Celebrating the Blumenthal Fellows Class of 2023

Sep 29, 2023 / Blog
By Liz Rothaus Bertrand

The Charlotte International Arts Festival is up and running! It’s brightening the cityscape from Uptown to Ballantyne, with hundreds of interactive installations and performances through October 1.

Among the works curated from around the world, and celebrating Charlotte’s own international community, are nine featured creations from the Blumenthal Fellows Class of 2023.

Their works are colorful, interactive and wildly inventive. These local visual artists have created a wide range of experiences that promise to spark joy, pique your curiosity, and offer moments of quiet contemplation.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at all nine projects, the artists who created them and where you’ll be able to find them throughout the festival. (Projects are listed alphabetically, by artist’s last name.)


2023 BPA Fellow: Angela Clousher

Project Name: “INORGANICA: Flora and Fauna of the Sea”

Where to Find it:  Ballantyne’s Backyard

About the Artwork: For as long as she can remember, visual artist Angela Clousher has tried to find creative ways to reuse objects.

In her hands, empty cat food cans or yogurt containers become recipients for inks and paint, plastic soda cups are perfect for pouring resin in, and even an old decayed piece of wood can be sealed and mixed with modern pieces to create a one-of-a-kind coffee table.

“I am an avid lover of repurposing any and everything,” she says. “I love to take things that would be thrown out and kind of give them a new life, and rework them and just make them completely unrecognizable.”

Now, she’s using that same approach to create her first, large-scale public artwork as a Blumenthal Fellow: a beautiful undersea world made from a surprising collection of items. Her project, “Inorganica,” uses materials—like plastic bottles, styrofoam, old screens, spray paint caps, and bubble wrap—and transforms them into replicas of the flora and fauna of the sea.

“Inorganica” takes part of its inspiration from the floating islands of trash that litter the ocean.


“There's a big cleanup where they're just hauling in… boatloads of trash every day and making things out of it,” Clousher says. “… All our pollution in the ocean, of these forever materials, plastics and stuff that don't biodegrade: they are what’s killing the coral reefs. So, that’s kind of like the irony, there.”

Clousher’s artwork includes an underwater soundscape, created by local musician Krystle Baller, which adds to the other-worldly ambiance. Clousher wanted soft, soothing sounds and the sensation of flowing water to create a meditative mood within the tunnel and, she says, Baller delivered on that vision.

Walking through “Inorganica” feels like a different experience depending on when you visit. During the day, you see all the details of the sea creatures and what they are made from. At night, everything glows and you can see projections of water moving along the ceiling of the installation.

Clousher says she loves creating new worlds through her art. As visitors explore “Inorganica,” she hopes they first take in the magical part of the experience and feel as though they have been transported elsewhere.

But she also hopes they will take a second, closer look at how she repurposed materials and gain inspiration to try it on their own in a variety of ways.

“There’s so many things you can do,” she says.

Clousher says it's been an honor to be part of the Blumenthal Fellows program. Her project was sponsored by Wastequip, the leading waste handling equipment manufacturer in North America. [a]“I’ve learned so much,” says Clousher,  who notes she often has big ideas but not the budget to produce them.

“It’s really cool to get this opportunity to just create something… one of my big, hair-brained ideas,” she says, “and just really put all of this intense energy—and stuff that I have bottled up inside—into that.”

About the Artist: Angela Clousher is a Charlotte-based artist. She works in a variety of materials including woodwork, painting, resin, and furniture building. She also was a 100 Tiny Things artist last year for the inaugural CIAF. Many of her art creations are custom designed for clients.

Learn more about Angela Clousher and her artwork on Instagram @artbyangelaclousher.

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2023 BPA Fellow: Rosa Diaz

Project Name: "Dreamcatcher Labyrinth"

Where to Find it: Ballantyne's Backyard

About the Artwork: Local visual artist Rosa Diaz remembers coming to Ballantyne’s Backyard several times last year during the first Charlotte International Arts Festival.

