Sydney Duarte, 32, is well known around Charlotte, whether it be for her arts activism, her yoga classes at NoDa Yoga or her new mural at Two Scoops Creamery.
After growing up in Kentucky and moving to North Carolina 17 years ago, she built a strong community around her — she’s got more than 22,600 Instagram followers to prove it.
Duarte started painting murals with her mother at a young age. Her mom had always been an artist, and she loved to help out with projects. Eventually, they both moved into the corporate world and fell away from doing art together. After a while, though, Duarte said she insisted they start painting as a team again.
What started off with in-home custom pieces eventually led to the Scoops mural, which features Duarte licking an ice cream cone and the saying: “Do the things that light you up. Everything else will fall into place.”
“It’s interesting to see what part of the quote resonates with people,” Duarte said. “Two different ladies stopped and cried when they saw it.”
Duarte’s other major passion is yoga, which she’s been practicing for 12 years. That came about after she injured her back in gymnastics. “I found the chiropractor was a temporary fix, but yoga cured the pain,” she said. Hoping to help and share with others the exercise that healed her back, she started teaching her own classes. She teaches private sessions in her home in addition to classes at NoDa Yoga.
Duarte answered five questions for CharlotteFive:
(1) What can someone outside of the arts scene do to support the arts?
“There’s this lady at ArtPop Street Gallery — the artists submit proposals and she does several fundraisers per year, and people can donate to their events. There is the Knight Foundation, and there are a lot of scholarships open, so if people donate to the scholarships or attend gallery events, that’s one way. Instead of going to Target to buy your art, buy something local. … Folks can support local creatives by donating to the HUG (Helpful, Unfettered Gift) Creative Micro-Grant Program. And they can also learn about fun/unique/amazing projects/people/artists/events in the city when they attend the Creative Mornings events.”
(2) How do you think the growth of the arts scene has contributed to the overall growth of the city?
“I’ve just noticed a lot of newcomers or visitors. People reach out to me about other people’s murals or my murals, so it’s bringing people in. Charlotte used to be known as just a banking city, and now it’s morphing into this fun, brightly colored city people want to come to — I mean, no offense to banking. There’s a wide array of magic happening here — you just have to know where to look for it.”
(3) Social media influencers get somewhat of a bad rap these days. How do you think you can give back through social media influence?
“I try to teach people about good people and places. A lot of times, people want to get involved but don’t know where to begin. It’s a way to build community. Instagram for me started as my diary, and it’s morphed into what it is now. But that’s the fun — taking people on adventures. … People get so caught up in having so many likes and a certain amount of posts. I’m not down for that. An adventure can be anything — a ride on a scooter, a new ice cream shop — people just need that little push or spark to do it.
(4) If you could go down a path not taken, what would you choose to do?
“I’m in the process of writing and illustrating a children’s book and pitching my travel TV show. People read about my travel retreats — I want to highlight the positive about traveling to other places. Right now, there’s either the luxury travel, or the guy in the woods eating bugs. I want to show people a comfortable, fully immersed travel experience and highlight all the good people around the world.”
(5) What are your favorite yoga-retreat travel destinations thus far?
My favorite international trips have been to Guatemala or Costa Rica. There’s also Greece. The local trips we’ve taken are awesome, too — we’ve taken a day trip down to the Saluda waterfall and done hikes and different workshops.