New business blends art and nightlife

NoDa’s latest addition to the art scene still opened its doors in the midst of a pandemic, bringing together all of Charlotte for a community art space.

Co-owners Justin Hargrove and Markus Hunter imagined a creative business to blend art and nightlife, secured a location, and renovated and opened Art Gallery off of Sugar Creek Road in about six months.

NoDa was the obvious choice to land for the Art Room. The quaint gallery will hopefully continue to grow the art scene in the neighborhood and attract other creatives from across the city.

Pulling up to the old Red Fox Lounge building, you will notice murals painted on the black exterior, a continuation of NoDa’s lively streets. The art is carried throughout the interior with a painted bar, hanging paint brushes, mural walls, and a floor-to-ceiling flower wall.

The main wall inside, behind the DJ booth, is filled with artwork from Charlotte locals that is available for purchase. Artists interested in showcasing their work can contact Art Room through social media (@artroomclt on Instagram) or talk to General Manager Codi Varela.

“Our first piece sold for $1,400 for that artist,” Varela said. “There are some elegant pieces up there…it’s elite artwork and you can’t really get that anywhere unless you go to a museum or out of town.”

Art Room will rotate the masterpieces monthly, giving each artist a chance to sell their work, while still showcasing other locals.

The space allows guests to move around between the indoor gallery and the updated outdoor patio with fire pits and couches. A bar window was added to the building, so guests can now enjoy the outside with easier bar access. Art Room has a full bar, beer, and wine.

“In case the pandemic were to affect us again, we have the patio, which is what they want for social distancing,” Varela said. “The guests can go up to the bar window without having to go inside.”

Art Room has been attracting a diverse and friendly crowd since opening, according to Varela.

Local food trucks come throughout the week, bringing out loyal fans. Different DJs have their audiences and the owners’ previous clientele come together to bring a fully unique crowd to the NoDa neighborhood.

Varela believes this is not a business, but a space for the community, as Art Room is adaptable for different events, after work happy hours, or celebrations.

“It is all intertwined and intermingled,” Varela said. “It really is about us giving to the community as well. We’re not just a bar. We’re not just a club. We want a different vibe and we’ve been getting that so far.”

Neighbors were recently invited to the Art Room to meet the owners and staff. Art Room wants to build a strong relationship since it is located on the outskirts of the neighborhood.

“We don’t want to have any issues,” Varela said. “We want to make sure we’re respectable. We turn the music down at night when we’re supposed to. We put the speaker inside…We got the cones up, don’t park in the neighborhood.”

Art Room is open from Tuesday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eventually, it will stay open until 2 a.m., once executive orders are lifted.

The turnout has already been better than expected, according to Varela. As a new normal is fast approaching with lifted restrictions and vaccines rolling out, she believes this is just the beginning of the Art Room brand.