Muralist Brings the Spirit of the Catawba to South End

November 28, 2017 6:18 pm

What do you get when you mix public art, local craft beer and a classic horror movie? It’s not a riddle or a joke, just an evening in South End on a warm Friday in late October. As patrons of Craft Growler Shop sipped flights, picnic tables were packed with groups watching Nightmare on Elm Street projected on the building next door and people wandering by stopped take pictures of the flowers and light orbs adorning the alley next to Magnolia Emporium. In the middle of the hustle and bustle was an artist working on a vibrant mural, getting her best creative boost later in the evening. 

When Charlotte artist Miouxnie Rane West started her first mural as part of a South End Creative Lab Grant, not only was she nervous about how her art would translate to a larger canvas but also how she would feel about painting in front of others.  

“It’s something I never thought I’d be able to do, paint in front of people,” says West. “People were walking by and I was in my zone. After the third day I was talking to people as I was painting.” 

West developed her abstract art style at a young age, using drawing as a creative outlet and making money off of her work by selling customized creations to friends. Later, she lost all of the art she had created and held onto over the years, and the loss caused her to stop drawing for two years. 

“When I first started drawing again I threw everything away,” says West, whose husband encouraged her to start sharing her art. “I started drawing again and I started painting, which I had actually hated doing before.”  

West’s colorful mural is now on display in the Rivafinoli Passage, an alleyway in the Gold District of South End at 300 Lincoln Street. The alley is being revitalized by a team of creators including Randolph James from Magnolia Emporium, a gift, décor and art shop next to Rivafanoli Passage, and Sam Guzzie from Brand the Moth, a nonprofit dedicated to public art initiatives in Charlotte.  

“Rivafinoli is a historical man who essentially started the gold rush in Charlotte,” says Guzzie. “The Mint opened and this passageway is essentially the walk that he would have taken from the gold mine to the Mint.”  

West’s mural joins two other murals in the passageway, a painting of the South End neighborhood and one of Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg, created by Guzzie. West’s mural is the first of a series planned for the passageway that will share the history of the Queen City, starting with the Catawba Indians and moving through time to present day.  

The piece representing the Catawba Indians’ history in Charlotte was a particularly important project for West, who has Native American roots and grew up learning about Native American traditions from her mother.  

“It was important to me that I gave Native Americans of the Catawba a positive light, nice and bright,” says West, emphasizing that oftentimes art focuses on Native Americans’ struggles. “I want to make sure that Native Americans as a whole feel empowered.” 

The colorful mural shows the liveliness of the Catawba and has the Catawba River going through the piece with a Native American person as the base of the painting. To ensure her first mural was authentic to her style of art, West chose to freehand the installation instead of using a projector. 

“I never sketch things before I draw them out,” says West. “Everything is kind of free hand and out of my mind, whatever it is at that moment.” 

While sharing her art in such a public space is a new venture for West, it’s something that she plans to continue. With the work of muralists like West and Guzzie, South End will have more murals to look forward to in the months to come.  

“Bringing more art to the street changes how people are able to access art,” says Guzzie. “It’s not just in the galleries, it’s not just in the museums, which is a really beautiful thing.” 

 

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