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Goodyear Arts hopes to spread a model focused completely on local artists

 Photographer Dana "Bliss" White.
Nicole Driscoll
For Goodyear Arts
Photographer Dana "Bliss" White.

Eight years ago, a group of local artists stumbled upon a unique opportunity — a developer offered them an abandoned Goodyear tire center as a home for their work. A space for collaboration and messiness became a program where artists support other artists.

Goodyear Arts is one of a growing number of on-the-ground organizations with the mission of growing local talent. Artist pop-up markets and non-traditional gallery shows regularly appear at Charlotte bars, breweries and event spaces, and festivals like BOOM Charlotte! and Charlotte SHOUT!

Goodyear started as a warehouse experiment and evolved into a collective and residency program known for consistently taking risks, director Eric Mullis said. The collective seeks out artists who want to try non-traditional work and collaborate with peers from different disciplines.

“When Goodyear started eight years ago, it was kind of alone in its mission,” Mullis said. “But it's definitely not anymore. Even at Camp North End, there’s BLKMRKTCLT and Dupp & Swat, which are two black-owned, small art galleries supporting local black artists. There's the Charlotte Art League that's doing a lot of good work. Charlotte has really changed in terms of the kind of organizations built around the idea of trying to support local artists and get them more access.”

Entirely artist-run

Goodyear was founded by Amy Bagwell, Graham Carew and Amy Herman. Mullis has been with the center since the beginning, first in the residency program, then as a member of the collective. As a dancer and choreographer, Mullis understands the perspective of the artists they showcase, and that’s what makes Goodyear special, he said — the collective is entirely artist-run.

Resident artists are selected in groups of three to four people in spring, summer and fall. In January, Goodyear sends out an open call for applications. The residencies are purposefully multi-disciplinary and showcase different art forms, from film to dance to painting.

Once the residency cohorts are selected, the artists get their own studios in Goodyear’s Camp North End location, where they work together and are paid. At the end of the season, they put together a show for the community.

The community comes out knowing they’ll see great art from up-and-coming Charlotte artists with no barriers to entry. Goodyear works to ensure that all shows are free and accessible.

“We're in what was an Eckerd drugstore warehouse we've converted into a gallery and studio space, so that makes it kind of strange in a good way,” Mullis said. “We benefit a lot right now from being in Camp North End, which draws a really wonderfully diverse audience out every weekend and diverse in pretty much every way – age, sexual identity, race, ethnicity.”

Photographer and software engineer Dana “Bliss” White of Huntersville was a resident in spring 2022. Before Goodyear, he hadn’t displayed work for large groups of people.

“Opening night was extremely overwhelming,” White said. “So many people from Charlotte came to view and wanted to know my perspective, asking so many questions. So many people wanted to be a part of what I’d created, it was amazing.”

“When you’re around a creative community, you have the opportunity to trade ideas, share work, and bounce ideas and perspectives off of one another,” White said. “Although you're in different disciplines, there's that possibility to create one connected picture.”

The space itself was key to White’s growth. Living in Huntersville, he found it challenging to connect with artists and opportunities in Charlotte. The residency provided him a studio where he could create and collaborate.

Funding for Goodyear Arts

Goodyear Arts’ funding model is supported by local, regional and national grants; a membership program through Patreon, an online subscription platform, and donations from community members and organizations.

Access is a tricky barrier in the art world, and it can keep impressive local artists from getting a platform for their work. Mullis said Goodyear Arts solely focuses on supporting artists in the Charlotte area, and sometimes the Southeast region in general.

Other major art organizations in Charlotte often focus on bringing in artists nationwide and internationally, which is also important, Mullis said. Goodyear’s focus on Charlotte artists helps them get their foot in the door elsewhere.

White said his residency created connections that led to opportunities for gallery showings, projects, and relationships with museums.

 Painter Quynh Vu.
Nicole Driscoll
For Goodyear Arts
Painter Quynh Vu.

Some artists believe Charlotte still has a ways to go, though. Quynh Vu, a Goodyear summer 2022 resident, said the city is up-and-coming, so it's easy to be involved and easy to be seen. “That being said,” Vu said, “since it is so small, it feels like people take what they can get and don't know their worth.”

“Something I think is super rad about Charlotte,” Vu said, “is taking a walk in the city or driving around the city and seeing my friends everywhere, not seeing them physically, but seeing their work everywhere.”

A January 2023 installation by Vu at the Mint Museum, titled “Softened Scars,” is part of its Constellation CLT program, which highlights talented local artists.

“Charlotte is starting to realize the value that artists can bring,” White said. “And if this can keep going, I think Charlotte would blossom into a huge artists' haven, along with the community being there to support and make sure that it can thrive.”

Caroline Willlingham is a student in the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte, which provides the news service in support of community news.

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Caroline Willingham of Durham, North Carolina, is a student in the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte, which provides the news service in support of local community news.