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Four art lovers who inspire me

It's all hearts and crafts this week

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For five, sometimes six, days a week, I chew on words for a living. I read, write and rewrite. I highlight, cut, paste, type and repeat. It's a great job that fills my little English major heart till it overflows with great anecdotes, vivid imagery and compelling information.

But sometimes, I just want to get my hands dirty with glitter and paint.

Call it a job requirement if you want, but I like to keep my eye on the local arts scene. I'm not a dancer, singer, musician, artist, designer or playwright, but I have mad respect for those who are. And it's not that I'm paying attention because I want to share their stories with our readers, which, of course, I do. Rather, it's also because the people who make up Charlotte's arts community, from the heads of the big institutions to the anonymous street artists, are inspiring.

Here are a few of the folks whose passions have recently infected me.

Whoever painted Bart Simpson in Plaza Midwood. Last week, an image of Bart appeared, in which he's shown pulling down his shorts and flashing his hiney to all who would dare gaze up at Reggae Central. It was quickly painted over, leaving some of us to wonder if we'd dreamt the whole thing up or had been duped by a skilled Photoshop editor. The next day, a new rendering of Bart appeared in its place. This time, the famous cartoon character known for his quick comeback "Eat my shorts!" sported a Queen City crown on his shirt and donned a purple superhero cape, paying homage to the Charlotte Hornets.

The guerrilla artwork caught backlash from some folks, particularly the first, bare-ass rendition. But frankly, as Charlotte endures growing pains while trying to maintain some semblance of personality and culture, the city needs stuff like this.

Joel Tracey. "All of y'all are beautiful and talented ... get out there and share your light with the world."

That's the latest Facebook status Tracey has posted as I pen this column. Did he know I was planning to write about his contributions to the local scene? Because that status is indicative of the kind of community-building this guy is regularly a part of.

Tracey is one of the founders of Culture Initiative, a homegrown organization aimed at elevating grassroots arts. Recently, CI's website (thecultureinitiative.com) took a turn in the direction of generating stories that "uncover the blossoming arts scene and those creatives that are making our city what it is," says a blog post.

Since 2008 when CI launched, a big part of its mission has been bringing together arts and culture lovers. In fact, on May 24, CI will host a Culture Fair at Chop Shop. Just like the county fair many of us Southerners frequented as youngins, the afternoon promises a fun gathering with a little bit of everything, from an arts market and shopping vinyl to live music, a Pig Pickin' (featuring some of Charlotte's most talented chefs) and craft beer.

"We want this to be all about Charlotte and our localized communities," Tracey says.

I don't know how much more community-minded you can be than being the guy who helps organize a fair. (But will there be funnel cake?)

Davita Galloway and Dion Galloway. This brother-sister dynamic duo is behind the creative studio/agency known as Dupp and Swat (duppandswat.com). It took me a while to understand what their business is about, as they've got their hands in a little bit of everything. From hosting poetry slams, brunches and fashion events in their studio space in NoDa to launching a lifestyle magazine called SPREAD, Davita and Dion are all about freedom of creative expression, and helping others find a platform to do what they love.

Recently, they unveiled a new project, We Art the World, in which they strived to bring art to the people. One day earlier this month, they left bags of art supplies in random places for anyone to take. Their first venture was in South End; next, they hope to tackle the Beatties Ford Road corridor.

In a video explaining the premise of the project, Davita says, "I just figure we should do something to inspire and motivate those who create. ... If you find them, no gimmicks, no tricks — go create."

No rules, no expectations, no pressure — just create. That's what we non-artists like to hear.

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