Did you miss the opening night of the revived NoDa First Friday Gallery Crawl on March 4 or April 1? If so, don’t worry. They plan to continue the event every first Friday of the month from here on out.
A gallery crawl makes for a fun, low key, flexible start to your weekend. But it helps to have a basic plan. And that’s where this article comes in.
Plan your parking
First and foremost is parking. It’s a bit of a problem in NoDa. And it’s not likely to get any better soon. At the moment, there are two ways to approach this problem. First, you can drive endlessly around and around the block, hoping for that prime spot to open up within a block of your favorite venue.
But that’s not likely to happen. So here’s a little tip. With a big asterisk, think about parking at the Johnston Y.
For those in the know, The Johnston YMCA, at 3025 North Davidson, is ideally located for parking during a weekend trip to NoDa. However, you have to follow the rules.
If you have a valid YMCA parking sticker, you are golden. Simply find a space and head out to enjoy your evening. If not, here is the inside scoop. You can legally park in the Y lot any day of the week after business hours. On Mondays through Fridays, the Y is open until 9 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays, the Y closes at 5 p.m. So after 9 on weekdays and after 5 on Saturday or Sunday, public parking is allowed, so long as you remove your vehicle before business hours on the following day.
Now for the asterisk. If you violate these rules, you can assume that you will be towed. If in doubt, assume that you will be towed. Simple enough.
Your only other option, other than street parking and the YMCA lot, are the few scattered pay lots throughout NoDa. These are few and far between, but include a limited number of spaces in the lot behind The Evening Muse just off 35th Street and a few spaces in a lot behind The Company Store off Yadkin Avenue.
Where to start the crawl
I like to start at The Company Store. Mainly because it feels like I am visiting the home of a good friend. With a few other friends who just happened to drop by. The vibe is casual, friendly and upbeat. Like a NoDa version of the old TV show Cheers. When you walk in, somebody is likely to call out your name (whether it’s Norm or not).
While there is great art around the perimeter, there is a cheerful bar serving neighborhood draft beers, hand selected wines, prosecco, sangria; and small bites abound in the nearby refrigerator cases.
Next, head south.
From The Company Store, you might return to Davidson Street and head south – stopping first at Pura Vida Worldly Art. While Pura Vida features an assortment of unique handmade gifts from around the world, some of the original paintings in the store were created right in the neighborhood.
Owner Teresa Hernandez often features the paintings of locally and nationally renowned painter Osiris Rain. For those who remember my earlier Charlotte Agenda article, Osiris’ studio is just across the tracks from the heart of NoDa – in a converted warehouse just across the tracks on Benard Avenue. So while Pura Vida features handmade art from across the globe, some of its most unique and high quality art is created just a couple of blocks away – in a working artist’s studio.
Just a few steps south of Pura Vida, you might wander into the Baku Gallery adjacent to Fu’s Custom Tattoos. For the first two weekends of the revived gallery crawl, Baku has featured single artist exhibitions.
The Baku Gallery exhibitions tend to draw quite a few other artists and art aficionados from throughout the region. Be that as it may, I have found the last few exhibition artists to be extremely approachable. Mr. Taylor walked us through his vision and approach to a number of his paintings and was happy to answer any and all questions we had. As we’ve learned in the past few months of covering the arts scene in Charlotte, there is no such thing as a stupid question.
We continued our arts stroll down Davidson Street to the Orange Olive Hair Salon. For our first visit to the salon as an arts venue, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. The venue draws a younger, trendy audience, many of whom seem to know one another.
As you venture through the small adjoining rooms of the business, you feel like you’ve stumbled into a New York or London fashion shoot, right in the middle of Charlotte’s old textile mill district. Orange Olive’s First Friday arts experience provides a welcome and unique departure from many of NoDa’s other more laid back galleries.
We crossed the street for dinner and a quick browse through the art displayed at Heist Brewery. While we were able to peruse the numerous pieces displayed throughout the brewpub, we were a bit early for the main event. As we learned, the featured artist, Jason Lilly, was creating an on-the-scene painting – adjacent to a DJ’s table who provided music for the after dinner crowd. We were sorry to miss a live arts event, but we had one more stop on our tour.
Make your last stop.
Our final stop of the evening was at a tiny venue called The Art Hole. Because it’s located a few blocks east of Davidson on 35th where it intersects with Whiting Street. Because of the distance and lateness of the hour, we collected our car from the YMCA parking lot, drove the few blocks east and parked on the street with no problem.
The Art Hole is a tiny, one-room cinder block pop-up art installation that is home to a collection of some of the more inventive artists in Charlotte. The crowd at the venue, both inside and out, were having a good time, primarily drinking the sponsoring drink of the venue, PBR.
While the final event felt like a hip house party, we met a young neighborhood couple who had taken their 2-year-old daughter to many of the same venues that we had visited throughout the night.
So here is my advice to the everyone from the seasoned art collector to someone who has never attended a gallery opening. Grab your date, some friends, your family or even your young children and head out to the next NoDa Gallery Crawl (first Friday of every month).
The event is truly a relaxing, laid back experience – wandering through the streets of this unique and charming neighborhood. And a great opportunity to support the hardworking and talented working artists of Charlotte and the businesses that promote them.