The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African- American Arts and Culture celebrates the contributions of Africans and African-Americans to American culture and serves as a community epicenter for music, dance, theater, visual art, film, arts education programs, literature and community outreach. Harvey Gantt, was the city's first African-American mayor and the first African-American student at Clemson University.
Located at South Tryon and Stonewall streets, the four-story 46,490-square foot building is a "modernist structure wrapped in glass and metal", is 360' by 40' and located above tunnels connecting College Street and Stonewall Street to a parking garage for Duke Energy Center.
To allow access by car and truck ramps on the narrow site (400' x 60'), the lobby is on the second floor and is reached by stairs and escalators which frame a central glass atrium and are based on Jacob's Ladder in the Book of Genesis.
The design was inspired by Myers Street School in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Charlotte, an African-American section of the city which was demolished as a result of urban renewal in the 1960s. The school was Charlotte's only public school for African-Americans from 1886 to 1907.
The Jacob's Ladder concept also appears outside the building. Another feature of the building is a rain screen, with perforated metal panels in some areas and windows in others, resembling a quilt with fluorescent lights that resemble stitches.
Freelon Group won the 2009 Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture from the American Institute of Architects for projects that included the Gantt Center. On the east wing wall is Divergent Threads, Lucent Memories, a work by David Wilson of Apex inspired by quilts which recalls the history of Brooklyn.
On the plaza connecting the center to other area buildings, Intersections by Juan Logan uses Kuba patterns from Democratic Republic of Congo, with chevron and diamond patterns representing connections between different cultures.