Mint Board Member Charlotte Wickham and Charlotte Ballet dancer Humberto Ramazzina will dance together at the 2024 Dancing With the Stars of Charlotte to support The Mint Museum and Charlotte Ballet.

‘Take more chances, dance more dances’

Mint Board Member Charlotte Wickham is stepping out to support The Mint Museum

By Michael J. Solender

After Charlotte Wickham relocated to Charlotte from New York City with her husband in 2008, she knew she wanted to get involved with supporting the arts and cultural community in Charlotte. While she couldn’t know it at the time, her enthusiasm for, and recognition of, how arts engagement impacts the development of children and young adults in her newly adopted community would lead her to dancing her heart out in support of The Mint Museum. 

Wickham, a Mint Museum Board of Trustees member, is one of six local community leaders paired with a professional dancer from the Charlotte Ballet in its annual Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte Gala. The event will take place March 2 at the Knight Theater to raise funds that support the Charlotte Ballet and the local leader’s charity of choice. Wickham has selected The Mint Museum and earmarked funds raised to support museum admission for Charlotte-area K-12 school children and post-secondary school students.

Cast your vote for Charlotte!

A passion for arts education

“I’ve always thought that arts and culture are an important part of learning for children,” Wickham says. “I grew up in Raleigh. My family often went to the ballet, the symphony, and to the museums. That was such a rich part of our life. Many studies show how art, dance, and music help develop children’s brains and help them to think in different and more critical and creative ways.”

Since 2020, Wickham’s role at the Mint is fueled by her passion for arts education and community engagement. She is a believer in exposure and access to the arts for all ages.

Wickham has seized upon the metaphor of taking positive steps and enthusiastically allowed herself to be “hotboxed” by her husband and a good friend into performing with the 2024 group of dancers to support The Mint Museum and the Charlotte Ballet.

“I believe life is often done best by embracing the places our steps take us,” she says in an email to friends. “This journey is going to be a bit different, and it makes the thought of participating that much more exciting.”

Different means physical for Wickham whose pre-dance assignment exercise routine has been primarily weekly Pilates classes.

Wickham is paired with Charlotte Ballet’s Humberto Ramazzina. The São Paulo, Brazil native began his formal dance training at age 8 and is in his fifth season with  Charlotte Ballet. The two share a love for salsa, contemporary and classical dance, though Wickham is keeping close to the vest the pair’s ultimate three-minute dance and music choice a surprise.

“I don’t want to give away too much and prefer to tap into what I know will be high energy from the audience at the gala performance.”

Choreographing support

Dance pairs receive support online at Charlotte Ballet’s Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte Gala site in the run up to the event with top vote-getter ($1 per vote) receiving the People’s Choice Award. Dancers who wow the judges with the “best moves” are awarded the Judge’s Choice recognition. Since 2013, Charlotte Ballet’s Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte Gala has raised more than $10 million including nearly $4.5 million for local charities. Funds raised via ticket sales per dance pair are divided equally between the pair’s designated charity and the Charlotte Ballet.

“That our [community] star dancers have the opportunity to generate financial support for charities of their choice has such tremendous impact for our city,” says Alysha Brown, Charlotte Ballet’s special events and volunteer manager. Brown coordinates all things Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte Gala for Charlotte Ballet and is the liaison between company dancers and their community dance partners.

“Historically we’ve had a variety of charities chosen for support alongside the ballet from housing nonprofits to other arts institutions in Charlotte. Charlotte Ballet is honored to play a role in this level of community development. The event is unlike any other in the city and shares an incredible amount of pure joy for those involved.”

In addition to identifying funds to support student access to The Mint Museum, Wickham is hopeful to encourage arts outreach beyond the walls of the museum buildings, especially into area hospitals. Her passion and enthusiasm for community collaboration aligns well with the goals of the Mint.

