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Vivid contemporary art collection engages guests at The Ballantyne’s Gallery Restaurant.

Guests visiting The Ballantyne’s Gallery Restaurant will find more than classic American bistro fare and smart service contribute to an artful dining experience.

The restaurant’s stylish interiors and posh urban vibe sport a surprising and colorful fresh look thanks to a specially curated collection featuring seven of Charlotte’s most celebrated artists. In an innovative partnership between The Ballantyne and artist, curator, and Awaken Gallery owner, Emily T. Andress, a collection of 30 contemporary artworks have been installed in a unique collection adding intrigue beyond the menu to this chic and comfortable space.

“Like our namesake, our philosophy is driven by creating culinary artistry,” says Chris Shatto, director of outlets at The Ballantyne. “At Gallery, we want the experience to reflect the destination. As we serve locally-sourced cuisine, it was essential to us for the art to follow suit. We want to be a part of the community, and the regionality of the artists is important to us.”

Charlotte’s Arts & Science Council (ASC), the city’s “Office of Cultural Resources” played matchmaker in connecting Andress with The Ballantyne after the hotel reached out to the nonprofit arts organization in late spring of 2017 looking for a local artist and curator to collaborate with.

Andress is well known in local arts circles both for her work and the promotion of other artists. As a long-time partner in the South Charlotte artist cooperative Ciel Gallery, Andress has worked with dozens of area creatives. Her new gallery Awaken, opened in Mt. Holly earlier this year.

Through her work, Andress illuminates the philosophy of syncretism, a notion that diverse cultures, religions and beliefs emanate from a singular source. Her dramatic, figurative portraits often feature women and address themes such as fertility and societal roles.

“My work is talking about what women have experienced throughout history and why we need to go back to the roles we were originally in – namely goddesses,” says Andress, “Goddesses working together for the greater good of society.”

In 2015 the city of Charlotte commissioned her to create a painting of Queen Charlotte presented to Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge in honor of their baby Charlotte. That same year she was chosen to have her work displayed “on high” as an ArtPop billboard recipient. Andress was appointed to Arts & Science Council’s Advisory Board for the Cultural Sector in 2016 and last year was commissioned by CSA to create 7 pieces of art for area public libraries.

Local Artists

“I was thrilled to be contacted by The Ballantyne to showcase high quality, innovative art created by local artists,” says Andress. “It’s unexpected for guests to see this quality of work in a restaurant. Interacting with the work outside a formal gallery can be more comfortable for many and this collection is proving to be particularly engaging as several pieces have recently sold.”

Special live salons at held throughout the year at The Ballantyne will provide guests an opportunity to interact directly with Andress and other featured artists. These fun events will bring in models for the artists to paint in real time, while guests are on hand to enjoy their work, chat with the artists, and enjoy The Ballantyne’s hospitality.

Creating opportunities for people to connect up-close with art in nontraditional settings is in line with the ASC’s mission and one of the reasons they were delighted in pairing Andress with The Ballantyne.

“Emily’s role as an artist, arts advocate and connecter of creatives in our community makes her an ideal partner with The Ballantyne for this project,” says Ryan Deal, ASC’s vice president of cultural & community investment.

Guests to the restaurant are met with vivid and bold colors, figurative and abstract work and a variety of artistic techniques, styles and medium choices including oil and acrylics. “The restaurant servers are taken with the work and want to know the back stories of the pieces to share with the guests,” says Andress. “There is a great deal of conversation about the art. It’s special to see that.”

Andress spoke to the interpretive nature of much of the work on display and challenged viewers to look beyond the surface with each piece to find a larger story unfolding.

“The work is not simply decorative,” says Andress. “Each artist has a unique way of expressing themselves and they each have something to say.”

Andress shared her perspective on each artist and their work:

  • Jean Cauthen – “Jean fragments items such as a chandelier or a tree and creates multiple dimensions using layers and layers of color.”
  • Diane Pike – “Diane is showing work from her “Debris Series.” It speaks to the violence of nature, different weather patterns and the rearrangement of landscapes that result from storms. She fractures colors for a dramatic effect.”
  • Luis Ardila – “The work Luis is showing is extremely powerful and uses symbolism to show how nature interacts to create either disaster or good.”
  • Jonathan Grauel – “His work speaks to an inner journey and is laden with symbolism. The towers in his work represent self.”

Reaching New Audiences

The opportunity to reach new audiences is exciting for the artists.

“A completely new crowd is seeing my work,” says Pike, whose works are featured in the Gallery’s private dining room. “I’m delighted to show here.”

Abstract painter, Luis Ardila echoed those thoughts. “I’m pleased for a new audience to see a connection to a new way of thinking represented in my work,” says Ardila, who like Andress depicts syncretism philosophy through his work. “People are comfortable and relaxed in this environment, it’s easy for them to engage with my work.”

For Andress, the partnership underscores her passion of how art inspires us all.

“While each artist is quite unique, everything harmonizes so well with this space,” she says. “I’m excited for the community to experience the joy of this show.”