The Charlotte International Arts Festival (CIAF) is set to make its return on Sept. 15, allowing Charlotte residents to see local, national and international artists through live performances, art installations, global cuisine and more.

“The launch of CIAF last fall exceeded our expectations in every way,” said Blumenthal Performing Arts President and CEO, Tom Gabbard. “The festival uniquely blends artists from around the world and around the corner. This year, we are really elevating the focus on international artists and organizations right here in Charlotte.”

The festival is bringing together a global community, complete with the new International Bazaar — a two-day celebration at Founders Hall where patrons can shop and learn with vendors, music, food and more.

“Luke Jerram’s GAIA, a giant inflatable of the earth created from NASA imagery, will [also] return to Founders Hall to highlight the global community we seek to bring together for 17 days,” Gabbard said. “The Festival of India and Latin American Festival are now part of CIAF. The festival also returns to Ballantyne’s Backyard and the soon-to-open The Amp with a variety of concerts. Most programs are free, including plentiful concerts Uptown at Wells Fargo Plaza, Levine Avenue of the Arts, and Ballantyne’s Backyard.”

According to the CIAF website, the festival will span:

17 days

170 free events

150 art installations

120 musical acts

100 Tiny Things Parade

75 vendors at the International Bazaar

9 Blumenthal Fellows

15+ venues, including three free outdoor stages

2 hit Broadway shows

Dance performances and other live entertainment will be blaring through Charlotte during the 2023 Charlotte International Arts Festival. | Blumenthal Performing Arts

As Gabbard indicated, the Festival of India and the Latin American Festival are officially partnering with the CIAF this year, marking the first time the organization has worked with other festivals.

The Festival of India — which takes place Sept. 23 — is entering its 25th year, and attendees will be able to appreciate the cultural diversity of India through Indian dance, music, art, food, and more.

“Our Queen City is home to foreign-born Americans from over 100 countries, and as immigrants, we feel a need to preserve and share aspects of our cultures with our mainstream community here,” said Toni Sawhney, Festival of India founder. “For the past 25+ years, we have been showcasing the rich and vibrant diversity of Indian culture in Charlotte. This year, we are humbled to be invited to be an anchor event within the Charlotte International Arts Festival.  

“We consider that to be a validation of our commitment to the core mission of nurturing artistic and cultural diversity here, and a recognition of our passion and dedication to adding a unique strand to the cultural mosaic of our beloved Queen City, which we all call home.”

The Latin America Festival will be a part of the 17-day long 2023 Charlotte International Arts Festival. | Blumenthal Performing Arts

The Latin America Festival, also on Sept. 23, will take place at Ballantyne’s Backyard and will have musical acts, cuisine, a community-organized interactive village, marketplace and dance performances, among other presentations and attractions.

The CIAF is adding more venues for its 17 day-long event, which include:

A stage on Wells Fargo Plaza

New Ballantyne venue The Amp

Programming expansion in Founders Hall

The CIAF website confirms the return of Gaia, by UK artist Luke Jerram, as Gabbard referred to earlier in the article. The specifics of the work, however, are astounding: the sculpture of Earth will be suspended from above to allow for easy viewing. It’s 23-feet in circumference, three-dimensional and illuminated. It will be on display Sept. 15-Oct. 1. Also Oct. 1 at Founder’s Hall, a locally produced Argentinian Tango Milonga international dance party.

The final weekend of the festival, Founders Hall will transform into an International Bazaar Sept. 29 and 30, featuring 75 merchants and vendors representing local cultural groups and nonprofit organizations in a magnificent celebration of the art, food, goods and spirit that make up Charlotte’s diverse and creative cultural landscape.

The Art of CIAF

CIAF released a list of the art installations on display for the duration of the festival, which include:

Birdmen, from the Netherlands (Sept. 15-Oct. 1, Ballantyne)

Mentalgassi, from Germany (Sept. 15-Oct. 1, Ballantyne)

Lotty by Moradavaga, from Italy and Portugal (Sept. 15-Oct. 1, Ballantyne’s Backyard)

Tablao Flamenco, from Spain (Sept. 21-23, Uptown)

Epoch Tribe, collected stories from Vietnam, Syria, Haiti, Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Ethiopia, El Salvador (Sept. 30, Knight Theater, Uptown)

CIAF will have some performances in Ballantyne at the neighborhood’s newest venue, The Amp. The kickoff starts on Sept. 16 with FELA! The Concert, a celebration of Nigerian superstar Fela Kuti, the founding father of Afrobeat. On Sept. 29, there will be a Coco Live-to-Film Concert, featuring a screening of the complete film with the soundtrack performed by Mexico’s 20-member Orquesta Folclórica Nacional de México.

Ballantyne’s Backyard will have performances, as well as large and small art galleries which include everything from enormous inflatable humanoids as seen in Fantastic Planet, by Australian artist Amanda Parer; to local creations by the new class of Blumenthal Fellows, whose work inspires joy, collaboration, provocative thought, awe, innovation and creativity; and a new parade of 100 Tiny Things, part surprise, part treasure hunt, a playful, curious and delightfully disruptive artistic utopia that encourages the public to see the city through new eyes,” according to the festival’s website.

Uptown Charlotte will be where the ticketed events are located, including Broadway shows Chicago (Sept. 12-17) and MJ: The Musical (Sept. 27-Oct. 8) in the Belk Theater. 

There will also be a performance in the Knight Theater Sept. 29 by West African international music superstar Angélique Kidjo. She’s the winner of  10 Tony Awards and five Grammy Awards. 

The Wells Fargo Plaza will host free cultural events and concerts, including Brazilian jazz, flamenco, R&B, hip hop, a cappella and even MJ-themed lip sync battles.

More information on this year’s festival and the schedule of events can be found on the event’s website at

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