By Bernie Petit
They say you can’t move forward without first looking back – we’ve all heard the saying about those who ignore history are doomed and whatnot.
So before we celebrate public art in Charlotte-Mecklenburg this weekend with the “Finding Your Part in Public Art” Scavenger Hunt and a Public Art Lecture and Q&A with Phoenix Public Art Program Director Ed Lebow, we asked Jean Greer, former Arts & Science Council VP of Public Art, to help us remember our public art past. Greer shared her memories about an ambitious public art project of great public interest that resulted from the city’s and county’s adoption of the Public Art Ordinance.
The ordinance, adopted 10 years ago, established a consistent funding source for public art in Charlotte-Mecklenburg by appropriating 1 percent of eligible capital improvement project funds for public art. The ordinance ensures that artworks enhance our public spaces and become an integral part of urban and economic development efforts.
One of the first projects that came as a result of the ordinance is the public artwork found at Time Warner Cable Arena (formerly Charlotte Bobcats Arena), which opened in 2005 in uptown Charlotte.
“Once Charlotte and Mecklenburg County’s ordinances were adopted… funds were set aside for public art at the city’s proposed uptown arena,” Greer recalled. “Many months of behind- the -scenes planning with municipal staff and architects transpired before artists could be invited to apply. Volunteer selection committees reviewed the work of hundreds of artists and interviewed dozens.”
That work led to some of the most recognizable public art found in Mecklenburg County. They include the 24-foot tall “Commerce” and “Transportation” murals by Tommie Robinson and the carved granite benches “Tulip,” “Double Leaf” and “Fallow Gear” by Paul Sires.
They’ve been seen during television broadcasts of Bobcats games, as have “Flying Shuttles,” the four lighted bobbin columns
by Andrew Leicester, Mike Mandel’s “The History of Basketball in the Piedmont” ceramic and glass tile, and Thomas Sayre’s “Trajectory” terrazzo floor.
“Artworks by Andrew Leicester, Mike Mandel, Thomas Sayre, Tommy Robinson and Paul Sires at the Arena bring alive Charlotte and North Carolina’s textile, sports and agricultural history for visitors and residents every day,” Greer said.
Indeed, Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s many public artworks create a sense of space and place for all who come across them, which is why we’re asking all who care about public art locally to participate in one or both of the following events to help celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the public art ordinance:
Public Art Scavenger Hunt, 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, or anytime
Take part in the free “Finding Your Part in Public Art” scavenger hunt from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. along the Tryon Street “cultural mile” in uptown Charlotte. You can begin the hunt at the McColl Center for Visual Art, 721 N. Tryon St., and walk south on Tryon Street to the Levine Center for the Arts on South Tryon Street (think the Bechtler, the Gantt Center, Knight Theater and Mint Museum Uptown) to find selected public artworks, or you can use clues to just find the pieces that intrigue you. Scavenger hunt brochures will be available from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the McColl Center or can be downloaded from ASC’s website here. If you already have plans this weekend, no worries. Download the scavenger hunt brochure and do as much or as little of the hunt as you want on your schedule.
Participants are asked to take creative picture of the public artworks they discover during the scavenger hunt and email them to ASC at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or to share them with ASC via social media: on Facebook at Facebook.com/ASCCharlotte; via Twitter @ASCCharlotte #PublicArtCLT; or on Instagram @ASCCharlotte.
Public Art Lecture, 1:30-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, McColl Center for Visual Arts Innovation Institute
Once you have a solid grasp on the public art uptown has to offer, or if you want to learn more about how public art is integrated into a community like Charlotte-Mecklenburg, stick around for the free Public Art Lecture by Phoenix Public Art Program Director Ed Lebow, who will lead a discussion of national public art issues and topics. There will also be a question-and-answer segment following his presentation.
Hear more from Ed and about public art locally on the podcast from last week’s WFAE ‘Charlotte Talks’ – http://bit.ly/1gzRKwc