The Visual and Performing Arts Center, or VAPA, will officially open to the public in Charlotte on March 5. According to an earlier press release, “The intent of VAPA is to create a space which brings together artists to create, practice and exhibit their respective arts. Born out of necessity, due to the closing of Spirit Square and the lingering impact of the pandemic, a space was needed for artists to come together to continue to teach classes, rehearse shows and perform.”
In a matter of months, eleven arts organizations, who became the project’s founding members, quickly transformed an underutilized government building into a vibrant arts space in the heart of the city.
Those founding members are 9-18-9 Studio Gallery, BlkMrktClt, Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte, Charlotte Comedy Theater, Charlotte’s Off Broadway, JazzArts Charlotte, Levine Museum of the New South, the McColl Center, OBRA Collective, The Arts Empowerment Project and The Light Factory.
The building is also home to 120 artists working in studios across two floors and features classrooms, galleries, darkrooms, theaters, rehearsal space, offices and more. Earlier this month, VAPA Center announced that due to overwhelming response, they had closed the center’s waiting list for space. In addition to open-studio events, the Center will have open-air artists’ markets, concerts, artists talks and more. Artists will have the opportunity to sell their works in the outdoor artists markets.
The project is led by local artist Arthur Rogers, who spoke with Qnotes in September when the venue opened to its first tenants. He said that Mecklenburg County had reached out to about 26 arts organizations to determine a plan for displaced artists from Charlotte’s Spirit Square. The longtime center for arts in the city, Spirit Square closed its doors in October to make way for a massive development project that will reshape the 600 block of N. Tryon Street.
In July, Mecklenburg County Commissioners unanimously approved the initial lease terms and plans for the VAPA Center to take occupancy of the Hal Marshall building, located at 700 North Tryon Street. VAPA takes up about 130,000 feet of the building’s 150,000 total square footage. The remaining space is currently used to house Charlotte Mecklenburg Main Library staff during its renovation and will later be used for the field operations unit of Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s office, according to reports.
A grant from the Charlotte Center City Small Business Innovation Fund helped propel development of the project. Other sponsors include Mecklenburg County Government, McColl Center for Arts + Innovation, Charlotte Ballet, Gensler and Perkins Eastman.
Prior to the renovation, Mark Hahn, director of asset and facility management with Mecklenburg County, said “as artists come and go, and present shows and events, they will take what is currently a lifeless space on North Tryon and transform it into an area of creativity, energy and cultural engagement.”
The VAPA Center will host an open house from 1-6 p.m. on Saturday, March 5. People are invited to tour the center, meet artists and performers, and learn more about how the collaborative space will be part of the city’s arts community.
The VAPA Center will be open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 9 p.m. For more information visit www.vapacenter.com.