‘The Vault’ art exhibit will offer an intimate portrait of Black households, reframing what it means to be an art collector

By Cameron Lee

June 27, 2023

Art collecting has long had the stigma of being a hobby for the social elite or for the highly sophisticated. And while the upcoming exhibit at the Mint Museum, The Vault, curated by Charlotte artist and community leader Jessica Gaynelle Moss, will certainly feature some esteemed works, its purpose is to connect people and reframe what it means to be an art collector. 

Jessica Gaynelle Moss, curator of ‘The Vault’ art exhibit at Mint Museum Uptown open July 1 through September 17. Photo: Jade Lilly 

Moss has curated an impressive list of art exhibits throughout her career and is the founding director of The Roll Up, an artist residency program connecting artists and community residents in the Camp Greene neighborhood of Charlotte. Her latest exhibit, The Vault, set to open on July 1, will showcase a wide spectrum of art from four private and personal collections from local Black couples: Judy and Patrick Diamond, Nina and James Jackson, Christy and Quincy Lee, Cheryse and Christopher Terry. Works include original paintings, vintage photography, prints, sculptures, furniture, vinyl records, and more, which explore and expand on the methodology of art collecting. For Moss, The Vault, not only breaks down walls on the perception of what an art collector is, it allows access and, of course, representation. 

Cheryse and Christopher Terry will exhibit vintage magazines, records, toys, and more for ‘The Vault’ at Mint Museum Uptown July 1 – September 17. Photo: Sancho Smalls 

“To be able to be that bridge, connecting artists to collectors, or philanthropists, or folks who are just interested in knowing more about Black artists or Black art is really important to me,” said Moss. “We know that Black artists aren’t present in many historical collections and museums or galleries…And there’s a trickle down effect that directly affects collectors, and those who buy and cultivate art spaces. And so that was like the impetus for doing the work.” 

The exhibit will feature works by Romare Bearden and Elizabeth Catlett from Judy and Patrick Diamond’s vast collection; contemporary artists like Bryan M. Wilson, Juan Logan, Antoine Williams, and J. Stacy Utley from the collection of Christy and Quincy Lee; vintage magazines, records and toys from Cheryse and Christopher Terry (owners of Archive CLT); and rare Black Santa trinkets along with several pieces by the late Charlotte artist and activist, T.J. Reddy, from Nina and James Jackson’s collection. The Vault not only explores a wide range and striking collection of Black art, but it also offers an intimate portrait into the homes of these prominent Charlotte families Moss takes extreme honor in showcasing. 

Charlotte collectors Judy and Patrick Diamond will showcase works by Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Hale Woodruff, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Nellie Ashford, and more for ‘The Vault’ exhibit at Mint Museum Uptown. Photo: Carey J. King

Nina Jackson, who is originally from Henderson, North Carolina, has lived in Charlotte on and off with her husband James, traveling for jobs throughout the years before permanently settling in 2016, but her art and collectibles have always given her a sense of home. Her father was an industrial arts teacher and appreciator of fine art, and her mother an avid quilter, who taught Jackson and her siblings to knit at an early age. She says her most prized possession is a quilted Christmas ornament her mother made her. 

“You have to leave your friends behind, you leave your family behind sometimes, you leave the entire house, your fixtures, all of that behind, but what we always, of course, took with us, was our art,” said Jackson. 

Nina and James Jackson will display work by the late Charlotte artist and activist, T.J. Reddy at Mint Museum Uptown for ‘The Vault’ exhibit. Photo: DaRemen J 

“The reason why we’re bringing so much of the home into the museum is because the home is the most safe, stable and consistent space for Black people. At home, our roles and our identities are chosen, rather than assigned to us,” said Moss. “Our homes are sanctuaries of affirmation, healing, joy, comfort and freedom, our domestic home spaces are necessary for our survival. And so I think that home is the place where we first come to learn and love ourselves.”  

As a true custodian of Black art, Moss will connect several fundamental elements of a healthy arts community with her latest exhibit: the art, the collectors, access, an open mind, and for this exhibit, a sense of home. 

“I feel so deeply privileged to be able to work with these four collectors, because you know why we call it The Vault? These things have been locked up in their homes for years. But if it wasn’t for this exhibition, we might not have ever been able to see these incredible, invaluable works of art,” said Moss. 

L to R: Cheryse and Christopher Terry, Christy and Quincy Lee, Judy and Patrick Diamond, Nina and James Jackson. 

Nina didn’t consider herself as a collector for many years, but has grown to embrace the title. 

“Different people collect art, you know, in different ways… I am clearly a collector who buys what I see and responds to what I love and I want to live with,” Jackson said. 

She jokes about how many over the years have told her, “You can’t buy a piece of art to go with your sofa,” but says now “she buys the sofa, to go with my piece of art.” 

Jackson also feels a deep responsibility and an obligation to support Black artists, “regardless of their temperament, their story, or whatever– there’s always a connection.” 

One connection Nina and James Jackson had in 2009 was with the late Charlotte artist and activist T.J. Reddy. Nina recalled being awestruck by a painting by Reddy at the Mint Museum Randolph, and she immediately inquired about the piece, setting up a meeting at Reddy’s home where “art was busting out the crevices.” Reddy and James had an instant affinity for one another, and found out they both grew up in the Yamacraw Village housing projects in Savannah, Georgia. The exhibit will feature seven pieces by the late T.J. Reddy from Nina and James Jackson’s personal collection. 

The Vault will display the distinctly different approaches and philosophies of collecting, all bound by very personal stories and relationships with memorable pieces of art. 

Jessica Gaynelle Moss, curator of ‘The Vault’ art exhibit at Mint Museum Uptown open July 1 through September 17.  Photo: Jade Lilly 

“Something that I’ve learned throughout this process, through each of the different collectors is, that there are no right ways, there is no truth to collecting, you know, everyone has their own practice and does it their own way,” said Moss. 

Also featuring works by acclaimed artists Charles Alston, Nellie Ashford, Beverly McIver, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Albert Wells, Linda Baker Keen, and Hale Woodruff, The Vault will open July 1 and run through September 17 at Mint Museum Uptown. The collectors and Moss will also host in-person panel discussions on August 2 (with Christy and Quincy Lee,  Cheryse and Chris Terry) and August 12 (with Nina and James Jackson, Judy and Patrick Diamond). 

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