Raleigh’s Contemporary Art Museum, or CAM, opened last summer just before I flew off for a stint abroad. I never had the chance to explore Raleigh’s new modern art gem, so this week I made my inaugural visit to the produce warehouse-turned-design-hub to explore.

Upon entering, I was overwhelmed by Jose Lerma’s exhibition The Credentialist. Guests must don a pair of blue hospital booties to enter room one and walk across a carpet installation of massive proportions. Expanding on the floor beneath you, Lerma uses varying textures and colors of carpet to pay tribute to his homeland with a cartoonish collage of King Charles II of Spain.

Leaning along the walls of the gallery are large graffiti canvasses of abstract doodles intermingled with historical imagery. The artist jumbles history into a funky tangle of recognizable symbolism in a vital whirl of daggers, bibles, pope’s hat, crenellated castle walls, and coiffed wigs of the aristocracy. The visually captivating paintings offer a unique audio experience as well. Tones resonate peacefully from synthesizer keyboards where the canvases rest.

Once I peeled myself from the hypnosis of the lines and ambient noise, I gravitated towards what first appears to be a gray curtain. But hop on the block near the bridge of Charles’ nose and your world will be rocked. The curtain becomes one huge tennis shoe reflective strip, its luminescent white light filling an entire side of the gallery. Other works by Lerma, including a large stuffed construction paper face reminiscent of a play-doh sculpture, occupy the museum’s upper level.

Next, I headed downstairs to Chicago artist Andy Hall’s exhibition Form Special: Solar Power and Sight CollagesHall explores minimalist form through different mediums and plays with energy, which he captures through solar-powered pieces. A neon TGIF sign lies dormant, packing in the fiery orb’s rays, six days a week, preparing to burst to life for a retro 24 hours before its next hibernation.

Personal favorites were Fresh Watts, a usable karaoke unit powered by the sun where, depending on the weather, one can jam to Beatles songs, and Tilt Rocker, an interactive stereo system where a rocker can be tilted from side to side to produce either DJ beats or percussion solos by the artist himself. Both pieces worked brilliantly for me despite torrential downpour and angry skies that persisted throughout my visit.

CAM is a breath of fresh air amidst other occasionally stuffy museum encounters. If you’re looking to stray from tradition to get a more contemporary fix in Raleigh’s hip downtown warehouse district, CAM is the spot. Check out The Credentialist until September 2, and Form Special on view until October 8.