The Show Before the Show
“I want people to connect with the artists whose work speaks to them. Supporting living, working artists in our community is the best way to honor the legacy of Van Gogh … a catalyst with a million ripples.” — Bree Stallings, Art Director of Charlotte’s Immersive Van Gogh exhibition
If you’re reading this article, you’ve likely seen the name “Bree Stallings” pop up a lot lately. And, for good reason.
We try to spread the love around here at The Biscuit — never intending to overhype one creative over another. We don’t like to play favorites. But, in Stallings’ case, we can’t help it. She’s everywhere, involved in (and probably leading) most of Charlotte’s most exciting creative endeavors.
An Active, Creative Life
In the last year alone, we’ve covered Stallings’ involvement in the Black Lives Matter mural, the creation of the We Are Hop Hop “Charlotte” mural at Camp North End, a new mural she created in partnership with Time Out Youth and, just last week, working with nine other creatives to launch Project Protégé, an initiative pairing young creatives (aged 18-23) with experienced mentors. She’s also cultivating local installations and projects for this fall’s Charlotte SHOUT! festival.
And, she’s just getting warmed up.
“On one hand, it’s my dream to provide as many opportunities as possible for artists in our cities, and I also believe Charlotte is ready to claim its ‘big-city identity’ …” said Stallings.
“On the other hand, I wish there were 48 hours in the day. I’m certainly building it as I go, but I am so grateful to have a community of people who trust that when I jump ‘a net will appear.’”
Adding a Lot Mo’ to Van Gogh
Add “Art Director” to the list above. That’s the title Stallings holds in regard to the local iteration of the Immersive Van Gogh experience currently drawing people to Camp North End. That’s part of her role as community partnership coordinator at Blumenthal Performing Arts, a position she’s held for less than four months. (Kudos to Tom Gabbard and the Blumenthal Performing Arts team for this hire, along with Boris “Bluz” Rogers!)
(P.S. She’s also curating a few dozen activations and exhibitions planned for Charlotte SHOUT! this fall. More on that in the coming weeks.)
Immersive Van Gogh (IVG) is popping up in cities across the globe such as London, Madrid, Paris, New York and Barcelona. It usually takes up an entire warehouse or large, indoor space.
In Charlotte’s case, the Ford Building at Camp North End was bigger than the installation needed. In fact, it’s the largest place IVG has been staged. That was a challenge, but it also presented unique opportunities. Stallings and the Blumenthal team grasped that opportunity, going over and above the expectations of Lighthouse Immersive, the producers of the exhibition.
“I mean, why not?” said Stallings. “We have the extreme luxury of having additional space around our gallery and being in the historic Ford building.”
That additional space is now home to a different kind of immersive experience — the show before the show, as it were. It presents visitors with a deep (and colorful) dive into Charlotte’s creative community. Cities hosting IVG are afforded the opportunity to engage local creatives, even selecting artists-in-residence to work on site.
Until now, no other city has taken advantage of this opportunity like Charlotte.
Everywhere You Look
From the moment you exit your car in the Camp North End parking lot off Statesville Ave., Charlotte art is within sight.
Colorful touches, most of which were created by Charlotte artists, are everywhere — painted picnic tables, new murals on garage doors, painted dumpsters, support columns, the exhibit lobby (painted by Stallings’ mother, Robin) and more.
Even the wayfinding signage and banners were designed by Blumenthal’s in-house graphic designer, Mark Wallace, and installed by a Charlotte company — Conder Flag.
And, while you need a ticket to experience IVG, the artistic touches Stallings and her team created are there to be enjoyed at no charge.
All of this was established to put local creatives (more than 50 of them) on display … and put them to work.
“I wanted to highlight Charlotte’s immense local talent in a creative, fun way,” said Stallings. “I know that people have some context on Van Gogh, but I wanted to layer this parallel, modern approach to his work. To employ the local artists, who work with their hands in the space where people have been working with their hands for over 100 years while honoring him, is incredible.”
Artists At Work
Stallings organized a local art market next to the gift shop that travels with IVG, to allow Charlotte creatives a chance to showcase and sell their work. Items start at $6 for stickers and range to $1,500+ for original paintings. Most items are in the $30-60 range.
As a companion to the shop, IVG features artists in residence working throughout the show. Each artist is asked to be onsite between 20 and 40 hours each week of their *duration* residency. They are paid for their time.
Over the course of the show, 10 artists will be part of the residency program. Stallings notes that that’s more than other IVG cities.
The artists selected are:
Round one (June 21 – July 19):
Round two (July 22 to August 16):
Round three (Aug. 19 to Sept. 22):
A Lasting Legacy
Stallings has enjoyed watching visitors’ reactions to IVG and its local flavor.
“There’s nothing better than having people walk into the space and go ‘oooooooh’ and pause. I watch it happen a hundred times a day,” she said.
“People have a physical, emotional reaction to color. It’s in our core. It sparks joy, it’s powerful and it’s an alchemy that artists can wield.”
Stallings hopes people connect with the art and form a lasting connection with the Charlotte-based creatives who helped create the experience. She said, “I can’t wait to see what all this palpable energy, effort and creativity flourish into in five years.”
What To Look For When You Gogh
When visiting Immersive Van Gogh, be on the lookout for:
Exit Wall Mural painted by Bree Stallings
Inspired by Van Gogh’s Willows at Sunset, Stallings used joint compound to create 3-D paint stroke texture. Photos from Brooke Brown here.
The Blumenthal team wants guests to hang out, relax and even stop to contemplate what they’ve seen. So, they hired a team of local artists to paint welcoming picnic tables. See some here.
Instagram Story Filters
Enhance your visit to Immersive Van Gogh with Van Gogh-inspired AR filters on Instagram designed by local artists Mike Wirth and Cheeks. Find out how to access them here.
Custom-Made Fabrics around the exhibit
Arranged in an indigo-to-burgundy rainbow around the gallery structure.
Charlotte History Fabrics
Arranged behind the onsite cafe and gift shop, these unique fabrics were created to show what Charlotte looked like when Van Gogh was alive. See the fabrics created by Bree Stallings here.
To honor the cars produced in the building that houses Immersive Van Gogh, the Blumenthal purchased a 1926 Model T Ford. Stallings designed the “Van Gogh” racing stripes, inspired by the artist’s wheat field paintings, that adorn the car. See the car here.
To read more about unique “Selfie Stations” around Immersive Van Gogh, click here.
Catch Up (If You Can) with Bree Stallings
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*Featured Image by Brooke Brown