Yep, there’s a bathroom with a disco ball in Charlotte

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Two days ago I told a friend I wouldn’t want to write an article about bathrooms.

We were talking about how elegant the one-room bathroom is at NoDa Company Store (seriously, check it out the next time you’re getting a drink there). But it’s not the kind of thing I would normally take a picture of and post my thoughts about. It just seems private, or weird, or gross. Then I found out about the disco-ball bathroom.

It’s on the second floor of the McColl Center for Art + Innovation. I kind of had to see it. Armando Bellmas, Director of Marketing + Communications at the McColl Center, obliged. My first discovery: It is, indeed, strange to interview someone in a bathroom.

My second discovery: The disco ball is part of 2012 McColl Center Alumna Artist Andrea Vail’s installation for the exhibition “Open Occupancy: Artists Respond To HB2.” In conjunction with CPCC Spectrum Club, Vail transformed a single-use, unisex restroom into “a space for individual self-expression” and positive self image. An onslaught of silver streamers, a mirror, a disco ball, colored lights and phone station (for your cellphone, for recording purposes) make it obvious that an individual dance party was meant to happen here.

In case you’re missing the point: Creativity can serve as a response to social challenges.

Artist Rosalia Torres-Weiner took a different approach with her designated unisex bathroom, responding to HB2 tensions in the city by adding pops of color. She collaborated with Orgullo: Charlotte Latin Pride for her installation, which emphasizes caterpillars morphing into butterflies as a representation of the Latino and Latina transgender people in Charlotte.

She painted phrases including “Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” and “The rate of suicide attempts among trans people is 41 percent.”

By Friday, five more of the public bathrooms at the McColl Center will be transformed, thanks to Jason Watson, de’Angelo Dia, Tom Thoune, Raymond Grubb, John W. Love, Jr., and a partnership with Charlotte Pride. All of these are McColl Center Alumni Artists inspired by conversations with local LGBTQ advocacy groups, wrapping up their creations just in time to be on view during the 2016 Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade.

Watson, a member of the LGBT community, had the original idea for jumpstarting this exhibition and opening it in time for Charlotte Pride.

“Instead of him just doing something himself, he found a bunch of other artists that were willing kind of to jump in with him and do something in the bathrooms,” Bellmas said. “Now, it didn’t start in the bathrooms. We started talking about maybe putting a big toilet outside, do something different (Note: this would have been kind of awesome). And then it ended up being, well, we’ve got all these bathrooms.”

The bathroom installation will be up through Sept. 10.

“It’s a passion project for everybody involved,” Bellmas said.

Museum hours for Charlotte Pride weekend

Friday, Aug. 19, noon-5 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 20, noon-8 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 21, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

(The Latin American Coalition onsite this weekend registering new voters during “Open Occupancy,” too.)

While you’re there, also catch sight of their inaugural “Member Show” featuring works submitted by McColl Center members/artists and on view until Aug. 27, as well as “prompt,” an exhibition on view until Aug. 27 and featuring three Alumni Artists-in-Residence who followed three prompts to create their installations.

A sampling of works in the "Member Show" exhibition.
A sampling of works in the “Member Show” exhibition.
"Untitled" by Susan Lee-Chun, is an installation with "prompt."
“Untitled” by Susan Lee-Chun, is an installation with “prompt.”

McColl Center for Art + Innovation: 721 N. Tryon St.

Photos: Katie Toussaint

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