- Goldmine: Root
- Oral History Collections
- Charlotte Regional Oral History
- Jerald Melberg oral history interview, 2018 February 23
Jerald Melberg oral history interview, 2018 February 23
Long time Charlotte art gallery entrepreneur and curator, Jerald Melberg, reflects on his life and his professional involvement with the art community in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he served as a curator at the Mint Museum of Art for several years before opening the Jerald Melberg Gallery in 1983. Growing up in Anoka, Minnesota, Mr. Melberg describes his strict Baptist upbringing and his college years studying acting and theatre at Bob Jones University. Having changed his focus to art, Mr. Melberg moved to Charlotte in the late 1970s to become the curator of exhibitions at the Mint Museum of Art under the leadership of museum director Milton Bloch. He stresses his admiration for Mr. Bloch who he saw as an insightful leader and patient mentor. Mr. Melberg also describes how his own entrepreneurial spirit enabled him to maximize what was at the time a modest budget to bring major art works to the museum through collaborations with other museums. Working at the Mint Museum of Art allowed Mr. Melberg to observe and influence Charlotte's emerging art scene and to become closely associated with numerous contemporary American artists, most notably Romare Bearden, who he describes here in detail. Despite Charlotte's rapid growth and newly founded art museums and cultural centers, Mr. Melberg expresses his disappointment in what he characterizes as a lack of discernment in art in the community as a whole, noting that this is illustrated in corporate art and the city's architecture. Mr. Melberg's decision to leave the Mint Museum was prompted by a desire to found an art gallery in Charlotte, which he did with the support of investors who he was able to pay back with interest within a year of opening. His work at the Mint had given Mr. Melberg an introduction to significant artists whose work he was now able to promote in his gallery. He describes his interactions with and admiration for artists Wolf Kahn, Robert Motherwell, and Charles Basham, in addition to the previously discussed Romare Bearden and others. However, despite the success of the Jerald Melberg Gallery, Mr. Melberg asserts that his greatest sense of personal pride and achievement has arisen from his support for a school in Arequipa, Peru. He relates how he joined an official visit to Arequipa, (the first city to be twinned with Charlotte), at the behest of the Charlotte city office during the time he was curator at the Mint Museum. His role was to connect with local artists, but the visit resulted in a life-long commitment to support a local school in great need. The parent body at the school impressed Mr. Melberg with their optimism and dedication to their children's education, and he relates how improvements over the years have resulted in the school now having national recognition in Peru.