“I have three kids and my kids are art lovers as well,” she says. “So they were begging and begging me to go to all the installations.”

They spent time exploring the inflatable artwork, interacting with The Birdmen and enjoying the peaceful ambiance. “I remember we went during the day and we went during the night," she adds, "because it’s a totally different experience."

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This year, Diaz will get the chance to see her own creation, “Dreamcatcher Labyrinth," featured alongside arts installations and performances from around the world.

For Diaz, an artist who is best known for her surrealist style paintings, ceramic work, and digital creations, this project is new territory. It’s her first interactive art installation and it’s her biggest artwork yet.

The project—a large labyrinth modeled after the Native American tradition of handmade, webbed dreamcatchers—stretches 40 feet in diameter. Originally created by the Ojibwa people, dreamcatchers traditionally have been hung above beds to protect sleeping children.

Diaz, who grew up in El Salvador,  became fascinated with Native American culture through anthropology classes she took at UNC-Charlotte, where she is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. “I want to honor the Native American culture through my project,” says Diaz, whose own family lineage includes indigenous people from Central America.

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As people walk around the bright yellow labyrinth, she hopes they will find it a welcoming and peaceful place for meditation and connection with nature. During the evening hours, solar lights will illuminate the path and the bed at the center of the installation. “The bed is the place where our dreams originate,” Diaz says.

The bed is decorated with ropes, fashioned into a web-like structure, as well as big iron beads. For Diaz, these elements represent the “dreams” Native American people have long sought, including social justice, peace, and protection of the environment.

Dreams permeate much of Diaz’s artistic focus right now. She will be working with students at Garringer high school later this fall to help them share their own dreams within a dreamcatcher and paint them.

Her CIAF project will also feature a QR code as part of the exhibit that visitors can use to share their own dreams with the artist. These will be considered for another dreamcatcher project she is working on: to capture and recreate dozens of dreams on canvas for a future exhibition.

“I feel very happy to get connected with other artists and have the opportunity to share my artwork with others,” Diaz says. “... it’s such a great honor to have been chosen by the Blumenthal as a single artist.” Nearly 100 artists applied for the program this year, according to Diaz.


She’s also eager to see people interact with her artwork during the festival. “I was there this morning and it feels so peaceful,” she says. “... I can’t wait. I’m very excited to see people walking though and enjoying art.”

About the Artist: Rosa Diaz is a self-taught artist and entrepreneur originally from El Salvador. In 2019, she established Nativa Studio—inspired by her native roots. Her artwork often features bright colors and surrealistic symbols and abstract forms. She was selected to sell her original creations—including pottery, paintings and wearable art—at the Immersive Van Gogh gift boutique during the show’s six-month Charlotte run.

Learn more about Rosa Diaz and her artwork at nativastudio.com or on Facebook and Instagram at @rosadiazart.


2023 BPA Fellow: Anuja Jain

Project Name: "Birdhouse Forest"

Where to Find it: Ballantyne's Backyard

About the Artwork: Visual artist Anuja Jain has been busy with CIAF preparations the last few months. Really busy.

Not only has the mother of two painted 30 separate pieces for her Blumenthal Fellows’ project, she also created three unique works of art for the 100 Tiny Things art scavenger hunt, a mixed media piece for “The Journey”—a collaborative exhibition between International House and Blumenthal Performing Arts—and serves as a project lead for an exhibition during the Festival of India (on September 23).

Oh, and she’ll also be participating as a vendor at CIAF’s first International Bazaar (September 29 - 30)!

That’s a whole lot of work but Jain loves the challenge and inspiration of being part of this international event.

An immigrant from the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, she grew up making art— just for fun—alongside her mom. They enjoyed creating from upcycled materials, painting, embroidery, and other crafts.

When she immigrated to Charlotte nearly 14 years ago with her new husband, art was simply a hobby she practiced between work and her studies toward a dual master’s degree in Bioinformatics and Biochemistry.

Then, as she says, “kids happened.”

