Meet twelve artists and creatives who are shaking up Charlotte’s cultural scene
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John Hairston Jr., 32
At an evening art opening inside the comics shop Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, a stocky African American man hurriedly brushes paint onto a large canvas. Pretty soon, Spider-Man comes into view.
For artist John Hairston Jr., who created the paintings in celebration of Marvel Comics’ fiftieth anniversary, this isn’t an unusual weekend night. He can often be found painting live during benefit concerts, openings, or multimedia events. “It’s all about me beating my times, like a video game player,” he says.
It took Hairston some time to find his role in the local art scene. At gallery shows, the pop culture themes of his work didn’t fit in. “There were vivid colors, but the subject matter was off,” he says. “I felt like what I was doing was more silly. These others were more distinguished, like art my grandfolks would buy.” In 2005, he helped create underground arts group GodCity Collective so that like-minded artists could come together to stage their own events. Today Hairston teaches at Central Piedmont Community College and focuses on commissioned album covers, concert posters, and flyers, as well as comic book projects with former Creative Loafing editor Carlton Hargro and fellow GodCity artist Marcus Kiser. —C. D.
What the scene needs: “The higher-brow art scene misses out on a lot of the more grassroots-based artists because they’re looking for the next thing to come from out of town. As local artists, we have to perform miracles out of town to be considered anything back at home.”
Role in the Scene: “I’d like to be the George Clinton of the Charlotte art scene. Real funky, real crazy. I’d like to be that for the world.”
Kevin Beaty, 22 & Scott Lazes, 23
Last year, after learning that Charlotte had been chosen to host the DNC, Kevin Beaty (right, below) and Scott Lazes, who met at Hopewell High School and went to film school at Boston University and Rutgers, respectively, launched Charlotte Video Project, an ambitious plan to produce a hundred short documentary films about the city.
Using a fly-on-the-wall style of filmmaking, the duo portrays Charlotte as a vibrant, culturally diverse, and progressive Southern city. “Our films show an engaged community on many different levels,” says Lazes. “No singular point of view captures the city’s soul; we’re sharing a perspective beyond national media sound bites.”
Subjects have included the food-truck scene, “third space” hangouts, Common Market, and birds of prey on the mend at the Carolina Raptor Center. Many of their films are featured on the DNC Host Committee’s website and are available for use by local and visiting media. Several are also featured at charlottemagazine.com/video
“What has impressed me most,” Beaty says, “is the real sense of pride people have about Charlotte and the hotbed of activity we have going on here. Charlotte today is more than a sleepy banking town.” —M. S.
Role in the scene: “I often say that we really don’t create anything; we just point the camera at creative things that are happening in the community,” says Lazes. “If anything, the creative work in Charlotte simply needs more exposure.”
What the scene needs: “More centralized open space for impromptu performances. New York City has Central Park—we really don’t have that kind of space,” says Beaty.
Crista Cammaroto, 43
With an artistic past that spans from installation and performance art to earth art, Cammaroto intends to do a lot more than deck the walls as curator and director of galleries at UNC Charlotte. “We’re always doing a lot of work to kind of push the envelope—not just meaning-wise, but also in defining what art is for this town,” she says. “Because I think people have needed to learn that art isn’t just something that you hang on the wall—it’s an experience.”
Her current show, E Pluribus Unum, runs through November 1 at Projective Eye Gallery (closed to the public during the DNC). During the DNC, UNCC is collaborating with the Quasimodo Project to project a five-story installation on the side of the UNC Charlotte Center City building. Look for looping animation, videos, and photographs. —L. G.
Local artist love: Jennifer Marie Wallace and Malena Bergmann. “They have continued to create exceptional work in craft and concept despite the lack of understanding and support for performance art and installation in the Southeast.”