Hue House: Charlotte Powerhouses made a Charlotte Powerhouse

Being in Charlotte long enough and navigating the art scene either as a creative or a consumer, you’ll learn that what people consider “the scene” can be dicey at best. For a good amount of time about two to three years ago all that could be heard was “where is Charlotte’s art scene?” But contrary to what was once a popular (and ignorant) belief The city does and has consistently had a vibrant and diverse art scene,especially out of the black communities. What makes the scene so dicey today is a deep and nuanced question that changes depending on who you ask, yet the one problem most say has remained consistent is the lack of funding and the refusal to pay creatives what they deserve. It’s agreed upon that the barriers to adequate funding and opportunities are greater and more prevalent than the amount of opportunities in and of themselves. That’s the vibe of the general scene.

Let’s cut to a new scene: As you drive down Beatties Ford road to park on one of Charlotte’s most Historic spaces for black excellence — Johnson C. Smith University — you enter their shiny and relatively new STEM Center. As you ascend the steps to get to the event you pass night classes still in session filled with black students working diligently to learn what they need solve the problems of tomorrow. You enter a room with DJ Fannie Mae on the one’s and two’s and instantly catch the vibes, realizing the whole process of arrival was intentional. You don’t feel the same barriers to authenticity and connection that you might in other spaces supposedly curated for collaboration. You feel, in a sense, at home. You feel like you stepped into a kickback with a few familiar faces and a few unfamiliar ones, but the vibe is warm enough to interact with any of them.

This was what can be considered Hue Houses inaugural event which they titled The Block, the first of a series that will meet each month. it came off as part introduction to the community, part educational forum, and part networking event, all meshed together to represent the various aims and needs of the community it will serve and be apart of.

Hue House is an Artist Collective/creative agency comprised of Davita Galloway, David Butler, and Dae-Lee. It has been established as both a for-profit, and non-profit organization in order to live and breathe the philosophy it touts. In an interview with Charlotte Magazine Dave Butler expressed how Hue House on one hand will be an agency of accountability, “If you want to make sure you’re doing the things you preach as an organization, we’ll help you do that. It’ll cost you, but that’s the point. For companies and nonprofits, it’s not just about having black people on your board.” Hue House embodies the need to offer services and support to creatives as well as demand the funds and opportunities that those same creatives need from institutions claiming they’re willing to give it. David Butler knows that each creative in Charlotte has their own voice and intentions, and the scene is by no means monolithic, but he liken’s the house to a Voting Bloc whose collective power has a greater force to activate change when resources are pooled and intentions are collected. For the community to work as a voting Bloc as intended, it has to have guidelines and aligned frameworks to work from. This first event seemed to work towards that.

Of the two panels put on during the evening one was facilitated by Charlotte’s own Boris “Bluz” Rogers, in which he asked one of the most deceptively complex questions “what are the Pillars of Trust as a community”. On the Panel for this particular conversation aptly titled The Block Is Hot were Quin Gwinn, Dae-Lee, Davita Galloway, and David Butler. This question opened the door to what can be considered one of the most important frameworks for what we can expect from Hue House moving forward, as well as the responsibilities necessary for the larger community as a whole.

Although all of the panelist had different ideas and answers, the sense of cohesion and collaboration was evident by the way they all built on each others answers and it culminated into what can be considered an ethic, or more specifically “Pillars”. Collectively the Pillars Of Trust that were agreed upon were Action, Transparency, Unity/Collectivity, and Empowerment. Although by the end of the evening, the term pillar didn’t feel like the correct definition to use any longer. the image of a Pillar is a stand-alone object used to support a base, but by each panelist incorporating the answer of the panelist before them, if felt more as if the separation between these ideas/pillars dissolved. The idea of action in the community was inseparable from the responsibility of transparency during that action. Empowerment is nothing without the unity that creates a movement for change. Instead of pillars they felt more like roots, interconnected in the soil to send messages and sustain the various and diverse trees in a forest.

The other panel discussion was titled HBCU’s and Social Movements, where instead of utilizing professional academics from outside of the city, Hue House recruited JCSU’s own Terik Tidwell and Dr. Terza Lima-Neves as panelist. This is a small, but important choice that highlights the power of context and intentionality. the House recognized that most events put on by organizations around the city bring outside experts without the specific and nuanced context of Charlotte citizens and problems. Instead, they brought attention to the depth of intelligence here in our own city, from our own citizens, bred out of our own communities.

If you check their website Hue House says it’s not only here as a creative agency but also is here to work as community advocates, and a clear theme of the importance of collaboration became evident as the night progressed. Built into the event were times for ‘choppin it up’, and networking with some people you don’t know, but there was more to it than that. Utilizing all of the pillars/roots expressed that evening along with the founders diverse range of experience, it feels as if they also intends to dissolve the barriers we imagine between industries. A consistent premise of the conversations centered around the destruction of silo’s and working with other entities. If individual creatives shouldn’t work in silo’s, then neither should industries. This is true, but taking it a step further we realize that if neither individual creatives nor industries should work in silo’s then neither should creatives be separate from the communities they’re apart of and impacting. The understanding of this by the agency is evident in the work that each of the members have done with community organizations as well as the intersecting power of the pillars/roots.

What I’m most hopeful about as The Hue House continues their efforts, is as the years progress I will have less to say about their founders and more to say about the artist they helped uplift and the new radical spaces and places they’ve facilitated or helped fund. I would like to see new establishments being created, while still being able to enjoy the handful of black spaces that have been around for awhile. I’m also hopeful to see the development of young and new artist through the House as well as new initiatives and projects from some of the key agents and artist who’ve been working here awhile as well. Most of all though, taking in the historical context of the city and it’s past actions I’m most excited about the archival and documentation possibilities that this type of endeavor has.

Charlotte has a history of reactionary solutions to problems as opposed to proactive approaches, but with an intentional facilitator and agent such as Hue House hopefully we can be pro-active in our preservation of necessary communal spaces and works.You haven’t been in Charlotte long if you haven’t heard it call itself a World Class City, yet in a recent interview Hue House stated in all of Charlotte’s 250 year history it has never had a Black Arts Council or Delegation. This leads us to believe that the city has never respected it’s art scene enough to propel it to the heights that it claims to be. When it comes to the city it’s well known that things are often more a veneer, or used as a talking point than anything of actual substance. With the art scene being a microcosm of the issues Charlotte faces, it too is susceptible to this. Charlotte will tout and use it’s art scene to attract more people while not funding the people creating and sustaining it. With Hue House working to collect the power of creatives in the city hopefully the institutions and powers that be will listen and pay what’s deserved.

In light of all this, I’m hopeful. Hope is not a new thing in the city and often times things promised never come to fruition, and yes, the goals and aims of Hue House are ambition to say the least, but the track record of their founders gives some promise as to the possibility of these things coming to fruition. All we can do is stay tuned, stay optimistic, and most of all stay engaged.

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E.V. (he/him), a black Charlottean writing about Blackness, Being, and all the in-betweens.

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E.V. Jordan

E.V. (he/him), a black Charlottean writing about Blackness, Being, and all the in-betweens.