Riding the wave of its record-breaking run of “Immersive Van Gogh” at Camp North End, Blumenthal Performing Arts wants to open a big new arts center as a “creative hub.”

The new venue will feature large-scale performances, exhibitions, entertainment and community events, according to the Blumenthal. It also will provide training and support for new education initiatives centered around emerging technology.

“It’s a really an exploding professional niche with opportunities for education to create careers and economic mobility,” Blumenthal CEO Tom Gabbard told The Charlotte Observer on Wednesday.

“Immersive Van Gogh” closed in January 2022 at the Ford Building in Camp North End, with a record 1,600 performances and more than 300,000 tickets sold during its half-year run. The 360-degree digital show projected Van Gogh moving masterpieces onto walls from floor to ceiling in a large space set to music.

The Blumenthal is looking for existing buildings — 25,000 to 40,000 square feet — or vacant land with a central location easily accessible to highways, mass transit and parking.

Even before “Immersive Van Gogh” ended its runs, Blumenthal was searching for space for a permanent space for such innovative and creative exhibits, Gabbard said. The exhibit was extended three times because of its popularity.

“It really proved to us that there was an appetite for this,” Gabbard said. “But we also saw that there was potential for lots of transformational change in Charlotte by creating opportunities for an educational program and explore an innovative niche.”

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Sydney Neely, left, and her mom, Cheryl watch the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit in Charlotte, which closed with record-breaking numbers after more than six months at Camp North End, according to Blumenthal Performing Arts. Khadejeh Nikouyeh Observer file photo

Plans for the new arts center

Blumenthal is considering retrofitting a building, or pursuing building a semi-permanent, movable space similar to Troubadour Theatres in London, Gabbard said.

It’s an innovative way to get the height requirements needed for tall walls and be obstruction free of columns that block people’s views, he said. It also can be set up relatively quickly on vacant land.

A cost for the project has not yet been set, although Gabbard said the Blumenthal project will be paid for through partner and community contributions.

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On the heels of success from “Immersive Van Gogh,” Blumenthal Performing Arts is seeking a new venue for immersive arts and entertainment. Khadejeh Nikouyeh [email protected]

And Blumenthal already has more than $2 million worth of digital equipment and furniture it bought for “Immersive Van Gogh” in storage “waiting to be reused in a new space,” Gabbard said. That includes 103 digital projectors, 22 servers, 19 miles of fiber optics and a lot of furniture, he said.

“This represents the future in the arts and the opportunity for us to create a way for people to explore that as a ticket buyer or as a creative,” Gabbard said.

The Blumenthal also is looking for public input to find a spot for the planned immersive arts and entertainment building, and asking for people’s input on its website.

Axios Charlotte first reported about Blumenthal’s plans.

The success of ‘Immersive Van Gogh’

“Immersive Van Gogh” generated more than $40 million for the local economy from ticket sales and related expenses for tourism, hotels, dining and parking, according to Blumenthal.

The exhibition also showcased 15 Charlotte-area artists’ works in a separate gallery with murals and larger-than-life sunflowers, as well as local artwork for sale in the gift shop. Local artists made more than $400,000, Blumenthal previously told The Charlotte Observer.

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“Immersive Van Gogh” generated more than $40 million for the local economy, according to Blumenthal Performing Arts. Khadejeh Nikouyeh Observer file photo

Blumenthal is a nonprofit with six theaters on three campuses in uptown Charlotte providing more than 1,000 events annually, according to its website.

In September, the Blumenthal held its inaugural Charlotte International Arts Festival with thousands of people coming out daily. The weeks-long festival had more 200 visual and performance events. “We have to satisfy the appetite for adventure in the arts,” Gabbard told the Observer last fall.

More arts coverage

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This story was originally published January 18, 2023 12:44 PM.

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Catherine Muccigrosso is the retail business reporter for The Charlotte Observer. An award-winning journalist, she has worked for multiple newspapers and McClatchy for more than a decade.


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