“I just wanted to spend some time with my kids and stay home and give… all my time to them,” Jain says, “so that's when I think I started getting back again into creating pieces, and especially during my second pregnancy, I had a really hard time health-wise.”

Jain is a mandala artist and she found the practice of creating the intricate patterns to be therapeutic for her: they helped calm her down and meditate.


Mandalas are a centuries-old artform, she says. Different types of patterns and traditions revolve around their use in both Buddhist and Hindu religious practice, as an aid for meditation and prayer. Jain says her artwork combines visual elements of both traditions and is also influenced by henna art.

Her Blumenthal Fellow’s creation, “Birdhouse Forest,” is composed of 30 birdhouses of varying shapes and structures.

“Every single piece has a different color combination, different design, different concepts that I went with,” she says.

The project, which is designed as a nature walk on the same trail that features 100 Tiny Things, also includes bird sounds and little surprises like colorful artificial butterflies and birds for visitors to find. Some birdhouses are illuminated at night with fairy lights or glow in the dark paint. Many also include various 3D textures, thanks to the use of special outdoor puffy paint.

“Kids are enjoying that process. They are touching it, they are loving it and that's what I like,” she says. “...Every time I go there I see people admiring it, of all ages, and that's what my motive was… from infants to 100 years old, I want everybody to come and enjoy it.”

Jain describes her experience as a Fellow as “an amazing journey.” She says as someone who is relatively new to creating public art, she came in with a lot of questions and worries about how best to design her project. She turned to the other artists in her cohort, led by Blumenthal’s Director of Artistic Experiences Bree Stallings, for advice.

“Every time I had a query I just reached out to them and they were so willing to help,” she says. “And I think the artistic community itself in Charlotte is so welcoming and so helpful. They love to share, they love to help, and that's what I like.”

It’s a quality she’s happy to bring to her own home practice, as well.

“Sometimes my husband jokes that we have too much artistic energy in the house,” she says. “… Every wall has something that is created by me or my daughters… I enjoy that process of creating with my daughters, as well, because I remember how wonderful a time we had when I created anything with my mom—I just wanted to pass on that tradition to my daughters… it's the treasure for me.”

About the Artist: Anuja Jain is a self-taught artist, originally from India. She specializes in mandala art. She is passionate about dance and painting, and loves sharing her rich cultural heritage through her artistic creations.

Learn more about Anuja Jain and her artwork on Instagram @mandalasbyanuja.


2023 BPA Fellow: Claire Kiester

Project Name: Luminous Loops

Where to Find It: Ballantyne’s Backyard

About the Artwork: When people think of fiber arts, they often envision wearable fashion like sweaters and socks. Artist Claire Kiester is ready to expand your fiber arts universe. Her creation, Luminous Loops, is a large-scale crocheted installation in gorgeous shades of blue.

Constructed with pvc pipes, rope, paracord and yarn made from recycled plastic bags, it’s large enough for groups of people to walk inside. It also has lights that illuminate it at night.

Kiester has always loved textures and textiles as well as discovering what can be created using a simple line.

“One piece of yarn can become so many things,” she says.  “A sweater all the way to a huge installation or a weaving on the wall…. So, I think there's a lot of freedom and ways to kind of add your own individual touch to it.”Craft arts and fiber arts, in particular, have historically been seen as a pastime for women and not taken seriously as an artform, she says. Kiester and other contemporary artists seek to change that perspective, she says, by elevating the artform. She hopes projects like hers will showcase the beauty as well as the time and craftsmanship involved in creating fiber arts.

She also has a special interest in using recycled materials and reducing waste in her work. Besides the yarn from recycled plastic bags, her project incorporates recycled ropes and reused outdoor tarps to create the roof.

“I really like to try and reuse what I have and I also think it's really powerful for audiences to see what they can do with what they already have,” she says.

Instead of spending money on items like canvases and oil paints, she wants to show all of the  amazing things that can be done with objects we have around us already.

