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Arts & Culture
WFAE's reporters, editors, producers and hosts worked tirelessly throughout 2021 to tell the stories that mattered most in the Charlotte area. Here's a look at some of our best work.

Charlotte’s creativity is endless. Here are some of 2021's best arts and culture stories

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Dashiell Coleman
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WFAE
T'Afo Feimster stands next to "NC 8," a mural he and fellow artist Abel Jackson just completed at 1600 W. Trade St. in Charlotte. The mural depicts eight legendary Black musicians from North Carolina.

As Charlotte grows, so does the reputation of its arts and cultural sector. We’ve been putting a spotlight on some of the people who put our area’s creativity on display, both through on-air reporting and our weekly arts and culture newsletter, Tapestry. Here are some of our favorite arts and culture stories of 2021.

DUPP&SWAT studio is a Charlotte haven to showcase artists of color

There’s a studio at Charlotte’s popular Camp North End that’s open to all but curated for artists of color. DUPP&SWAT is certainly making its mark in Charlotte, but WFAE’s Gracyn Doctor reported on how founder Davita Galloway is making her own mark, too.

Murals. Murals everywhere

May marked one year since George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer, a killing that launched a summer of protests and galvanized people across the nation to demand an end to systemic racism. WFAE’s Nick de la Canal checked in on the Black Lives Matter mural that was painted on a street in the heart of uptown Charlotte during the 2020 protests — and to hear from some of the artists who worked on it.

Though prominent, it’s far from the only mural in Charlotte. The city is full of them. In January, WFAE’s Dashiell Coleman talked to T’Afo Feimster and Abel Jackson, two artists who were working on a mural in the city’s Historic West End that honored North Carolina music legends. The story got into how public art can in some cases be a double-edged sword — both a way to add flourish to an area and a possible harbinger of gentrification.

They can also add life to an area that’s already overdeveloped, too, like the one that houses Charlotte’s Metropolitan shopping center. In October, de la Canal went to visit artists as they installed eight murals at the development as part of the Talking Walls Festival.

And, much like the Black Lives Matter mural, such art can be used to make a statement. Take Mike Wirth’s “The Promise,” which was meant to make viewers imagine themselves in the place of Charlotte’s homeless population. WFAE’s Sarah Delia reported how the work was inspired by the since-shuttered encampment that became known as Charlotte’s tent city.

Durag Fest’s founder has dreams of a bigger celebration for a Juneteenth celebration of Black culture

The annual event that began in 2018 celebrates Black fashion and culture on Juneteenth. It was held again this year, but founders said it was tough to find sponsors, even after so many companies vowed to support Black-owned businesses and creatives. WFAE’s Jodie Valade reported how artist Dammit Wesley and his event partner, Lica Mishelle, dream of Durag Fest becoming like Charlotte’s version of Coachella.

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Maria Ramirez Uribe
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WFAE
Mexican artist Rosalia Torres-Weiner says Day of the Dead is her favorite holiday. She created this ofrenda in Charlotte this year for the community to participate in the holiday.

This Charlotte artist created an 'ofrenda on wheels' to celebrate Day of the Dead

On Nov. 1 and 2 each year, Mexican families gather to celebrate Day of the Dead by remembering their loved ones who have died. This year, a local Mexican artist shared the holiday with others in Charlotte. WFAE’s Maria Ramirez Uribe reported on how artist Rosalia Torres-Weiner celebrated Día de los Muertos by making an “ofrenda” — a traditional altar to remember and celebrate her family members who have died — that was open to the public.

A Charlotte artist’s dream of a mobile studio for kids hit the road

Bunny Gregory turned an old school bus into a mobile art and music studio that she can take to different neighborhoods to help more children flex their creative skills in their own environments. Dashiell Coleman caught up with her in May as she was about to premiere The Underground bus.

A musician aimed to fill Charlotte’s recording studio void with ‘a YMCA for music’

Charlotte musician Jason Jet’s long-held dream of opening a music coworking space came to fruition in late January when he opened GrindHaus Studios. His goal is to offer professional-quality recording and producing services to anyone in Charlotte who needs it through monthly memberships, hourly packages and add-on mixing and mastering services. Jodie Valade told us how things looked — and sounded — in the space.

This Tony-winning Charlotte teacher has a plan to boost diversity in theater arts

Corey Mitchell was a venerated, award-winning teacher at Northwest School of the Arts with a national reputation in the theater industry. But this year, Mitchell made the decision to leave his old job behind and start a nonprofit aimed at helping students of color navigate the college application system and land careers in theater arts. Mitchell spoke with Dashiell Coleman for Tapestry as he was about to launch the Theatre Gap Initiative and again with Nick de la Canal after the inaugural class was formed and underway.

The Ritz is reborn — in a way — in west Charlotte

A west Charlotte neighborhood has a new community space. The Ritz at Washington Heights opened in November at the site of the former Ritz Theater, the last movie theater built exclusively for Black patrons in the city. Jodie Valade reported on why it was important to honor the past while keeping an eye on the future.

North Carolina's Black cowboy clubs keep the spirit of the frontier alive

Black cowboy and cowgirl groups — called saddle clubs — organize rides through urban downtowns and suburban pastures across the U.S. Those involved in the subculture say interest in the clubs is growing, and North Carolina is no exception. Some Twitter users have dubbed this trend the #yeehawagenda, but Black cowboy culture has been around for a long time. Nick de la Canal visited a gathering and rodeo in Iredell County for a glimpse into horsemanship and camaraderie.

An Army veteran finds relief through art — and wins VA competitions along the way

U.S. Army veteran Kelly O'Gara of North Carolina has won art contests at the Salisbury VA Medical Center, and last year she won second place at the national level for a portrait of her daughter. But the Iraq War veteran says she wants to see someone else beat her locally — because it would mean they didn't give up.

There’s an art to signs, too — and to preserving them

Charlotte has a reputation for building over its past. Maybe that’s why longtime locals tend to feel a bit nostalgic for scenes of bygone years. The Charlotte Museum of History seems to recognize that, and it opened up a new exhibit this year called Signs of Home, which showcases signs that many residents felt were emblematic of a Queen City past. Jodie Valade told us about the signs in the exhibit and reported on one particular sign as it came down from its longtime perch — the one outside of the old Penguin restaurant in Plaza Midwood.

Do you want to read more stories like these? Sign up for our free weekly arts and culture newsletter, Tapestry

WFAE's weekly arts and entertainment email newsletter, Tapestry, will keep you in the loop on arts and culture in the Charlotte region.

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