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SOCO/SOZO: A Tale of Two Art Galleries
Their names are just one letter apart, but they’re not the same galleryby Page Leggett on September 16, 2021
You say SOCO. I say SOZO.
But wait. This is not the tomato/to-mah-to debate.
These two contemporary art galleries, both significant to Charlotte’s art scene, are not the same thing. That said, sometimes we do get confused. And, we suspect sometimes you do, too. So, we decided to clear it up and explore the differences (and similarities) between the two.
Herein, with help from the staff of both, we distinguish the two “SO+?O” galleries from each other.
421 Providence Rd. in Eastover
Owner/Founder: Chandra Johnson
Staff members: 4
Days/hours open: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday (Sunday by appointment)
Year opened: 2014, with project-based exhibitions and 2015 in the current physical space.
Square footage: Main Gallery and SOCO Shop: 1,000 s.f. plus SOCO Annex: 2,000 s.f.
Vibe: “Sophisticated, warm and welcoming. A fun, vibrant community atmosphere in our Gallery and SOCO Shop, along with Not Just Coffee and Tabor neighbors who share our bungalow space with us.”
Known for: “1. A program of top-tier exhibitions and projects by acclaimed international and regional artists. 2. Supporting the careers of emerging and mid-career artists. 3. Helping educate clients on art collecting and building museum-quality collections. 4. Connecting international artists to our Charlotte community and vice versa through fun exhibition openings, stimulating artist talks and cultural seminars, book and print signings.”
3 best-known artists: Clare Rojas, the Haas Brothers, Summer Wheat
3 up-and-coming artists: Thomas Gleaner, Holly Keogh, Jackie Milad
Meaning behind the name: SOCO is short for Southern Comfort. “Our gallery provides an inclusive and thoughtful platform for contemporary art to be experienced, discussed and acquired.”
Consulting services: Yes – for both private and corporate collections.
Gift shop? Yes, @socoshop
Coffee shop? Yes, @notjustcoffee
Starting price point: $500
What sets you apart from other galleries? “The gallery brings international, emerging and mid-career artists to our Charlotte community while simultaneously supporting and promoting regional artists. We hope to bring new and interesting ideas to North Carolina that engage us in a global art conversation as well as give our local artists a platform. We will be exhibiting a solo booth of artist Clare Rojas at the Armory Fair in New York City this September with more international art fairs to come in 2022.”
Gallery openings? Wednesday evenings.
Advice for someone starting a collection.
“To us, it is very simple:
- See a lot of art. The more you see, the more you will hone in on what you like.
- Be curious and ask a lot of questions. Talk to artists and curators. Use galleries as a resource.
- Buy what you love.”
Do people ever get you confused with the other similarly named gallery? Yes.
Say something nice about SOZO:
“We adore Hannah Blanton and all that she has built at SOZO Gallery. Hannah is kind, generous and has the best smile! Her passion for the Charlotte community is infectious. One of our favorite projects at SOZO is About Face CLT, which uses art to bring awareness to our local social justice issues. Thank you, Hannah!”
904 Pecan Ave. in Plaza Midwood
Owner/Founder: Hannah Blanton
Staff members: 4 “plus our beloved interns!”
Days/hours open: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. Closed (or will open by appointment) on Sunday and Monday.
Year opened: 2013
Square footage: 2,024 sq. ft.
Vibe: Approachable, fresh, community-minded
Known for: “Inspiring soulful connections between people, community and art.”
Meaning behind the name: “In Greek, sozo means ‘to be healed by God, to make well;’ in Japanese, the same word means ’to create; to imagine’. It’s our ethos.”
3 best-known artists: Kenny Nguyen, Bo Rinehart, Ed Nash
3 up-and-coming artists: Deb Koo, Eric Tai, Justin Ellis
Consulting services? “We offer art consultation services for residential, commercial and nonprofit projects, with the benefit of in-home and on-site options. We frequently consult with interior design partners as well, to help clients acquire the perfect art selections for their spaces. Our staff specializes in cultivating meaningful connections between patron and artist, and helping collectors build thoughtful, distinctive art collections.”
Gift shop? “We do not have a gift shop, but we do offer collections of small-scale ceramics by artists Sarah Phillips ($25) and Denny Gerwin (from $40 to $60), which make perfect gifts!” Buy art online.
Coffee shop? “We passionately promote and support our community neighbors like Undercurrent Coffee, The Giddy Goat and Central Coffee Co.”
Starting price point $120, which can buy a variety of small works, works on paper, or fine art prints.
What sets you apart from other galleries? “We strive to be a gallery that is equal parts community leader, soulful luminary and champion of contemporary artists, with emphasis on approachability and diversity.”
Gallery openings? First Friday.
Advice for someone starting a collection. “Collectorship is found at the intersection of art appreciation, education, and curiosity. Bring us your curiosity, and we’ll help you navigate the rest!”
Do people ever get you confused with the other similarly named gallery? “Yes! There is always a big smile when explaining the distinction and hyping up SOCO at the same time!”
Say something nice about SOCO. “SOCO Gallery has been an admirable leader in bringing contemporary art (and art literature) to Charlotteans. Chandra Johnson is also a respected friend and neighbor, and Annemarie Coyle is a longtime colleague of ours in the art community.”
“Collectively, the entire SOCO team works diligently to foster a unique and dedicated space for artists to be seen, heard and represented on commercial and institutional levels. We are so grateful and lucky to work alongside them, and so many other galleries, toward the common goal of cultivating enduring, generational creativity and culture in our city and beyond!”