Kiester says this project has taken her art practice to another level as she considers factors like weather, how people will interact with the work, and how it will appear during the day versus night. She has also created it to be accessible and welcoming to people in the disability community. Doorways to enter are wide enough to easily accommodate wheelchairs, and windows within the structure are at different levels to accommodate all visitors.


“It was also really important to me for people to be able to touch it so people that can't

see or are visually impaired… can physically experience the project and kind of feel the stitches and feel the different textures, which is something that I'm really excited about.”

Young kids also love being able to walk inside installations and touch things, she says. “I really wanted it to be that kind of accessible art that everyone can kind of have a piece of.”

Kiester says she loves what she does and puts a lot of joy and thought into her creations. She hopes people will be able to share in that joy as they experience her art.

About the Artist: Claire Kiester is a 2021 graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she focused on printmaking and fiber arts. She’s originally from Chapel Hill. She hosted her first solo show this past spring at the Sertoma Art Center in Raleigh. Her work was also featured at this year’s CharlotteSHOUT! and she participated as a 100 Tiny Things artist for the inaugural CIAF.

Learn more about Claire Kiester and her artwork at clairekiester.com or on Instagram @clairekiester_art


2023 BPA Fellow: Dorne Pentes

Project Name: Critterz

Where to Find it: Ballantyne’s Backyard

About the Artwork: Artist Dorne Pentes aims to bring happiness and joy through his creations. His inflatable, whimsical Critterz started as doodles during the pandemic. The Critterz had personality and were easy to draw, he says. He first turned them into characters in several children’s books he created.

As he continued to draw them, he kept searching for the best medium to give them life. Pentes, who is part of the Burning Man culture—the desert festival and movement known for large-scale, experimental art installations—wanted to go big with his concept but wasn’t sure how best to do that.

“I don’t have a lot of skills that would enable me to, say, build a ferris wheel, or make something heavily mechanized,” Pentes says. “But I figured I could learn how to sew.”


One night, he headed to bed, still perplexed by the best artistic route to take. He dreamt of the Critterz floating through the air, telling him they wanted to be big and blown up.

So, he set to work. The Critterz make their official debut at the festival!

They include standing figures as well as giant hearts and eyeballs that will be suspended in the air. Made from ripstop nylon fabric (the same material used for outdoor tents), they range in size from about 4 to16 feet tall. Sound and colorful LED lights also help bring the Critterz to life.

Pentes hopes people, and especially kids, will come up to hug them and ask them questions.


“You want kids to feel as if they’re surrounded by these beautiful, benevolent creatures that are kind of taking care of them,” he says.

Pentes says he’s enjoyed his experience as a Blumenthal Fellow, which has felt more like a mentorship than a typical vendor-client relationship. Fellows are actively engaged in the whole process and learn how to move in the specialized world of large art installations.

There’s training and support to help make the work the best it can be, he says, but also help navigating the business end with an eye toward the future and subsequent opportunities. He’s learned, for example, how to develop contract riders for other potential festivals and gotten help connecting with vendors who could help with other large projects down the road.

“I love it,” he says. “...It’s great to connect with the other artists, learning what they’re doing and supporting them. It’s kind of like we're all up in our little corners doing our thing and then we come together for a while and we’re like a little family and then off we go again.”

About the Artist: Alongside his illustration and inflatable art, Dorne Pentes is a filmmaker. His production company, Wonderworld, works with corporate and non-profit clients. He has also written and directed independent feature films, for which he’s won acclaim at national and international film festivals. He’s the son of the late artist Jack Pentes who created notable works around Charlotte and beyond, including the theme park “Land of Oz.”

Learn more about Dorne Pentes and his artwork at pentesstudios.com or at Instagram @pentesstudios.


2023 BPA Fellow: Laurie Smithwick

Project Name: "Pilgrimage"

Where to Find it: Ballantyne’s Backyard

About the Artwork: For the last few years, Laurie Smithwick has been obsessed with the idea of portals. She thinks about them, she’s made art inspired by them (including her work-in-progress “100 Tiny Portals”), and she’s reviewed her own life in terms of befores and afters.

