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Mt. Holly arts scene continues to grow

Jan 23, 2020 12:58PM

Artist Tina Alberni lives in Huntersville but comes to Mt. Holly most every day to pursue her artistic muse.

By Alan Hodge

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Mt. Holly is establishing itself as a haven for the arts not just in Gaston County but our region as well. Looking towards the coming year, things are going to get even bigger and better.

A visit with artist Emily Andress, owner of the Awaken Gallery in downtown Mt. Holly, gave a look at what folks can expect.

Andress, who organized last year’s spectacular second annual lantern parade where dozens of fanciful, fantastic, homemade, illuminated, paper and wire lanterns were carried down Main St. in a big procession, gave a preview of plans for the 2020 festivities.

“We are already planning lantern making workshops,” she said. “The first lantern workshop will be held at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church’s fellowship hall on February 15 from 10-5. To sign up, go to click on events, and follow the link for the workshop. There will be other dates as well. Last year we had about fifty lanterns, this year there will probably be around one hundred. We did not realize how big interest in the parade would get.”

Another big bit of arts news that Andress shared concerned the upcoming arrival of a “collective gallery” to downtown Mt. Holly.

“It will be a place where artists can display and sell their works such as ceramics and jewelry,” she said. “It’s going to be called Catalyst Mercantile”.

Even though the new gallery will be fairly close to her own place, Andress says the more arts in Mt. Holly the better.

“When the water is high, all boats rise,” she said.

More news will be coming out as details on the new gallery are revealed in the coming weeks. In the meantime, it can be followed on instagram at @catalystmerc for updates on openings.

Mt. Holly is drawing artists from across the river too. Painter Tina Alberni from Huntersville rents a studio from Andress.

“I come to Mt. Holly every day,” she said. “Mt. Holly is very supportive of the arts and interested in bringing more art to the city.”

As she puts it, Alberni’s works are “driven by the current plights of endangered animals and other living beings whose current predicaments underscore how urbanism, infoglut and irresponsible technology threaten all living organisms. I strive to breathe hope while keeping it real; giving voice to life that can’t speak.”  Her studio is open to the public by appointment.

Her website is

Mt. Holly connected artists are also getting regional attention through a unique program.

Called  ArtPop Street Gallery, the program  promotes local artists’ work and makes art accessible to communities through available media space. Since 2014 ArtPop Street Gallery has showcased art in 11 states and 14 cities on over 20 million dollars of donated ad space.

ArtPop was started by Wendy Hickey who is a former Adams Outdoor Saleswoman. The idea to put art on billboards that were not currently leased occurred to her as a way to promote local arts while making billboards more attractive.

In Charlotte and the surrounding area, Adams Outdoor Advertising full size billboards are ArtPop sites. Others are Center City Partners - Newsstands in Uptown Charlotte, CLT Airport digital charging stations,  Awedience Media Digital displays at Legacy Union, Uptown Skybridge. Waverly, Ballantyne Village and Rea Farms shopping centers.  Artists with Mt. Holly and Gaston County connections who are part of the ArtPop program include Andress, and Luis Ardila.