Jim Dukes, executive director of Charlotte Art League (Photo: QCity Metro)

Art has the power to spark countless conversations around difficult topics. Witness the AIDS Memorial Quilt that began in the 1980s or the Black Lives Matter mural in uptown Charlotte.

At the Charlotte Art League, officials are hoping to ignite polite dialogue about today’s political climate with an exhibition aptly titled “Politik.”

The exhibit opens Aug. 14 and will run through Sept. 4.

In addition to about a dozen paintings, the show includes spoken word, improv acts, and music. A live performance is scheduled for today (Aug. 14) from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Art League (4100-A Raleigh St). And for those who prefer to stay home, it will all be live streamed, recorded and posted to the Art League’s website.

“The times we are living in have given us a gift,” Jim Dukes, the Art League’s executive director, said during a recent telephone interview, noting that art often thrives amid political and social turbulence.

“Five years from now, I think we’re going to look back and say, ‘Wow! If these events did not take place, arts would not have stepped up and facilitated communication and been there to provide murals for people to look at…’” he said.

Many artists today, Duke said, have found a new voice amid the nation’s political discord.

As a nonprofit arts organization (founded in 1965), the Art League does not take a political position, Dukes said.

“We provide an opportunity for people with differing opinions to come together and express those opinions through art,” he said. “It’s our position that, through art, conversation can be had, understanding can be had, or at least we can attempt it.”

That said, Dukes acknowledged that none of the artists in the show has taken a “pro-Trump” position.

“I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve been thinking about why that is,” he said.

When the exhibition was conceived, Dukes said, it was meant to give Charlotte artists a “light-hearted” and “tongue-in-cheek” way to express political beliefs in a way that’s “approachable.” He now wonders whether Covid-19 and the ongoing social isolation have given the pieces a somewhat sharper edge.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of discussion we get, and if we have good discussion,” Dukes said. “Are we as a society more comfortable hiding behind our computers and voicing our political views in a safe environment, as opposed to having a one-on-one, rational, sane conversation with somebody?”

He added: “Art is a critical way to express all of our beliefs but it’s also a way to heal and build bridges.”

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