For her, portals are a “seductive way” to visualize the magic that we experience throughout our lives in the form of coincidences, chance encounters, new experiences and transitions.

“As kids we're expected to believe in magic but as adults we're really expected to very much not believe in magic, except that magic things continue to happen to us,” she says.

What are those magic things?

Everything from a child learning to walk or moving to a new school, to choosing a new life partner or quitting a job and much more. “All of those are major life transformations where the before ceases to exist and the after is forever changed because of the decisions that we've had. And I think if we can begin to view them all as a little bit of magic—that enables us to bring in the necessary ingredient of hope.”

At CIAF, Smithwick takes that concept to a grand scale with “Pilgrimage.” From far away, the plastic, multi-colored shapes appear to create a sculpture. But up close, you discover they are separate translucent arches spread out and ranging from 3 feet to 8 feet high—perfect for visitors of all ages to play around, walk or crawl through.


(She worked with Murray Chapple from WhirlyPig Design to engineer and fabricate everything. “I brought him the vision,” she says, “he has helped me bring it into the world.”)

And as you make your way back and forth across this 40-foot or so pilgrimage, Smithwick hopes you will be conscious of the before and after of your journey.

Visitors’ movements also activate sound. Smithwick worked with local composer and musician Emily Sage Avery to create a five note chord where each of the notes harmonize with one another. As people play under and around the portals, their movements  create new musical combinations.


Smithwick says she is looking forward to seeing what other local artists  have come up with, too.

“This fellows program that Bree (Stallings, Blumenthal’s director of artistic experiences) put together is its own sort of magic,” Smithwick says.

“Because what she's doing is she's saying,’Okay, Charlotte artists, you're as big a deal as Amanda Parer is… your work is just as important as The Birdmen…  and she's showing us… not just how to create work on a scale that we've never done it before, but she's saying you need to start seeing yourself through a different lens.

“There's a lot more than that though,” she continues. “...The camaraderie that has grown up between us is just invaluable.”

As they learn and work together, each is also transitioning into this new form of artist, she says. “I just can’t wait to see what each of these people has produced.”

About the Artist: Charlotte native Laurie Smithwick is an abstract painter, printmaker and muralist. Her work has been featured in shows and public art installations all around the Queen City, including at the Mint Museum, McColl Center, and at the inaugural CIAF 100 Tiny Things exhibition. Her work also appeared on billboards and digital signs as a member of ArtPop Street Gallery’s Class of 2020.

Learn more about Laurie Smithwick and her artwork at lauriesmithwick.com or on Instagram @lauriesmithwick.


2023 BPA Fellow: Tara Spil

Project Name: Framing Our Roots

Where You Can Find It: Levine Avenue of the Arts

About the Artwork: Artist Tara Spil uses her artwork to visually explore important issues and data points that affect communities. Her colorful creations make information accessible and easy to understand.

At CIAF, her work showcases and celebrate the international community. For this project, she consulted with International House of Charlotte to identify information and numbers that are relevant to the local community.

"Framing Our Roots" consists of three interactive frames for visitors to use for photo opportunities. In addition to being fun to look at, each frame highlights numbers or stories about the international community. As visitors step within the frames, they’ll be surrounded by numbers, colors and information.

A fourth frame is on display for the community to add pieces to throughout the festival. Community members are being polled on their international food preferences and are able to add to the work.

They also become part of this “picture” of the community, Spil says.

The featured data  includes facts about how many people in our community have foreign roots and how that plays out across the community.


Spil has learned many new things through her research, she says. Some examples:

  • Charlotte’s foreign born population is about double the foreign born percentage in the rest of the state.
  • Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools students come from households that speak more than 200 languages.
  • There are currently 74,219 court cases awaiting trial in North Carolina’s immigration courts.

