The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jun 16, 2011

Buskapalooza is changing the face of uptown Charlotte

Posted by carmella.jarvi

What is busking? The dictionary defines busk as “to play music or otherwise perform for voluntary donations in the street or in subways.”

New York City, San Francisco, Austin and Portland are cities that come to mind when you think about vibrant and truly diverse city entertainment in which street performers are an integral part.  Now Charlotte has a thriving art scene, including a new Levine Campus for the Arts with several major institutions. And there is a wide variety of public art throughout uptown, as well as many other art opportunities and performance venues. However, when it comes to street performers, this city has been on the quiet side. We have them, but many artists struggle with various issues, including being asked to leave.

Enter April Denee, who is helping to change all that. Denee is a writer. Around 2006, she started exploring photography, but she was not satisfied with the still picture. In February 2010, she began seeking a subject for her first documentary. This was the beginning of "BUSK!" a documentary that will premiere in winter 2011.

"BUSK!" is a character-driven documentary about how an emerging cultural center, like Charlotte, N.C., can — (and should) — encourage street art and performance. With an inquisitive and playful spirit, the film follows the lives of four local street performers to promote an understanding and appreciation for art that reaches beyond the walls of a gallery, theater or concert hall.

This film project is made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council, the Arts & Science Council and is also fiscally sponsored by Aubin Pictures, a not-for-profit (501c3) documentary media production company in New York City focused on arts, culture and social justice issues.

Since "BUSK!" is more a cause than a documentary, it just fit that Denee would help Charlotte embrace busking through “Buskapalooza” events. The first one was held in May of this year and was such a success that Buskapalooza Street Performance Festival – II is scheduled for Friday, June 17 from 5 to 9 p.m., to be held in conjunction with World Busk 2011.

This evening of street performance will be right in the heart of uptown Charlotte. From the intersection of Trade and Tryon to the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center and the Epicentre, buskers of various art forms — music, visual, magic, dance, theatre – will perform all in one evening. If this is your first time, start at Trade and Tryon, where a table will be set up with information. (Make sure to bring some tips for your favorite buskers.)

Here’s the current lineup:


Mark Doepker | live painting

Papergirl Charlotte | live group sketching


James Lee Walker II | a capella

Perry Fowler | folk/soul

The Charlotte Waites | renaissance

The Cloers | country rock

BAM-Jazz | trumpet, accordion, vocals

Eric Scott | music


Hannibal the Magician | magic

Dance Cipher w/DJ Adot Trakz | all styles

Don Boekelheide | marionettes

Braiden Hannibal | juggling

Spin Revolution | hula hooping

Nicholas de la Canal | living statue

Joshua Retamar | mime

mitOsis | comedy improv


Buskapalooza Street Performance Festival – II Friday, June 17 from 5 to 9 p.m. Uptown Charlotte (starting at Trade Street and Tryon Street intersection)

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