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Blumenthal Arts
Winter 2024
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Blumenthal President & CEO Tom Gabbard
Tom Gabbard
Photo by Chris Edward
From the President
Blumenthal Arts has always been committed to creatively evolving. In our earliest days we were mainly concerned about “place.” Our visionary founders in 1992 saw a path to transform our uptown into the vibrant hub we enjoy today by creating a first-class place for the performing arts.
Blumenthal now puts a much stronger focus on “people.” We continue to see the arts as a powerful catalyst but also in transforming the lives of people for the better.
The new logo mural outside of Belk Theater symbolizes that focus on people. The entire mural was created from 11,000 photos submitted online. It symbolizes that Blumenthal is made up of the rich variety of people who call Charlotte home.

Charlotte has evolved into a truly global city, attracting newcomers with economic opportunity and a welcoming spirit.
As a pledge to our amazing city, we embarked on year two of the Charlotte International Arts Festival. Among the goals of the CIAF is to showcase local international groups and artists, many of whom are largely unknown in their hometown. We also bring a lot of cool things from around the world and wonderfully mix it all together.
What we are doing with the CIAF is quite unique in the U.S. and will eventually evolve into a major regional, annual arts festival. Most of CIAF is free and outdoors. Last year’s attendance of more than 500,000 over 17 days validated that the community was ready for it.
There probably was no more difficult time than a global pandemic to begin planning the launch of a major international arts festival, but the moment was right.
Our last bit of one-time pandemic funding to restart and transform the economy helped us launch in 2022. Charitable gifts began to replace that in 2023, but the giving will need to continue to grow to keep the majority of events free for everyone.
We have always had programs to support the schools and student performers of all ages, and in the last decade we’ve elevated that support through The Blumey Awards. But big institutions often have difficulty connecting with young and emerging artists. Today we’ve continued to evolve our service with programs like Blumenthal Arts Fellows where we commission large-scale art to be enjoyed by everyone during CIAF. Artists in Theaters was launched to connect theater fans with visual artists and visual artists to Broadway shows, which many had never attended. We just launched Made in CLT, a free online directory that is sort of an Angie’s List of artists. Want a mural in a child’s bedroom, a band for a neighborhood party or a live musician for your next office party? This new directory is for you. We aim to connect consumers with talented artists. Consumers benefit by connecting with cool people, who we also want to help earn a living from their art. We’re pleased to offer this service free of charge to the artists and the community.
We’re proud of the successful Broadway series we’ve built here. However, there is a real misunderstanding that our success with Broadway shows pays for everything else. It simply doesn’t, particularly given that much of everything else is offered free or at very low cost. The success of Broadway shows allows us to bring an amazing quantity and variety of shows, and operate first-class venues, but that’s it. The unique programs beyond presenting Broadway are ALL dependent on gifts from individuals, businesses and government. Blumenthal is uniquely able to leverage those gifts to accomplish good things that improve people’s lives.
As you read through this issue of Spark and the success stories of people and programs, I hope you’ll feel justified pride for all that Blumenthal is accomplishing. We are making a real difference in individual lives and are deeply grateful to those who enable our ability to serve. ◼
Tom Gabbard signature
Tom Gabbard President, Blumenthal Performing Arts