Charlotte Art League’s CAL Curates program helps both artists and businesses boost the health of the arts community

By Charlie Leonard

August 18, 2020

“A lot of the time…art is seen as an extracurricular activity,” said Chandler Snipe, Offsite Exhibitions Coordinator for the Charlotte Art League. To her, art isn’t just an activity, it’s a “core value.”

Snipe’s main focus is the Charlotte Art League Curates program, an ongoing art rental partnership between the non-profit Charlotte Art League and local businesses in the Charlotte area. The program’s goal is to provide exposure and stable income for local artists outside of a traditional gallery setting. At the same time, businesses will be provided with more than just “generic art,” according to Snipe. The artworks provided will stimulate conversation, reinforce professional identity, and create a welcoming environment for visitors, all at a cost-effective price. “It’s an easy way to transform your business,” Snipe said about the program. “We co-curate with you so that we know your goals and we know your company’s personality.”

Chandler Snipe, Offsite Exhibitions Coordinator for the Charlotte Art League. 

Snipe has been personally invested in the arts from a young age, having been influenced by her family. “I definitely credit my grandmother for giving me that creative niche,” said Snipe, whose grandmother worked as a seamstress for Levi’s and taught her how to sew. 

Snipe’s mother also played a key role in her arts interest. “Growing up, my mom always kind of knew that I loved art…and so she always made sure that I was in some type of art program,” she said. Snipe was placed at Northwest School of the Arts in the sixth grade. She switched disciplines several times, starting in drama before moving to photography and then upon receiving an art scholarship for her photography at Meredith College in Raleigh, Snipe decided that she would major in graphic design. 

During her senior year at Meredith, Snipe’s passion for non-profit work took hold. She worked with the city’s after-school program, becoming the director at one of the sites. When she arrived during the school year, the kids she worked with initially were hesitant to participate in art, preferring athletics instead, but something interesting happened. “Once I started actually integrating art activities, is when I saw the change happen in them,” Snipe said. The change in the kids’ attitude towards art left an impression on Snipe, leading her to pursue a career in non-profit arts work full time. 

Charlotte Art League studio/gallery on Raleigh St. in Charlotte. Photo: Kevin Smith

After moving back to Charlotte in 2015, Snipe worked for a youth organization called Studio 345 (where she still teaches), along before landing her current role with the Charlotte Art League last December. She also earned her Masters in Nonprofit Management and Leadership recently in May of 2020. Charlotte Art League (abbreviated as CAL), has been around since 1965, making it the oldest non-profit art gallery and organization in Charlotte. Their mission is “dedicated to enriching the cultural vitality of Charlotte through visual arts,” by offering services and amenities like studio space, mentorship, exhibit exposure, workshops, and more.

A recent project was a Black Lives Matter wooden panel murals on the 200 block of South Tryon. According to Snipe, CAL and their CAL Curates partner, commercial real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield, were in contact about the mural on a Monday back in early June. The project was approved by CAL Executive Director Jim Duke, and they reached out to artist DeNeer Davis to lead the project. It was completed over the next four days, from June 10-13. Communication, connection, and collaboration between businesses, artists, and the community helped get the project finished. These same traits also guide the CAL Curates Program.

Black Lives Matter wooden panel murals on the 200 block of South Tryon by artist DeNeer Davis.

Originally, the CAL Curates program came about out of necessity, after transitioning to a new location across town. “When we moved from Camden to NoDa, there was like a year and a half where CAL wasn’t open at all, and they didn’t have any gallery space for their art pieces,” said Snipe. “That’s when they started to reach out to businesses about providing artwork for their spaces.” 

After establishing a partnership, CAL will consult with the business to determine budget and space limitations. After the initial consultation, a call to artists is sent out to members of CAL with a picture of the space. Artists then send an online form with up to two pieces of artwork. “We believe that the more diverse the art the better,” said Snipe. 

To ensure bias isn’t a factor, names are left off of the pieces. Ultimately, the business decides what pieces they would like out of the selection and payment is made.

CAL Curates helps both artists and businesses boost the health of the arts community in Charlotte.

Payment is determined by the overall value of the work and the business then pays 30% of the total value/cost. 20% goes directly to the artist for the time their artwork is hanging and 10% goes to CAL to continue to foster art community programming. Pieces are rotated out and chosen each quarter, with CAL responsible for installing and hanging the pieces.

It’s a system that Snipe believes will foster community. “You’re backing up these artists, giving them the opportunity to be seen by your customers knowing that they are local artist continues to build that community, which is the goal of CAL Curates.”

Learn more about the CAL Curates program and the Charlotte Art League

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