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Razing of Goodyear Store Offers Art Show Template

by Kimberly Lawson

Razing of Goodyear Store Offers Art Show Template

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Picture by Todd Stewart

July 27, 2015

Photos: (top) Todd Stewart's Revolver (on salvaged wood); (middle) Holly Christine Keogh's First Day (oil on panel); the gutted inside of the Goodyear store on Stonewall at North Tryon; (info box) Keogh's Tell Mr. Man With Impossible Plans (oil on panel) 

For many local artists and musicians, the first time the name Crescent Communities made any impact on them was when the Charlotte-based developer filed a rezoning petition for the land the Chop Shop is located on in NoDa – with plans to demolish the much loved venue to build apartments.

How dare they,” was the sentiment shared by some vocal Facebookers who live in NoDa or regularly attend shows at the Chop Shop, giving life to that narrative in which the developer is the greedy, evil antagonist to a defenseless locally owned business. The NoDa neighborhood association, though, supported the move, and when it came time for folks to speak out against the petition at a City Council public hearing, no one showed up. In April, Crescent won approval to build up to 350 apartments on that site. With it, the fate of the Chop Shop as we know it, which brought in hundreds of live music acts in addition to hosting dance and theater performances, fashion events and more, was sealed.

Cranes and wrecking balls are byproducts of city growth, and with Charlotte’s metro population steadily climbing to a million, this kind of narrative plays out pretty regularly nowadays. Too often, beloved landmarks and cultural institutions are razed for the shiny and new – and lately, that shiny and new has often manifested in pricey  apartments. Who else can citizens blame but the developers who seem oblivious to the culture they take down?

Recently, though, Crescent Communities has been working to change that negative stigma, whether they intended to or not. In April, the developer launched Skyline CLT, a mini-magazine as well as a series of events celebrating the different facets of the creative community. The initiative seeks to start conversations about what needs to be done to help the makers and doers of Charlotte, the creative community itself, be successful.

And it’s not all talk.

Thanks to a handful of co-sponsors (Moore and Van Allen, Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, Parkway Properties and The Wilbert Group), and under the direction of The Wall Poems of Charlotte’sAmy Bagwell and Graham Carew and artist/Vintage Charlotte founder Amy Herman, Crescent has helped launch a short-term artists’ residency program in the old Goodyear Service Center on Stonewall Street, which it owns. Later this year, the building will be demolished to start construction on Tryon Place, a 27-story mixed-use development that will include office, retail and restaurant space. In the meantime, nine individual artists and artist groups will receive studio space to work in, a monetary stipend and a showcase. July’s artists — Kathryn Godwin, Holly Christine Keogh and Todd Stewart —will unveil their works this Friday, July 31.

“I know the developer is always the bad guy on Scooby Doo,” says Bagwell, “and I don’t doubt that a lot of times some real estate decisions are made that are very mercenary, but I just think the people we’re working with believe in this, and that means something.”

The project came about very quickly, after Herman spoke at the first Skyline event, which focused on art and creativity. “I basically called for action and said that creatives in Charlotte really need time, space, access and community. What I was trying to do was say that people who need to think about that are not the artists. It’s really the property development companies and their real estate companies. They need to plan for us to be there. We’re all being priced out of Charlotte, and they’re going to lose all of us.”

The day after that talk, Herman found herself at Earl’s Grocery, putting together a proposal with Bagwell.

“I think we see all this as a pilot project,” says Bagwell. “What we hope is that it will prove to a lot of interested people that this kind of thing can work and be beneficial for everyone. And then what could happen is this project could go past this building because there are so many underused and empty and transitional spaces in Charlotte.”

And the local arts scene needs those spaces. Despite making a comeback from the recession, Herman says the scene is still struggling.  “I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that it is difficult to find a space that will show art and only show art, won’t also be a bar, or also be a store, or also be anything else. It’s hard to sell enough art to pay rent.”

Specifically, Herman and Bagwell both lament the need for a place for mid-career-level artists to showcase. “If you’re first starting to make works, there’s lots of group shows you can be in,” Bagwell explains. “If you’re at the top level, you’ve got a couple of fine art galleries. In the middle, there are no… you know what happened during the recession to the galleries. So people leave Charlotte.”

In the course of working on their presentation to secure the project, Bagwell says three of her artist friends left Charlotte for Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Besides offering a space that helps fill a gap in Charlotte’s arts landscape, the folks at Crescent see the project as a way to make Uptown more marketable.

“As we look at what makes for great cities, great spaces, great places, the creative community and having a vibrant, visible, celebrated grassroots creative community is a piece of that,” says Tyler Niess, Chief Marketing Officer for Crescent Communities. “And it’s something we don’t think downtown has enough of today. At a fundamental level, giving these guys some visibility and a place to work, I think, is going to hopefully be a catalyst to spur more of that in downtown Charlotte and make downtown Charlotte a more appealing place.”

The painter Keogh is one of the first artists to take residency in the Goodyear building. Not only are the artists creating their own pieces, but they’re asked to also make an impact on the building itself – a last hurrah, if you will, before it gets demolished in October. She plans to enlarge prints of a portrait of a little girl with a black eye and wheatpaste them onto the garage doors and windows. She says the image is “a little funny and a little sad at the same time,” which to her, resonates with the building.

“Working in that space has been different for me because there has been a sense of community and interest in the building itself,” Keogh says. “Having passersby show interest in your work. I’ve had people come in and have conversations with me, want to take pictures inside the building.”

And that’s exactly what the Skyline residency project is about – getting people, especially those who work Uptown, those who may not otherwise have that kind of exposure to real local art, talking about what’s going on here and maybe even what can happen next after this arts space is gone.

“Too often, developers don’t take the time to look deeper,” Niess says, “and not just at the financial equation that will make a project successful but the intangibles that make a place compelling.”


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Tags: Crescent Communities, Skyline, NoDa, Chop Shop, Goodyear, art exhibit, Kathryn Godwin, Holly Christine Keogh, Todd Stewart

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