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These articles were excerpted from Tapestry, a weekly newsletter that examines the arts and entertainment world in Charlotte and North Carolina.

Experience the 'Phygital Funk' at the Gantt Center's new digital arts studio

Ty/IG @tygc_
The Gantt Center.
At left, artist Christopher “Sancho” Smalls (IG @sancho.smalls) during an event celebrating the soft opening of the Gantt's new digital arts studio. The soft-opening weekend also featured a program with students from the nonprofit, Two-Six Project out of Fayetteville, North Carolina.

The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture is debuting its new creative studio and innovation lab, Mecca of Digital Arts (MODA), aimed at digital equity this week.

The public will be able to experience MODA through two free community events celebrating its opening, one on Friday evening and another all-day Saturday. The Center will also be unveiling "Phygital Funk: Local Creators Exhibition," a digital art exhibition done in collaboration with local artists, including Junior Gomez, ADomOriginal and FART.PDF.

Angel Butler, the Gantt's digital content strategist, said it's important that marginalized communities have the chance to tell their own story and to express themselves. She said that digital equity is the central idea behind this studio.

“A lot of times, creatives find a way to be innovative,” Butler said. “But how can we help them refine their skills or really learn from somebody, have someone there to ask questions to, or have the software that they need to really take their artmaking to the next level?”

Butler hopes that everyone in the community will benefit from this space, from artists who need support and development, to interested novices or people who just haven’t gotten the opportunity to explore art due to lack of access.

The Gantt Center, named after Charlotte's first Black mayor, is a cultural center and resource that "presents, preserves and celebrates excellence in the art, history and culture of African-Americans and people of African descent."

The new studio will be inclusive of different digital creation media, such as photography, digital design, animation, virtual reality and more. The public will be able to request open studio time to utilize all the studio's resources through a form on the studio's Linktree.

'Art After Dark: The Phygital Funk'

The public — ages 21 and up — can head to the Gantt on Friday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. to get a first look at the studio and experience it firsthand during a special event “Art After Dark: The Phygital Funk.”

Martin McNeese, the center’s director of technology and innovation, speaks with WFAE's Gwendolyn Glenn about the new studio.

Phygital is a word that combines “physical” with “digital,” and describes the intersection of digital and physical experiences, especially with emerging technology.

Attendees will be able to see all that the studio has to offer and meet the local artists that contributed to the exhibition, including Benjamin Moore, Dominique Perez, Quincy Woodard, Junior Gomez, Dominique Katan, Lavon Cromatie, Nigel Malone and Jaillin Johnson.

“Many of the artists that you’ll encounter in the exhibition, you’ll actually be able to connect with in the future via programming, instruction or mentorship,” Butler said. “They’ll actually be engaging in our digital art studio.”

Other evening festivities include photo opportunities in a cyclorama wall, a panel discussion on digital "art-trapreneurship," and live music from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., including a rooftop meta-verse party.

Community Day

All ages are welcome to experience the new studio and exhibit at the "Digital Arts Studio Community Opening Day: The Phygital Funk" on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Along with the cyclorama wall, virtual galleries and a physical exhibition, attendees can create their own digital art, including stop animation and cubist collaging.

"A lot of things that you create digitally, they're instant, you have them right away," Butler said. "So anything that people make or any photos that they take, they'll be able to take those things home."

She encourages the community to come out, explore and learn about the possibilities that are within digital art and emerging technology.

“Creatives in Charlotte need more support now than ever,” Butler said. “So we’re happy to be a space, hopefully, a hub and a resource for those people to come and to learn, to explore, to express themselves, for storytelling and creation.”

Event Information: 

“Art After Dark: The Phygital Funk” takes place Friday, March 24, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Attendees must be at least 21 years old. 

Community Day is Saturday, March 25, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All ages are welcome at this family-friendly event. 

The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture is located at 551 South Tryon Street. 

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Updated: March 24, 2023 at 6:42 PM EDT
This story was updated with details about the name of the studio.
Layna Hong is a digital producer at WFAE. She is a graduate from UNC Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, where she concentrated in graphic design and reporting.