About The Center
The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African- American Arts + Culture (formerly the Afro- American Cultural Center) celebrates the contributions of Africans and African- Americans to American culture and serves as a community epicenter for music, dance, theater, visual art, film, arts education programs, literature and community outreach.
The Center's Mission
The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture presents, preserves and celebrates excellence in the art, history and culture of African-Americans and people of African descent.
We ignite engagement and conversations that inspire, empower and enlighten all.
Architectural Design Inspiration
The 46,500-square-foot Gantt Center is located in the heart of Charlotte's central business district in the area once occupied by the historic Brooklyn neighborhood, the once-thriving center of the black community which was razed in the 1960s.
The Gantt Center takes design inspiration from the Myers Street School which was located in the heart of the old Brooklyn neighborhood. The biblical term Jacob's Ladder was used to identify the school and referred to its prominent exterior stair configuration. The stairs signified pride and the importance of education in the advancement of African-Americans. This concept of hope, advancement and enlightenment through cultural awareness and education is expressed in the Gantt Center design through its modern interpretation of Jacob's Ladder. Stairs and escalators carry visitors up to the main second floor lobby from both ends of the building while framing the central glass atrium. The striking visual effect is a direct allusion to the original Jacob's Ladder and perpetuates the ideals of enlightenment and advancement through education.
The building's skin utilizes patterns reminiscent of quilt designs from the Underground Railroad era and woven textile patterns from West Africa. These architectural references to African and African-American history and culture underscore the building's theme while creating an innovative and inspiring facade.
The Gantt Center was designed by The Freelon Group. Founded in 1990 by Philip G. Freelon, FAIA, The Freelon Group is a 60 person architecture firm located in Durham, North Carolina. The firm is dedicated to serving clients, the community and its employees in a team environment, while providing excellent design solutions for the benefit of all. Its work focuses on research and education, health and well-being, high performance workplaces, the advancement of understanding between disparate cultures and the creative expression of the arts. Through on-time, on-budget delivery of high-quality design projects, Freelon has earned the respect and praise of both public and private sector clients.
From public libraries, museums, corporate offices and parks, to hospitals, science labs and university buildings, Freelon strives to create unique and sustainable environments that lift the human spirit and inspire us with a better understanding of who we are as individuals and as a community. At the heart of all Freelon projects is an ambition to place the art of architecture within reach of the everyday citizen.