“Charlotte is one of our most dedicated board members,” says Todd Herman, president and CEO of The Mint Museum. “She is also an avid collector and incredibly involved in so many things that we do. I’m thrilled she shares one of the goals that our museum has, which is to collaborate with other arts organizations here in Charlotte. Her being part of Dancing with The Stars of Charlotte Gala fits her enthusiasm and her love for the arts. This event underscores the Mint’s role as a cultural hub partnering with organizations throughout the city and encouraging everyone in our community to embrace the arts.” 

For Wickham, expanding her reach to embrace and support arts impact in the community is meaningful and more than worth the extra effort. “Museums are places of culture and conversation where we can think deeply and be empathetic,” she says. “We need places where we can appreciate and learn from others.” 

Cast your vote for Charlotte!

Michael J. Solender is a Charlotte-based features writer. Reach him at michaeljsolender@gmail.com or through his website, michaeljwrites.com.

Franklin Fifth Helena by Cynthia Talmadge

Franklin Fifth Helena is an architectural installation within the Contemporary Gallery at Mint Museum Uptown comprised of sand-painted wall panels that create a fantastical imaging of the real-life intertwined lives of the movie icon Marilyn Monroe and her psychoanalyst Dr. Ralph Greenson.

Franklin Fifth Helena

‘A FANTASTICAL IMAGING OF THE INTERTWINED LIVES OF MOVIE ICON MARILYN MONROE AND HER PSYCHOANALYST DR. RALPH GREENSON’

By Jen Sudul Edwards

On November 4, 2022, Mint Museum Uptown opened a new major acquisition to the collection: Franklin Fifth Helena by Brooklyn-based artist Cynthia Talmadge.

An 8-by-11-foot room built within the gallery, the installation is comprised of sand-painted wall panels and a ceiling that create a fantastical imaging of the intertwined lives of the movie icon Marilyn Monroe and her psychoanalyst Dr. Ralph Greenson. The result is mesmerizing and surprising in every way: the sand — intricately mixed by hand and meticulously applied to the surface with fine paintbrushes— mimics the precise color studies of 19th-century Impressionists and Pointillists while utilizing a simple commercial material (Talmadge often buys her sand in bulk from wedding supply companies).

The recognizable objects layer and interact to create an imagined narrative about the relationship between Monroe and Greenson, who treated Monroe at the end of her life. While very specific in her references, Talmadge also explores the complicated ramifications of the cult of personality, the patient-doctor relationship, and how all of these affect the limited power and agency granted to women in this country.

Talmadge’s gallery, 56 Henry, arranged for outside donors to support the acquisition of the work by The Mint Museum, but the on-site build was extensive and complicated. The Mint’s architect-of-record, Aubrey Springer, oversaw the construction and permit process, which required additional lights and sprinkler systems to be installed to meet code, as well as extensive coordination with the Mint’s building staff, the Collections and Exhibitions team, 56 Henry, and Talmadge — who came to Charlotte for a week in October to help with the installation.

Learn more Talmadge and her fascinating and complicated process in the video below, generously underwritten by Aaron and Marie Ligon who are helping the Mint further build a competitive and compelling contemporary art collection.

Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, is chief curator and curator of contemporary art.

24 Hours in the Life of Mike Wirth

By Page Leggett

Mike Wirth, associate professor of graphic design at Queens University of Charlotte, is probably best known locally for his murals. He is a founding member of the Talking Walls Festival, Charlotte’s first annual, citywide mural and public art festival. He’s known way beyond the city limits, too. His art has been exhibited in New York, Miami, Croatia, Poland and Germany. Social justice is a frequent Wirth theme, as is his identity as a Southern, Jewish American. He participated — virtually — in Contemporary Art Week in Paris during the last week in October 2022 where he exhibited with a group called Jada Art (jadaart.org), or Jewish Dada. “They’re creating platforms and international art spaces for Jewish artists, which is amazing,” Wirth said. “I was part of their digital exhibition. It was great to be selected from among international applicants.”