Spil says this project, her second public sculpture to date, is really pushing her artistically. She’s grateful for Blumenthal’s investment in her work and other artists’ creations. It’s not only a financial commitment, she says. The organization also serves as a resource in other ways.

“I think Blumenthal provides support for projects that's pretty unparalleled… if you don't have what you need they'll connect you to it.”

She’s excited to share information with the public on issues they may not be aware of and to create something that reflects and, hopefully, connects with the international community.

“I care about the immigrant community and honoring their experiences,” she says. “Events like CIAF serve as a great opportunity to bring people together to celebrate different cultures.”


About the Artist: Tara Spil holds a BFA from Western Carolina University. Alongside her career as an artist, Spil also spent years as a grant writer for nonprofits focused on the arts and children. Her data-driven artwork incorporates her passion for community with abstract visual arts creations. In 2021, she participated in a six-week artist residency at Immersive Van Gogh with the support of Blumenthal. For that project, she created a triptych that included nearly 50,000 brushstrokes created by more than 1,000 visitors with the goal of raising awareness of suicide rates and mental health. “One of the biggest purposes of this work for me is really starting conversations with people,” she says.

You can continue the conversation and learn more about Tara Spil at taraspil.com or on Instagram @tspilart.


2023 BPA Fellow: Mike Wirth

Project Name: "Rimon: The Cosmogranate"

Where to Find it: Levine Avenue of the Arts

About the Artwork: For artist and educator Mike Wirth, developing his interactive art installation “Rimon” for the Charlotte International Arts Festival has been “a dream come true.”

"Rimon," which means pomegranate in Hebrew, started as an illustration in his ongoing Jewish Futurism project. In that series of digital images, Wirth—who is Jewish—imagines the adventures of The Wanderer, a futuristic Jewish traveler who explores what it means to be Jewish off the earth and in the cosmos.

In the series, Wirth takes a sacred symbol of Judaism, the pomegranate, and imbues it with special powers. The Wanderer’s pomegranate can do anything: it's a spaceship, a computer, a communication device, a translator, and more.


According to Jewish tradition, the pomegranate symbolizes through its plentiful seeds all 613 mitzvot (divine commandments from the Torah). It is also a symbol associated with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), and Sukkot (a harvest festival), both of which will take place in the same time frame as the Charlotte International Arts Festival.

“What's interesting from Judaism that's futuristic is reinvention,” he says. “… That kind of adaptation of Judaism to its time, its place and, you know, its solar system in the future.”

Through his artwork Wirth says he tries to reimagine and reignite a passion for the core values that come from Jewish cultural tradition.

At CIAF, Wirth will take his 2D concept into a 3D realm, by creating an enormous, interactive pomegranate. Glowing with 14,000 LED lights and an original soundscape, as many as 10 people can fit inside the geodesic dome at a time. And thanks to sensors that activate the lights and sounds, as many as12 people, at once, can interact with it from inside and outside the structure.


Wirth says the project is not intended to take people on a spiritual journey but to spark joy in visitors for whatever time they choose to spend with it.

Its Jewish ties are also important to him, however, “because there is so much anti-semitism today,” he says. “…That’s an unnerving statistic that’s on the rise.”

“I'm inspired because I'm seeing a lot of other Jewish artists and Jewish creatives and Jewish leaders get out there and say, ‘let's make pro-semitic imagery and experiences for the public to have.’”

Several festive events will be hosted at “Rimon” in conjunction with the Jewish High Holidays, in collaboration with Queen University’s Hillel chapter and Rabbi Judy Schindler of The Stan Greenspon Holocaust and Social Justice Education Center.

Although there is a large Jewish community in Charlotte, Wirth says he still meets people who tell him they have never met a Jewish person before. He says his CIAF project gives him the opportunity to connect with people in the community and serve as a sort of cultural ambassador.

Wirth's been a professional artist for more than 20 years, but exploring Jewish themes in his artwork is something relatively new. He says he was inspired to make it a part of his practice after seeing how other progressive artists he works alongside in Charlotte step out into the streets with big art projects that are culturally based—to stand up for communities as well as themselves.

