Named for its former status as a branch of the U.S. Mint, the Mint Museum was, when it originally opened in 1936, the first art museum in North Carolina. Having outgrown its original Federal-style building, the museum was split into two locations in 2010.
The Mint Uptown is focused largely on American and European art from the 18th century on, but also features craft and design galleries of (largely) North Carolina-produced glass, pottery, jewelry and more. There are generally two rotating exhibits here – often by photography and new media artists – and the ongoing exhibition of local artist Romare Bearden’s modernist paintings and prints.
The Mint Randolph houses four permanent collections from the original Mint Museum: Art of the Ancient Americas, including Aztec and pre-Colombian clay and gold objects; a historic costume and accessories gallery that spans three centuries; Native American Art, including performance masks from Mexico and Guatemala.
What is now Uptown, Charlotte’s main business district, was historically known as Brooklyn, the centre of the city’s black community. One of Uptown’s main attractions is now the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture, an important art museum in a city that is, over 150 years after the Civil War, still divided along racial lines. Providing well-rounded insight into the black communities of both Charlotte and the South as a whole, the museum presents art exhibits, stage performances, lectures and more.
Named for a prominent local architect who served as Charlotte’s first black mayor in the 1980s, the museum’s modern building features an outdoor staircase called “Jacob’s Ladder,” a powerful symbol of African-American ascent through education and enlightenment. A unique pattern of slanted lines symbolizes textile patterns used in West Africa and in quilts during the Underground Railroad era.