He is one of 15 local artists participating in The Mint Museum’s Picasso mural project. It’s a local tie-in for the Mint’s blockbuster exhibition, Picasso Landscapes: Out of Bounds, organized by the American Federation of Arts Wirth’s mural is a landscape scene from Freedom Park. “I chose it because every Yom Kippur, hundreds from the Jewish community come out for a ritual called tashlich,” he says. “You toss bread into the water and speak your transgressions at the same time. That’s how you release sin.” When Wirth is in a creative or emotional low, he’ll wander. “I just go for a walk with no agenda. I don’t have any destination in mind. I’ll just throw myself to chance. And I find that it’s a tremendous way to reset when the need arises.” He’s a “girl dad” whose oldest daughter, a student at North-west School of the Arts, is already a budding artist and wants to be an illustrator. His youngest also loves to draw. Artistic talent runs in this family. Wirth’s days revolve around his daughters, his students, and his art.

5 OR 5:30 AM I wake up on my own — no need for an alarm. That’s when my internal body clock dictates that I get up. I say my morning prayers, and have a bagel and coffee.

5:30–6 AM I spend a little time every morning reading on my couch or my porch. I love Jewish folklore and the daily lessons I can take from it. I’ll get some wisdom from the Oracle, so to speak. All these stories are allegories, so they unpack a lot for me. If I can spend 30 minutes reading in the morning, it’s a miracle. But that’s what I aim for.

6 OR 6:30 AM I wake my daughters up — they’re 13 and 10 — and make them breakfast and get them ready for school. We have to be at the bus stop by 7 AM.

7:15 AM I drive to campus where I teach in the graphic design department — illustration, typography, ideation, animation, and web design. I’ve taught at Queens University for 14 years. When I’m not teaching, I have office hours. The seniors working on their capstone projects often need to consult with me then. During the day, I try to carve out a little time for my scholarship. As a professor, I have an obligation to stay current in my field and to accrue a certain amount of scholastic achievements. I’m either applying for shows or hunting for the next opportunities and conferences.

4:30 PM I meet the kids at the school bus, get them home and settled with a snack and help them get started on their homework.

5:30ish PM Dinnertime. I’m a one-pot-meal type of cook. My kids know my famous chickens, vegetables and rice dish — one of my go-to’s. Once the kids are fed, clean and educated, we all have our free time. AFTER DINNER I head to my studio, which is in our garage. Art projects have a way of expanding, and I can’t currently get my car in the garage. When the weather’s colder, I have to scale back the amount of space I have dedicated to art so I can use my garage for its intended purpose. I turn on some music; get a cold beverage. My cat, Garfield, will come hang out with me. I digitally paint, illustrate, and animate and make my interactive projects. I’ve been concocting a giant interactive installation that explores the “big bang” moment in the Jewish creation story as described in the Zohar — The Book of Radiance. The story describes the moment HaShem (God) poured their essence into a series of glass spheres that then shattered due to being overwhelmed with power. The broken shards of glass then spread across the universe. My vision is that viewers will enter a room filled with panoramic wall and floor video projections of shards of broken glass that, over many minutes, will spread outward from a center point in the room and then rewind back into a singular sphere. Viewers can interact with the shards while exploring the space.

I don’t have a home yet for that interactive installation. It requires funding because it needs projection, sensors and a larger space. I also get commissions from individuals or institutions. I’ve been creating a lot of custom hamsas. Those are hand forms that originated in the ancient Middle East. Once the client has commissioned me, we’ll talk through their wants and needs, the purpose of it — is it purely for aesthetics, or is there a spiritual purpose to it? Then, I’ll send them a mockup and we’ll proceed after they give me the OK. I design each one digitally and then paint the final version with acrylic, spray paint or paint markers. My girls and I aren’t big TV watchers, and we definitely try to avoid it on the Sabbath, but we will occasionally watch a show together. We also like playing image-based board games. Usually, free time lasts until it’s bedtime for everybody. 8:30 PM Bedtime for all of us. I’m not very exciting.

Page Leggett is a Charlotte-based freelance writer. Her stories have appeared in The Charlotte Observer, The Biscuit, Charlotte magazine and many other regional publications.