Each year the Matthews Chamber of Commerce throws an art and music festival in the heart of downtown Matthews right outside of Charlotte called the Artwalk & Jazz Fest.

This year’s Artwalk & JazzFest included all day fun for the whole family. We chatted with Kelly Barnhardt, executive director of the Matthews Chamber of Commerce, and Morgan Mathieu, gallery administrator at LaCa Projects (Latin American Contemporary Art).

Artwalk

Kelly Barnhardt, left, and Morgan Mathieu. // Photo courtesy of SteveHuffMedia.com.

Tell us a little about Artwalk & JazzFest in Matthews.

KB: I’m Kelly Barnhardt, the executive director of the Matthews Chamber of Commerce. The JazzFest is a spinoff of the former ArtFest event which turned 32 years old this year! We enhanced this long standing event to include Jazz all day; expanded our children’s art area; added an artisan market, some snack vendors and also included a wine and craft beer garden for people to enjoy as well.

Some of the festival favorites that remained the same were the Juried Fine Artist section which included approximately 30-plus fine artists and we had the local high school art scholarship competition as well. All in all, we had about 70 vendors complete the event. There was something there for anyone to enjoy. 

What kinds of awesome activities and performances were there?

KB: We had music in two different locations of the event this year. The main stage had larger jazz bands and the secondary stage had more single, acoustic acts playing. There was music spread throughout the entire festival. We incorporated some dance performances into the event from two local dance schools as well. The children’s art area had multiple tents with tons of craft activities involved. We had the popular Matthews Playhouse at our event to talk to the children and parents about the performing arts which is a growing local attraction in our area.

Tell us a little more about the goals and purpose of Artwalk & JazzFest as it pertains to the arts in Charlotte. 

KB: As the slogan on our front page says, the Matthews Chamber is about building business, but also about supporting community. We work with local nonprofits to fundraise for their cause at each of our events. The nonprofit this year was Zab’s Place which is a consignment store local to Matthews that helps young adults with special needs grow their employment skills. They teach them valuable work skills and then assist them in finding jobs in the workforce when they are fully trained. The event itself however is to bring the community together and to support the arts in Matthews and also in the Charlotte region. Public art is something the Town is starting to focus on and the businesses themselves are starting to embrace the concept as well. It truly helps your community become more of a destination and I believe this event helps drive that ambition more and more each year.

MM: Hi! I’m Morgan, the gallery administrator at LaCa Projects in Charlotte and one of the judges in this years at competition. The Artwalk is really a testament to the ways in which Charlotte is growing as a national contender in the art realm. It’s truly a hub for both emerging and established artists specializing in a multitude of materials. The Matthews Artwalk was a great indicator of that diversity of medium. Artists from near and far were nestled into their booths, some featuring visually striking fine art, while others showcased meticulous and stunning handicrafts. What does that mean for the Charlotte region? Growth. It means that Charlotte is building onto its already-advancing status as a city for artists. 

How does Artwalk & JazzFest in Matthews fit into the larger arts landscape of Charlotte?

KB: I believe that within the next few years, Matthews will be a go-to suburb for the Charlotte region for all different types of arts. Performing arts, public art, art within the local businesses, entertainment venues; you name it, I think the sky’s the limit and from what I am seeing at the base level it is really exciting.  

MM: The Matthews Artwalk & JazzFest is a contributor to the overall culture of Charlotte. It not only supports visual, vocal, and performing arts, but also exposes the public to the thriving community of small businesses in the area. Stop into Black Chicken Wine Cellar for Pinot by the glass or bottle. Find a chair to settle into at Brakeman’s coffee shop. There are so many options along the span of the the Artwalk & Jazzfest that you’re bound to experience something new, and support art and small business along the way. It really provides a glimpse into the cultural and economic climate of Charlotte.

What role does the Artwalk play in the livelihood of artists?

MM: The Artwalk is a great opportunity for artists to bring their work to a very large public audience, which in turn gives attendees a chance to invest in the craft of these local and regional creatives. It also gives arts administrators like me the unique platform to reward artistic excellence and creative ingenuity. Juried events like the Artwalk assist in building the visual and economic presence of artists in our area, all while catalyzing artistic expression in our city and the southeast.

How can businesses get involved in this event?

KB: We have a variety of opportunities to sponsor this event from a business standpoint. We get a couple thousand people coming through this event and it is great exposure for any business to take advantage of. Novant Health Matthews Medical Center has been our title sponsor of this event for many years and we thank them for their continued contributions that make this a success every year.

Are there any other exciting arts events coming up soon in Charlotte?

MM: Yes! There is always something new happening in the art scene of Charlotte! Right now there is an amazing multi-institutional exhibition happening across Charlotte that showcases the riveting world of contemporary Mexican photography. The project, appropriately titled “In Focus/Enfoque: Contemporary Photography In Mexico,” can still be viewed at multiple locations throughout the city through Nov. 4, including LaCa Projects, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, McColl Center for Art + Innovation, and The Light Factory, among others.

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