Carolina’s Got Art

Carolina's Got Art
Carolina's Got Art

Larry Elder of Elder Gallery and Michael Orell bring one of the largest juried art shows in the country to the Queen City.

Carolina’s Got Art!, created by Larry Elder and Michael Orell, is an annual juried art show for artists in the North and South Carolina regions. It gives local artists an opportunity to make a name for themselves within the art community. Having been an amateur artist himself, Elder started his career by entering juried art shows. He understood what it was like to struggle as a local artist trying to make a name for himself within the local art community. The program he feels, “Offers hope and recognition to artists who need it. It helps them build their resumes and sell their work and to be able to make a living as an artist.”

Originally from South Carolina, Elder was a frequent entrant into The Springs Mill Art Show, a local textile mill that recognized the importance of supporting the local art community. They hosted an annual art show that allowed anyone to apply within a fifty mile radius and would display the top applicants for one month. According to Larry, at that time “the show was one of the few venues for artists to display and possibly sell their work.” When the textile industry took a rapid decline, the Springs Mill Art show did as well.

With the blessing and support of Springs Mill CEO, Crandall Bowles, Elder was able to take the concept of this very art show and create “Carolina’s Got Art!” in 2009, shortly after the economic crash of 2008. With slight modifications Larry has been able to improve on the concept, broadening the applicants throughout the Carolinas and allowing up to three entries per applicant. This year over 1,000 artists applied with almost 3,000 entries. This year alone, the top artists stand to win over $25,000 worth of prize money and since it’s inception four years ago, “CGA!” has awarded artists with over $50,000. Between this years two shows, eighteen artists stand to split the total purse. Though money is not everything, Elder feels that a monetary reward encourages local artists to jump start their career.

For many artists, juried competitions are an important part of launching and sustaining successful careers. Our goal is to continue to offer opportunities to support their livelihood and to encourage their creative process.”

Every year, the jurors are chosen very meticulously and are usually front-runners of their fields. Chosen outside of the region to prevent any possible entry recognition, they are responsible for combing through all 1,000 applicants. This year’s jurors are Eliza Rathbone, Chief Curator Emerita of The Phillips collection in Washington, DC and Peter Callas, internationally known ceramic artist, lecturer and teacher. Soon after CGA!’s first year, Elder decided to expand to two separate shows, one in May and one in June. The reason for this he says, “we quickly recognized that because of our limited display space there were many incredible pieces of artwork not chosen for the show. The second show was created to honor those artists who created exceptional work but were not included in the first show. This show also allowed for a second juror to select a show which historically has resulted in a totally different look and feel.” This year, Larry Elder, himself will be the juror for this second show, which will take place the month of June at the Elder Gallery.

In its short run, “CGA!” is expecting to attract more then 1,000 people to the South End neighborhood this year and not only the artists will benefit from this traffic. Though not sure what the exact financial impact on Charlotte will be, Elder knows that people travel to attend the show, buying hotel rooms, eating at local restaurants, shopping at local stores, utilizing the light rail, and attending local attraction sites.

Planning an event of this size and nature has its obstacles. For Larry Elder the most challenging part is informing all attendees that visiting art galleries and exhibits is not just a spectator sport. Galleries are more than just a place to look at art. They also exist as retail locations where patrons can purchase art and support the artist and art community. With one of their main goals being to support the artist and arts community, it is important for people of our city and state to embrace this.
Both the May and June shows will be held at Elder Gallery at 1520 S. Tryon St. in the South End neighborhood. Two grand openings will be held with all selected entries to be shown through their perspective months. Elder encourages local patrons to come and enjoy, as well as invest in the fabulous art and artists.

“All of the work is intended to be sold, ideally every piece is purchased by the local community as this is considered the top 1% of artwork being produced in the Carolinas and the price points cannot be beaten. This is high quality artwork at affordable prices.”
Grand opening dates are May 1st  from 6:00 to 9:00 and June 5th 6:00 to 9:00. Following each grand opening (May 2nd and June 6th) the jurors, Eliza Rathbone and Peter Callas will lead seminars where they will discuss how they went about the selection process. To learn more about “CGA!” visit To learn more about Larry Elder and the Elder Gallery visit