If you’re looking for unique things to do in Charlotte, stop into the Harvey B. Gantt Center for a unique cultural experience that features art, history, performance and more.
No matter what time of year you’re in the Charlotte area, be sure to work in a stop at the Harvey B. Gantt Center and view stunning art pieces by renowned local and international artists. Named for the famous architect and first Black mayor of Charlotte, the Center showcases works by other African American artists, highlighting the community’s art, history, and culture. Formally established in 1974, the Harvey B. Gantt Center today serves as a community crossroads for visual and performance artists in the Carolinas.
Who is Harvey B. Gantt?
Harvey Bernard Gantt is a man of many talents. Born in Charleston in the early 1940s, Gantt was involved in civil rights activities as a teen and ultimately became the first African American to attend Clemson University where he studied architecture. He later became a student at MIT, earning a Master’s degree in city planning, a move that foreshadowed his later election as the first African American mayor of Charlotte. In the early 1960s, he married his wife Lucinda Gantt (formerly Lucinda Brawley), who was the second African American student to attend Clemson.
History of the Harvey B. Gantt Center
Officially called the “Harvey B. Gantt Center for Performative Arts + Culture,” the Gantt Center has its roots in the student protests of the 1960s (a perfect educational opportunity for your young ones!). Professors at UNC-Charlotte joined forces to form the Afro-American Cultural and Service Center, an organization that aimed to preserve and recognize the contributions of African Americans. The building was later renamed the Harvey B. Gantt Center.
Today, the Center exists as one of the most recognizable of all of Charlotte’s buildings, winning several awards for its unique design. The architects (The Freelon Group) incorporated elements reminiscent of a former nearby school that was a staple of the African American Brooklyn community. During your visit, pay attention to the staircases and escalators in the Center. They mimic the staircases the school was known for
Take note of the outside of the structure, as well. See if your family members can guess what inspired the façade design (answer: African textiles and quilting patterns).
Family friendly activities at the Gantt Center
Are you bringing children to the Center? Plan your trip for the first Saturday of the month and take part in a Family First Program. Children and their caregivers can participate in activities together that focus on literature, performance, and visual arts. For instance, the Gantt Center has run workshops for kids to learn about and practice making masks, playing the drums, screen printing, designing Egyptian jewelry, trying out acting, creating quilts, and making beads and bracelets.
While many educational centers’ activities cater towards preschoolers and elementary-aged kids, the Gantt Center’s Family First activities work to include the whole family. Some programs, such as their R&B Tech program, are specifically designed for teenagers.
Gantt Center special events
The Gantt Center is constantly evolving its calendar and its programs can vary month to month. You and your family might be able to sign up for a Yoga on the Rooftop session led by Yogi Sajeedah Jones one weekend or buy artwork from local artists like Deener Davis and Makayla Binter during a pop-up art show.
If you visit the Center with a big family group of 10 or more, you can register for a 60-minute guided tour of the facility, led by a museum educator. Smaller groups can take a self-guided tour around the building.
Through a branch called the Initiative for Equity + Innovation, the Gantt Center organizes community events that spread awareness about social justice. Check the Center’s calendar to see what activities will be taking place during your visit.
Gannt Center exhibits
Their current FuturePresent exhibit runs through June and displays works by African American artists that are part of the Center’s permanent collection. Visitors can view pieces created by Stacy Lynn Waddell and Phillip Thomas, artists known for their creativity and social commentary.
Past exhibits have included talks by the President of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of The Poor People’s Campaign Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, which focused on social inequities and how members of the community can be part of changing those inequities. Other past exhibits have shone a spotlight on work from Black artists from the Carolinas as well as showcasing architectural feats by renowned architect Philip G. Freeon.
When Should You Go?
The Gantt Center is open from noon until 6:00 p.m. on Sunday as well as Tuesday through Friday. Saturday hours are from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., while the Center is closed Mondays. Adult tickets are $9. Educators, senior citizens, and students are admitted for $7. Children five and under as well as members get in for free.
Location of the Harvey B. Gantt Center
The Center is located at 551 S. Tryon St. in Uptown Charlotte near the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and the Charlotte Convention Center.
Know Before You Go
While your family will likely find themselves wanting to snap as many photos as possible, the Center does have restrictions on taking photos and videos. Flash photography is not allowed anywhere in the gallery, but you can always take photos in the Harper-Roddey Grand Lobby, Performance Suite, and the Rooftop Terrace.
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