Vivid & Local

Curated collection, art events await guests at Gallery Restaurant

By Michael J. Solender | Photos by Ray Sepesy

Guests visiting Gallery Restaurant at The Ballantyne, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Charlotte, will have an artful dining experience for more reasons than the contemporary Southern fare and smart service.

The restaurant’s stylish interiors and posh urban vibe feature a specially curated collection spotlighting five of Charlotte’s celebrated artists. In a partnership between The Ballantyne and Awaken Gallery owner Emily T. Andress, a collection of 30 contemporary artworks have been installed, adding intrigue beyond the menu to this chic and comfortable space.

“Like our namesake, our philosophy is driven by creating culinary artistry,” says Chris Shatto, director of outlets at The Ballantyne. “At Gallery, we want the experience to reflect the destination. As we serve locally sourced cuisine, it was essential to us for the art to follow suit. We want to be a part of the community, and the regionality of the artists is important to us.”

Charlotte’s Arts & Science Council (ASC) played matchmaker in connecting Andress with The Ballantyne after the hotel reached out to the nonprofit arts organization in late spring of 2017, looking to collaborate with a local artist and curator.

Andress is well known in arts circles both for her work and the promotion of other artists. As a longtime partner in the now-closed Charlotte artist cooperative Ciel Gallery, Andress has worked with dozens of area creatives. Her new gallery, Awaken, is opening in Mount Holly March 23.

In her work, Andress illuminates the philosophy of syncretism, a notion that diverse cultures, religions and beliefs emanate from a singular source. Her dramatic figurative portraits often feature women and address themes such as fertility and societal roles.

“My work is talking about what women have experienced throughout history and why we need to go back to the roles we were originally in — namely goddesses — goddesses working together for the greater good of society,” she says.

In 2015, the city of Charlotte commissioned her to create a painting of Queen Charlotte presented to Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge in honor of their baby, Charlotte. That same year she was chosen to have her work displayed on billboards and other available media space as an ArtPop Street Gallery artist. Andress was appointed to the ASC’s Cultural Sector Advisory Council in 2016 and last year was commissioned by ASC’s Community Supported Art program to create seven pieces for area public libraries.

Left: "Fall In The Air" by Diane Pike Right: “Blue and Orange Griffin” by Luis Ardila
“Fading Light” by Diane Pike Far

‘Connector of Creatives’

“I was thrilled to be contacted by The Ballantyne to showcase high quality, innovative art created by local artists,” says Andress. “It’s unexpected for guests to see this quality of work in a restaurant. Interacting with the work outside a formal gallery can be more comfortable for many, and this collection is proving to be particularly engaging as several pieces have recently sold.” In connection with the display, special live art events will be held at The Ballantyne (page 65).

Creating opportunities for people to connect with art in nontraditional settings is in line with the ASC’s mission and one of the reasons its leaders delighted in pairing Andress with The Ballantyne.

“Emily’s role as an artist, arts advocate and connecter of creatives in our community makes her an ideal partner with The Ballantyne for this project,” says Ryan Deal, ASC’s vice president of cultural and community investment.

The exhibition offers vivid and bold colors, figurative and abstract work and a variety of artistic techniques, styles and media choices, including oil and acrylics. “The restaurant servers are taken with the work and want to know the back stories of the pieces to share with the guests,” Andress notes. “There is a great deal of conversation about the art. It’s special to see that.”

Left: "Innocent Beginnings" by Jean Cauthen
Left: “Flowers of the Sacred Tree Oil” by Luis Ardila Center: “Lamppost and the Fountain” by Jonathan Grauel Right: Above: “The Haze of Morning’s Arrival” by Diane Pike
Above: “J Lo Of The Moulin Rouge (After Lautrec)” by Emily T. Andress
“Party on the Porch” by Jonathan Grauel


Emily T. Andress

Awaken Gallery owner  and well-known artist in her own right (see main story), has curated the special collection at Gallery Restaurant. Andress shared her perspective on each artist’s work.

Luis Ardila    

“The series Luis is currently working on combines symbolism and syncretism to join the histories of different cultures with our own, in this time, so we can learn to better cope with the fundamental experiences of life.”

Diane Pike

“Diane is showing work from her ‘Debris Series.’ It speaks to the violence of nature, different weather patterns and the rearrangement of landscapes that results from storms. She fractures colors for a dramatic effect.”

Jonathan Grauel

“His work speaks to an inner journey and is laden with symbolism. The towers in his work represent self.”

Jean Cauthen

“Jean fragments items such as a chandelier or a tree and creates multiple dimensions using layers and layers of color.”

Reaching New Audiences

The opportunity to reach new audiences is exciting for the artists. “A completely new crowd is seeing my work,” says Diane Pike, whose works are featured in Gallery’s private dining room. “I’m delighted to show here.”

Abstract painter Luis Ardila echoed those thoughts. “I’m pleased for a new audience to see a connection to a new way of thinking represented in my work.” says Ardila, who, like Andress, depicts the syncretism philosophy through his pieces. “People are comfortable and relaxed in this environment. It’s easy for them to engage with my work.”

For Andress, the partnership underscores her passion of how art inspires us all. “While each artist is quite unique, everything harmonizes so well with this space,” she says. “I’m excited for the community to experience the joy of this show.”

"Zeus Thanks Amalthea" by Luis Ardilo and Emily T. Andress