Over the past two decades, the North Carolina Museum of Art has invited musicians from all over the world to its Museum Park Theater, bringing in thousands of concertgoers in the process. In this version of the Humans of the NCMA series for Circa, I caught up with a few music and art lovers to find out what the summer concerts mean to them. Inspired by the Art + Nature + People campaign and the photoblog Humans of New York, which shares peoples’ stories while honoring their anonymity, the following interviews show off the unique characteristics of the NCMA venue, as well as the humans that make the summer concert series so special.
Left: “So I found out about these concerts last year from my friend, and we came to watch Mandolin Orange, and it was just such a cool vibe to just sit down and hear an artist that I’m not truly familiar with. So I told these concerts to my friend here, and she was like ‘Let’s go watch Andrew Bird!’ So, that’s how we’re here and we’re really excited. I moved here when I was around 7, so I would say that I grew up here mostly. I really like it. I don’t come as often as I would like to because I live in Cary, so it’s kind of a commute. But my high school always had field trips to here, so we would always see the exhibits. I was here for the You Are Here exhibit.”
Right: “I’ve lived in Raleigh basically my whole life, too. I come to the Museum pretty often, because it’s a really good place to take photos of people. That’s a pastime that I do. I like to take pictures of people. I like to come around this area a lot, so I come really often to see the exhibitions. I recently saw the one with the lights and all of the books, Still Life With Discontent. I loved that one, which was the most recent show that I saw. I’m a visual artist, and I attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for my junior and senior year of high school and I’m going to Maryland College Institute of Art. In terms of inspiration, I like to talk a lot about my Korean American identity. Whether it be stereotypes, or the struggles of immigration, and all of these things that are difficult to talk about. But with art it’s been a great outlet.
I like listening to Andrew Bird from time to time while I’m working because I’m an art student. But yeah, he’s just chill music, so I was like, ‘We should go!’”
“Especially on a beautiful evening like tonight, there’s not a bad seat. Whether you’re on the lawn, or on the stone steps, it’s an intimate venue, and comfortable. As long as there’s an artist that I want to see, I would come to this venue. Over the years a few times we’ve seen Los Lobos. We’ve seen Tift Merritt. There’s a jazz group that I’m forgetting right now. There are several that I’m obviously drawing a blank on other than the ones I’ve already mentioned … Lyle Lovett, I know he’s coming again this year. And that it’s Courtney Barnett this evening is fabulous, because you know, we’ve watched her on videos and so forth, playing with Kurt Vile. So we’re familiar with her and excited to see her tonight in this particular venue.”
“This concert is kind of the highlight for us this year. I went to a couple last year, and I really enjoyed it. I like that it’s a little bit later, because it’s insanely hot outside, which is why we’re just strolling in now. I’ve seen Superchunk, Tegan and Sara, and then this one, Courtney Barnett.”
“I’ve been coming for a few years now to summer shows here, and it’s honestly one of my favorite venues in Raleigh because of the outdoors. The sound’s really good. I like it all. I’ve been to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, and Head and the Heart, stuff like that here. And it was really fun. This year, specifically, I came to Trampled by Turtles, and this is my second show this summer, the one I was most excited about, Courtney Barnett. My parents are members at the Art Museum, and so they come to most of them with me. Not this one, but in general, they come with me, and it’s always fun to come with them or with friends.”
Right: “The beautiful grounds and the music together make this an awesome concert venue. It’s one of our favorites just ‘cause you can look out and see the beautiful rolling meadow and have some awesome music. We’re partners, and we’ve been together for almost three years now. It’s cool because I grew up walking these grounds. We would drive up from Wilmington and spend a day in the Museum and visit the cloud hut out here. It’s awesome to come back as my own person, not as a little kid, and be enjoying it in this new way.”
Left: “I work at N.C. State, and I manage the chemistry stockroom. I did not know about Andrew Bird before this, so he’s been kind of a through line in our relationship. She introduced me to Andrew Bird within the first week that we were together, within days of us getting together, and I was also drawn to his incredible music style. We definitely bonded over our shared love of outdoor spaces, including and especially the grounds around here. We were just talking about how we were at the Andrew Bird concert two years ago, almost exactly two years ago, and talking about how different our situations are. You know, we both finally graduated, have full-time jobs, but we keep on coming back here, to the NCMA, and to Andrew Bird.”