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The Mint Museum climbs to new heights

May 18, 2017

Mint among 12 recipients of nationwide Knight Foundation technology grants; $150,000 to create interactive staircase

Mint Museum Uptown’s grand staircase, a landmark of the Levine Center for the Arts campus since the building’s opening in 2010, will be transformed with technology into an interactive feature that welcomes new audiences and invites them to climb up to the museum and engage with the art inside.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is announcing today that the Mint is among 12 recipients of $1.87 million in funding for new ways of using technology to immerse visitors in art. Institutions in cities including Philadelphia, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City will join Charlotte in creating new tools ranging from chat bots to augmented reality apps to engage new audiences. The Mint’s $150,000 project, planned to be completed by summer 2018, will enhance the museum’s exterior architecture with interactive light and sound elements to become a must-see, must-hear, must-climb destination.

“In the years since our opening, we have heard that some visitors consider our façade intimidating, and we wanted to find new ways to make our building more welcoming,” said Hillary Cooper, the Mint’s Director of Advancement & Communications. “We expect this interactive staircase to drive new museum attendance, enhance the uptown streetscape, and become an approach that other museums can replicate to enhance their own entrances.”

A curator-led committee of museum staff, in consultation with the City of Charlotte which owns the Mint’s building, will convene to begin the process of considering artist proposals and commissioning the work. The Mint will invite other Charlotte arts groups to assist in the creation of musical elements. The current staircase is equipped with LED lighting connections, and the plan calls for enhancing these connections and the railing with light and sound elements. The approach was inspired by the “Touch My Building” public art project at Seventh Street Station, which includes panels that light up and play sounds when visitors touch them. Plans also call for installing components that can count the number of visitors who interact with the staircase, thus providing a new source of visitation data.

“Most importantly, of course, we want all of the visitors to our new staircase to be inspired to continue their journey into the front doors of the museum, and discover the world-class collections, exhibitions, and programming available there,” said Cooper.

Funding for this project is part of a Knight Foundation initiative to help museums better meet new community demands and use digital tools to meaningfully engage visitors in art. Knight, which promotes informed and engaged communities, has helped institutions—from newsrooms to libraries—adapt to and thrive in the digital age. This funding expands the foundation's use of its digital expertise to help art museums build stronger, more vibrant communities.

“The arts inspire us, challenge us and connect us to each other and where we live. People want those experiences to be personalized, interactive and shareable, just as they experience their daily lives,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation’s president. “We support arts institutions that are willing to lead and seize the opportunities tech offers to engage visitors, patrons and audiences.”

National Art Museum Day Celebration May 18

Thursday’s announcement by Knight Foundation coincides with Art Museum Day , a recurring national designation each May 18 established by the Association of Art Museum Directors. In observance this year, the Mint has joined with its Levine Center for the Arts partners for “The Art of Yoga,” a celebration which will incorporate a FREE communitywide yoga class utilizing the Mint’s Grand Staircase and the Levine Center for the Arts plaza. Following the hour-long outdoor yoga class, the Mint along with the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture will offer three free hours of gallery access from 6-9 p.m. along with cash bars and food trucks. The event is in partnership with The Charlotte Observer/ Charlotte Five and is sponsored by OrthoCarolina. More information available at levinecenterarts.org .

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy.

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