Bringing billboard art to a city of drivers

Categories: ASC, Blog

By Bernie Petit
Communications Specialist 

There’s something big and magical about works of art splashed across billboards throughout the city.

It’s one of the reasons Wendy Hickey, a national sales representative for Adams Outdoor Advertising, started ArtPop 10 years ago. And it’s why she’s excited about bringing the national program, which promotes local artists through available billboard space, to Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

ArtPop creator Wendy Hickey of Adams Outdoor Advertising.
ArtPop creator Wendy Hickey of Adams Outdoor Advertising.

“It feels like it’ll be the biggest program I’ve ever done,” Hickey said. “And it just feels like it’s being very well received… it feels like Charlotte is very welcoming to this.”

A wide range of artists that live or work in Mecklenburg County have applied to be part of the local program, the result of a public-private partnership between Adams Outdoor Advertising and the Arts & Science Council (ASC). Twenty will be selected for the inaugural year, with artwork going up the first week of January 2014. Fifteen of the works will be selected by a jury of local arts and design expert; the final five will be selected by a public vote on the week of Nov. 25.

The billboards, to be placed throughout Adams Outdoor Advertising’s Charlotte coverage area and rotate across locations on a space available basis, will offer mini-cultural experiences for local motorists.

“You’re driving to work, you’re not having a good day and then all of a sudden you see this beautiful painting,” Hickey said. “It’s just inspiring.”

Hickey started the program while based in the Pocono Mountains region of northeastern Pennsylvania. A board member of a local arts council at the time, she thought connecting artists with available billboard space would make for a great community outreach project.

She named the program “ArtPop” about five years ago. The “Art” is self-explanatory; the “Pop” stands for “Public Outdoor Project.”

“In our business of billboards, we call our medium ‘out of home’ or ‘outdoor advertising,’ so that’s where the ‘Public Outdoor Project’ comes from,” she said. “That’s the ‘Pop’ in ‘ArtPop.’”

An ArtPop billboard from another market.
An ArtPop billboard from another market.

ArtPop took off, and as Hickey transferred to new markets with Adams – Kalamazoo, Lansing and Ann Arbor, Mich., and Peoria and Champagne, Ill. – she re-created it. When she came to Charlotte a year ago, she quickly knew the city’s vibrant arts scene made it a natural fit for program.

Being a city of drivers doesn’t hurt.

“Charlotte has tremendous commuter time,” said Hickey, who considers herself “a bit of a billboard geek.” “We drive longer than most people in most cities, so I think the opportunity for people to be exposed to this and be exposed to it over and over for a longer period of time is very strong in Charlotte.”

From an Adams Outdoor Advertising perspective, partnering with ASC to bring ArtPop to the Charlotte community is about giving back. Plus it’s another way for the company to put out great messages for public consumption, Hickey said.

If it helps someone who isn’t a fan of out of home advertising think differently about the medium, that’s also a win.

“At the end of the day, if somebody is able to promote their work or sell their work through this program,” she said, “that would probably be the biggest payoff.”