Brad Thomas isn't bothered by the prospect of shoveling snow, a task that awaits him at his future home in Minnesota. He sounds overly optimistic that it will be a good workout. But, weather aside, it's the Twin Cities' sprawling arts scene that draws Thomas to brave the harsh temperatures. In many ways, the cities' creative force reminds him of where he comes from. Thomas is a native Carolinian with deep roots in Charlotte's ever-growing arts scene.
"For me, it's the same thing, but it's in a different place. My life is devoted to visual arts and all its manifestations, whether it's historic and antiquity or what's happening at the Charlotte Arts League," Thomas says. "It's at my core. I don't know anything else and I don't want to do anything else. I've been blessed all these years to work in the arts in many different capacities."
Thomas, whose resume boasts former positions as gallery director and curator at Davidson College, curator of contemporary art at Mint Museum and director of residencies and exhibitions at McColl Center for Art + Innovation, already has plans for future endeavors in the Carolinas. In 2016, he is slated for a February exhibit at SOCO Gallery and an April exhibit at Appalachian State University's Turchin Center For Visual Arts.
"This is the end of this particular journey, but think about all the other journeys that are ahead. I definitely don't see this as a terminus," Thomas says. "I see it as a moment to reflect on the past and then keep moving."
His current solo exhibit, The End of the Road..., features art that he's created over a span of 20 years. The exhibit, comprised of around 50 mixed media and collage pieces, will be held at a "for lease" pop-up gallery space in Latta Arcade's French Quarter.
"I think artists and creatives have always looked for those opportunities to go somewhere and conceivably squat for a while and do their thing, whether they occupy a space and make their work and use it as a studio or do something more formal like this and use it as a place to gather for an exhibition and have a party," Thomas says.
Thomas, who graduated of UNC-Charlotte in '92, wants to give back by having a portion of proceeds to go to the university's Art + Art History department.
Conceptually, his works focus on human issues. They are largely influenced by global connections, including the age of viral videos and human empowerment.
His mixed media works make use raw materials.
Thomas grew up in Mount Airy, North Carolina, where he frequently helped his father, who worked in construction. He was inspired by artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. But he also cites Jean Tinguely and other artists who were working in ways that employed welding and construction in fine arts as influences.
Thomas believes that the spirit of art will continue to thrive after his departure from the Q.C. For him, a solid arts community is more about people than places.
He raves about Candice Langston, who started TED X in Charlotte, in addition to innovative locals like Manoj Kesavan (Pecha Kucha, Fringe), T'Afo Feimster (LATIBAH Collard Green Museum), Grace Cote (Jerald Melberg Gallery) and Chandra Johnson (SOCO Gallery) as being some of the many creative folks to watch.
"The more density that we get in Charlotte with more and more people moving here and people coming from cultured upbringings and backgrounds, it seems like its tipping in a way that it hasn't before," Thomas says. "The spirit remains with new people bringing different ideas and cultural views."