An iconic Charlotte gallery celebrates 40 years with a new space.
by Caroline Portillo
Charlotte’s oldest gallery is getting a new home in the millennial capital of the city: Hodges Taylor, the gallery-meets-art consultancy known for working with Southeastern artists across a range of mediums, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year with a move to RailYard SouthEnd.
The 1,800-square-foot space at 1414 S. Tryon St. will have artist-crafted furniture and decor, along with wood floors and a finished ceiling. Owner Lauren Harkey wasn’t interested in the open, industrial vibe — she prefers when the works of art provide the visual cues.
Harkey moved out of the old Hodges Taylor space on East Kingston Street in March and is hoping for a late summer opening. But she isn’t sweating the fluid timeline. The opening exhibition at the new SouthEnd location will highlight new works from all 26 artist partners. “A family band show,” Harkey laughs.
A Charlotte native, Harkey, 33, is a powerhouse in the local arts community, though it wasn’t her intended career path. She earned undergraduate and masters degrees in art history and then graduated from law school. She was working in family law when Christie Taylor, who co-founded Hodges Taylor with Dot Hodges in 1980, reached out.
Harkey became friends with the business partners when she was studying art history. Hodges retired first, and, a few years later, as Taylor began legacy planning, she asked Harkey to be her partner. In 2016, Harkey made the leap. She became the sole proprietor of Hodges Taylor in 2019.
To enliven the new space, Harkey turned to some of the artists she works with. She tapped sculpturist Ellie Richards to craft a bench and stool for gallery seating. UNC Charlotte associate professor Thomas Schmitt is creating a ceramic tile and mirror installation for the restroom. Woodworker Adam Jochim made a desk and an oak display unit.
And while COVID-19 has prompted debate in the art world about whether gallery space is still a worthwhile investment, Harkey hasn’t wavered. She believes the idea of a meeting ground, a physical space for people to discover works of art and their creators, is critical.
“A young woman called me the other day and said, ‘Are you open? It’s my birthday, and I want to see some art,’” Harkey says. “I was like, ‘You are my spirit animal.’ I felt so nourished after that.” SP
Photograph of Lauren Harkey by Lydia Bittner-Baird