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Arts center in Uptown Charlotte gives local artists chance to be seen



CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A new arts center in Uptown is giving artists their big break by offering affordable workspaces in a busy section of Charlotte. 

Artists have the potential to have their art seen by hundreds of people per day based on foot traffic alone.

For those who have lived in Charlotte for a long time, the building along North Tryon Street was first a Sears Department store. In recent years it was the Hal Marshall Center, owned by Mecklenburg County. For about the past year the building across from the Charlotte Ballet has been the Visual and Performing Arts Center (VAPA), a first-of-its-kind space on the east side of Uptown.

“An art presence is healthy for a community, it’s necessary for a community,” said Joanne.

Rogers, a curator and owner of Nine Eighteen Nine studio gallery.

In the Queen City, you’ll find art on nearly every street corner, but things weren’t always that way.

“When I came to Charlotte I saw so much talent and not the representation that should be for the local artists,” said Rogers.

The idea behind the VAPA, a 158,000-square-foot building in Uptown, is to bring artists under one roof, for viewing by everyone.

“The public has accessibility to the arts, it’s an open door,” said Rogers.

You’ll not only find gallery space inside but affordable working space. Artist Kevin Harris moved his studio to the VAPA building from Concord. He’s taking advantage of the public exposure. Many of his art pieces feature people he has met.

“I love people. I love engaging and talking to people and I love trying to find that happy place in people. What drives you, what moves you,” said Harris.

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His paintings capture people in the moment. An exhibit consisting of his work from a two-decade career will open soon at VAPA. The art exhibit is his reflection of the black experience in America.

“The art consistently changes because it’s such a tumultuous time and things are going on in the world,” said Harris.

Harris’s role as an artist has also changed from being one of the few black artists in the community, to one that others look up to and inspire.

“If I am going to get into this I want to be in a position at some point in my life and my career where I can change that narrative,” said Harris.

The exhibit opens at the VAPA center on January 14 at the Nine Eighteen Nine gallery. More information can be found here.

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