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Charlotte-born King Carla takes the text artist crown everywhere
Growing portfolio expands across city
Published Saturday, January 23, 2021 12:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

Artist Carla Aaron-Lopez, also known as King Carla, works on a mural in Historic West End in 2020.

The handwriting is the art for Carla Aaron-Lopez.

Whether you have seen her work on Beatties Ford Road in the West End Mural or at Camp North End as part of the Charlotte mural, look for the upside-down crossed out crown, and you know whose work you are looking at. The text-based artist goes by King Carla. The name, in addition to her signature crown, represents seizing the crown and making it her own.

Last year kept her busy, from being one of the artists commissioned to produce work for now-President Joe Biden’s Black Economic Summit at Camp North End to “Cultured Contrasts” at Spirit Square in Uptown to the first part of “Off the Plantation” at the Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art in South End (part two of the exhibit has been postponed to later in 2021 due to COVID-19) to “Untitled” in Uptown.

This year, she is one of 24 recipients of an Arts & Science Council Vision Grant for $4,600 to create “LOCAL//STREAT,” an exhibit at the Mint Museum Randolph, which will feature 50 artists of color and white allies. The goal is to highlight artists of color in traditional spaces like the Mint Museum—artists who may not otherwise be shown there. Details pertaining to dates are to be determined due to COVID-19.

“I wanted to put on an underground art exhibition at the Mint,” Lopez said.

The goal is for the exhibit to pop up and go away, so if you miss it, you miss out.

“The question is how am I making artists of color more accessible to these small medium and large business owners?” Lopez said. “The Mint Museum is a wonderful start.”

Lopez grew up on Beatties Ford Road in the Trinity Park neighborhood, near Hyde Park where most of her family live. She recalls field trips to the Mint Museum on Randolph Road, the only cultural institution of its type at that time. The Afro-American Cultural Center, now the Harvey B. Gantt Center, focused more on programing than art while she was growing up.

“If it wasn’t for the Mint, I wouldn’t want to become an artist,” Lopez said.

While the space itself did not have art she liked, it did showcase something that caught her attention.

“What was cool about it was that it had artwork on a wall in a location in my town,” Lopez said.

Lopez left the city after graduating North Mecklenburg High School to pursue a degree from North Carolina Central University in graphic design in 2001. Then she moved to Atlanta to attend the Savannah College of Art & Design to study photography and printmaking, earning master’s degrees in both. Lopez always came home for the holidays, but when she decided to move back to Charlotte, things had changed.

There was more to do, which was good.

“When I came back, I came back to a different city,” she said.

Charlotte transformed into a larger city, and Lopez felt it had become a place she could stay for a while, working as a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools arts educator. While art was still present in her life, she pressed pause on her journey as an artist until 2019. Now she teaches art at Whitewater Middle School and the mother of an 8-year-old boy. Teaching during a pandemic and with social justice being brought to the forefront of American society presents a unique set of challenges.

“Having difficult conversations with students helps me have difficult conversations with adults just by understanding, point blank, period, empathy,” Lopez said. “If I were to put your shoes on today what would I feel? If I were to take a walk in your life, what would I see? I choose to think about what I am going to say in those moments versus blurting out something emotionally.”

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