MICHELLE “BUNNY” GREGORY, 55, grew up on Charlotte’s west side, and she’s watched the area change, imperceptibly at first. In the mid-2010s, as gentrification gained momentum there, Gregory launched The Underground, a collective to support young Black artists. Since then, The Underground (not related to the Live Nation venue of the same name) has evolved from a venue and gathering space—first at a warehouse in NoDa, then at another on Monroe Road that closed in 2016—to a community that organizes and hosts an assortment of arts-related events, from regular bonfires to art shows around town.
Last year, Gregory achieved her longtime goal of acquiring a school bus to deliver art instruction and activities to neighborhoods throughout Charlotte, especially where she grew up. The force behind each of The Underground’s iterations is Gregory herself, who’s driven by the belief that art can create opportunity—and help the west side maintain and celebrate its historically Black character.
Here’s Gregory in her own words, edited for space and clarity.
I STARTED DOING The Underground thing over 10 years ago. It was all about me finding other Black artists here, which, growing up in the ’80s in Charlotte, I didn’t think existed. I didn’t know where to meet them or how to be a part of that movement.
I’M THINKING, Probably not going to be around long. Nobody’s going to come through. When I first opened the doors, that place was crowded ’til the doors closed. I met so many Black artists here in Charlotte: visual artists, chefs, gardeners. We had a bonfire every Tuesday night, rain or shine. The first bonfire, there were about 11 of us. After that, it could be anywhere from 50 to 120 people.
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