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Blumenthal Arts
Winter 2024
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11,000 Strong
New mosaic mural reveals Blumenthal's deep community connections
Blumenthal Arts recently revealed a new mosaic version of its logo mural banner at the entrance to Belk Theater. The new banner design is made up of thousands of photos of Blumenthal fans.
by Page Leggett
Tom Gabbard loved how Dear Evan Hansen gave fans the opportunity to be part of the musical’s marketing. A February 2017 story in Playbill read, “Fans are urged to send a front-facing, solo portrait shot of themselves against a minimal background, and if selected, the photo may appear in the Broadway poster ...”
Genius marketing – especially for a show about social media.
“It made such an impression on me,” Gabbard said. “The show was inviting fans to be part of the marketing. It was a lovely way to acknowledge the fanbase.
"Our fans are the heart of what we do at Blumenthal, and I had hoped we could find a way to do something similar,” he continued. “But the technology wasn’t available to us in 2017 and 2018. So, I filed the idea away.”
From left, Blumenthal board of trustees member Marisa Thalberg, board chair John Giannuzzi and President and CEO Tom Gabbard address the crowd at the mosaic mural reveal.
Last year, Alana Graber, Blumenthal’s concerts and events booking manager, discovered a company that created this very thing. Blumenthal contracted with Picture Mosaics LLC to create a photo montage within Blumenthal’s iconic “B” logomark. The company has created mosaics for Microsoft, the NFL and NBA, Disney, Coca-Cola and more. So, Blumenthal put out a call for photos. And the response was tremendous. More than 11,000 photos were received before submissions were discontinued. The photos were then transformed into a digital piece and a large outdoor banner mural celebrating the arts, the Charlotte region and everyone who loves and attends theater. Blumenthal President and CEO Tom Gabbard, whose likeness can be found in the mural, calls it a “collaborative installation.” There are graduation photos, baby pictures, family pictures, selfies, headshots, group shots, pictures of people in the audience at Belk Theater and pictures of people onstage.
Our fans are the heart of what we do at Blumenthal ...
— Tom Gabbard, Blumenthal Arts President and CEO
Once someone uploaded their photo to Blumenthal’s website, they got an email, which read, in part: Congratulations! You are a part of Blumenthal Arts in a very special way. Just as each Charlottean plays a pivotal role in the fabric of our community and is representative of Blumenthal Arts, each image will be woven into this collective piece to be displayed over the Belk Theater and further connect Blumenthal with the people of Charlotte. #BlumenthalisCLT That number – 11,000 – was the goal for submissions. The sheer volume of photos demonstrates “the tentacles Blumenthal has that reach deep into the community,” said Blumenthal board chair John Giannuzzi, senior partner at Deloitte & Touche LLP. When asking for photo submissions, Blumenthal staff didn’t limit the request to just Charlotte or Mecklenburg County residents. The idea was for everyone to be able to participate, and that included the cast and crews of traveling Broadway shows that have performed on one of Blumenthal’s stages. Besides, Blumenthal draws theater lovers from well beyond the city limits.
Guests attend the Blumenthal Arts’ mosaic reveal party and open house.
At 14 feet by 22 feet and containing more than 11,000 images of Blumenthal fans, the Blumenthal mosaic is mightily impressive. It may become uptown’s next big selfie backdrop. It was unveiled – indoors due to inclement weather – to a crowd of about 400 at a free event on Aug. 30, 2023. Blumenthal’s annual Open House followed. The vinyl mural now overlooks the Belk Theater plaza in the heart of uptown and serves as a visual representation of this city’s arts community and, as Blumenthal leaders put it, everyone who helped shape the organization. It replaced a banner that had been up since 2017. A version of the mural also lives online at People who submitted photos can go online and search for themselves and their friends by first name and last initial. “There’s an energy and excitement you get from just watching the slide show online,” Gabbard said. “It’s very uplifting.”
A crowd gathers in the Belk Theater lobby for the mosaic reveal.
Giannuzzi sees the public’s overwhelming response to the call for photos as evidence of Blumenthal’s impact on people’s lives. “What excites me the most about Blumenthal is how deeply we’re enmeshed in the community,” he said. “I love the Broadway performances, but there’s so much else we’re involved in that’s less well-known – but it’s making a huge difference in the lives of people, especially young people, in our community. “The education committee is one of the most vibrant committees on our board,” Giannuzzi added. “Hearing reports from that committee, which works closely with (Vice President of Education) Andie Maloney and her team, energizes all of us. We want them to continue touching more and more lives. It’s, arguably, the most important thing we do, and it leads to tangible results for life.” The message he hopes the 11,000-strong mosaic conveys: “The greatest strength of our community is our diversity.” ◼