'Get Out Again And See Something Beautiful': Charlotte Creativity 'Blooms' In South End On Weekends
Think back to where we were this time last year.
North Carolina’s stay-at-home order had just been lifted and some restrictions on restaurants had been eased. But the state — and Charlotte along with it — was still scrambling to respond to COVID-19. Everyone was asked to wear masks. Crowds were limited. Bars were closed. And many people who could were urged to work from home.
Things are different now, even though we still have a way to go to beat COVID-19. We’re all about to embark on the first holiday weekend since nearly all major restrictions — including mask mandates — have been dropped. And Charlotte's South End neighborhood is making the best of it.
Every weekend through June 20, the neighborhood just south of uptown is hosting art events called “blooms” — popups, performances and other activities — meant to encourage people to have fun and explore the area.
Sure, South End’s taken some heat over the past year for some social media posts that depicted some eyebrow-raising scenes of crowds during the height of pandemic safety measures. (And who could forget the viral video of a person filmed drinking straight from a tap, face mask around her neck?) But there have been plenty of safer events, too.
Charlotte fiber artist Kelly Rose Zimmerman says South End Blooms is ideal for people both looking to get back out there cautiously.
“It’s a great way to get out and see things and still socially distance,” Zimmerman said. “There’s tons of murals and stuff around the area, and a lot of the art performances being promoted are outdoors. I think it’s a great way for people to get out again and see something beautiful after being stuck at home for so many months.”
She and fellow artist Ashley Jane McIntyre crocheted brightly colored butterfly wings at Edna’s Porch for the event. Think of “selfie walls” — murals on buildings meant to give people a creative backdrop for photos. Same concept, but as a fiber-art installation, and they’re calling it “Wonder Wings.”
“We thought of spring and summer -- all these fun colors and animals that come with that and kind of wanted to do butterflies,” Zimmerman said.
Asked how much yarn it took, Zimmerman laughed. “Oh, goodness,” she said.
All told, it took about 10 skeins — a bundle of yarn that contains about 350 yards of the stuff. And folks who want to see it will have to hurry. It’s only temporary. But Zimmerman encourages people to not just snap photos of themselves -- or their dogs -- in front of the wings but to walk around and check out the work of other artists.
South End Blooms, which is put on by Charlotte is Creative and Charlotte Center City Partners, also has featured dog portraits, “flower bomb” displays, a hunt for painted rocks along the Charlotte Rail Trail and even a roaming soap “circus.”
And, of course, there’s music.
Tre. Charles will take the stage this weekend in front of The Brown Sugar Collab for a two-hour set. Longtime residents may be familiar with the indie-soul guitarist and singer already. He’s played around town for years, but he’s turned his music into a full-time career. Charles recently dropped his first single, “Stressin’,” which he says was inspired by what it feels like for him to be a young Black man in America and the isolation he felt during the pandemic.
(Fun fact, he even submitted a video to NPR's Tiny Desk Concert contest last year.)
Like it has for most people who perform for a living, the last year’s been tough on Charles. But he’s happy to be back in front of crowds now.
“I personally feed off the energy of the crowd and the reception, and it’s kind of hard to convey that emotion through a screen sometimes,” Charles said.
And emotions are vital to Charles’ songwriting. Over the last year, there have been plenty to work through.
“I want to let people know what I’m feeling and what I was feeling when I was writing it, and I try to evoke that emotion and help people feel their feels,” he said. “Whether it makes you mad, happy or sad, I want to help you feel it.”
He hopes people want to feel those emotions -- and soak up some sun — with him Saturday.
“If you want to come out and support, I would appreciate it, and support all the artists that are going to be out throughout the month, because everybody kind of wants to perform for everybody and get their music back out there,” Charles said.