“It’s not easy to do this,” he says. “...But I feel the most comfortable in my skin I've ever been in my life.”

About the Artist: Mike Wirth is an artist and associate professor of Graphic Design at Queens University of Charlotte. He also currently serves as artist-in-residence at the university’s Stan Greenspon Center for Holocaust and Social Justice Education. As an artist, he is best known as a digital experience designer and muralist. He was selected for an artist residency at Immersive Van Gogh and has participated in Blumenthal’s Artists in Theaters program. Beyond Charlotte, his work has been seen in cities spanning New York, Miami, Paris and soon Jerusalem.

Learn more about Mike Wirth and his artwork at mikewirthart.com or on Instagram @mikewirth.


2023 BPA Fellow: Greg Urquhart

Project Name: “What the Duck”

Where to Find it: Levine Avenue of the Arts

About the Artwork: Artist Greg Urquhart hopes to bring us back to our childhood days with his installation, “What the Duck.” The artwork is a 6-foot tall double-sided giant duck made of thousands of 1.5 inch rubber ducks.

(Just how many, you ask? 3,484 to be exact.)

The sculpture, which is mounted on a large wooden platform, also incorporates LED lights that give the sculpture a halo effect.

Urquhart has used rubber ducks in other recent artwork too, although never at this scale.


He says he’s drawn to the little fellow primarily because of its nostalgia factor and the joyful emotions it stirs in people.

“It’s a very simple design, a very simple toy,” he says. “I think it just brings a positive feeling to people when they see them or they can relate to it …  it's just like a happy memory for people and with the way the world is these days I think you need as much positive stuff to look at” as possible.

During Covid, Urquhart spent a lot of time creating projects with wood slabs and resin— including items like coffee tables and charcuterie boards.

“I got a little bit bored with that,” he says. So he tried to figure out what else would be fun to put in resin and could be displayed as an art piece.


“I'm like, ‘oh, rubber ducks. Why not— let's try it. And then it worked!”

There have been a couple of drawbacks, however. “A grown man buying Amazon rubber ducks in bulk is always a weird thing,” Urquhart says, with a smile.

But one of the biggest challenges creating the piece has been the weather. “Resin’s very particular,” he says.

That made it challenging to construct the project during the hot summer months, especially since his studio behind his house isn’t weather-controlled. That meant much of the work had to take place in his living room. Durability is another factor he had to consider carefully, to ensure the piece can withstand any unexpected weather conditions during the two-week festival, as well as foot traffic from the tens of thousands of visitors who are expected to come through Levine Avenue of the Arts, where it will be on display.

Urquhart, who is also a General Manager at Lenny Boy Brewing Co. says there’s a bonus feature he’s excited about. The microbrewery has created a special beer, “What the Duck Lager,” in tribute to his creation for the festival. It’s available at the Levine Avenue Oktoberfest Biergarten. (When you order, be sure to look for the custom duck beer tap handle that Urquhart crafted!)

Urquhart says he’s extremely honored to be part of the Blumenthal Fellows program. It’s been a great experience, he adds, even though designing work for such a big event can be stressful.  

“The other eight fellows are amazing,” he says. “We're all leaning on each other and helping each other as best we can, which is awesome.

He’s got high praise for Blumenthal’s Bree Stallings, too. “She's one of the hardest working people I know… I don't know how she does it but she's incredible and this is the second year she's doing this and she's knocking it out of the park...”

He says he can’t wait to see his artwork installed and how people react to it. Getting that opportunity, he says, is priceless.


About the Artist: Greg Urquhart works with a variety of mediums, including wood, resin, and acrylics. His work has been shown locally at Summit Coffee House in NODA and recently was featured at H Gallery + Studios in Ventura, California.

Learn more about Greg Urquhart and his artwork on Instagram @projectgworkshop.

Find the full schedule of events and attractions for the Charlotte International Festival through October 1, 2023 at charlotteartsfest.com.