By Matt Cosper
April 30, 2017
Inside|Out Charlotte adds a new wrinkle to the cultural landscape and cements its place in the constellation of “Knight Cities” benefiting from the generosity of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in ways that unite, delight and inspire. Inside|Out has already been put into play in a handful of cities with Knight Foundation presence: Akron, Detroit, Miami and Philadelphia. Beginning on April 30, this partnership between The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture has the potential to be a deceptively simple concept with far reaching consequences for Charlotte’s disparate (and still very segregated) communities.
As the project’s name suggests, the premise of the initiative is to turn the Bechtler and Gantt galleries inside out, taking breathtaking works of visual art and putting them out into the world. Apart from the expressed goal of “building bridges” (more on that later), it seems this project does two things right off the bat. First we have the issue of access. Museums can be intimidating places to the un-initiated, and just as intimidating can be the process of navigating uptown Charlotte’s complex warren of parking garages and one-way streets. It may seem simple to your average urbanite, but truly the experience of coming uptown can itself be a deterrent to many folks. By bringing work out into the communities, these boundaries to access are neatly side stepped.
Secondly, there is something very interesting aesthetically about this project and its placing of great works of art in new contexts. The typical (and some might argue appropriate) context for viewing art is in the neutral space of a gallery. Gallery spaces are designed to be neutral exactly so that the viewer’s eye is drawn toward the work of art and only the work of art. By putting art out into the world, Inside|Out introduces an element of interference that might possibly distract, but most definitely complicates. The city becomes the frame for the work and the viewers experience becomes unavoidably connected to larger community. For this reason, I’m eager to see what work has been chosen for the project, and where these works will be placed.
The press release for Charlotte’s iteration of Inside|Out mentions the bridge building potential of the project. While I can certainly see the possibilities for building connections within the participating communities (examples of program activities include art lessons and trolley tours), the bridge building might be difficult. In a city with such extreme disparities in income and upward mobility, any initiatives to make connections across the city are to be applauded. And art is as good, if not better, than any other means of bringing people together. What remains to be seen is how the bridges are built. How are folks from Blakeney being encouraged to go see work this is up in Wesley Heights? Charlotte is big, and there are more than mere miles separating it’s citizens. Using art to bridge the gaps will be hard work, but well worth the effort.
Learn more about Inside | Out Charlotte.