coming up at Knight Theater
Meanwhile, the NASCAR Hall of Fame museum is more than a “shrine to gasoline” as Howards put it. Aside from having more interactive displays to play with than a Disney World exhibit, it has a theater that hosts race-viewing parties and a summer movie series. It also has a Buffalo Wild Wing attached to it — as well as the largest ballroom in Charlotte.