By Bernie Petit
You wouldn’t know Charlotte-Mecklenburg without public art.
Our public art tells the story of the county’s past and celebrates its future. It attracts tourism and business. It shapes how we view our neighborhoods and brings us together.
It makes us smile.
All of that is worth celebrating, which is what the Public Art Commission, along with the Arts & Science Council (ASC), will do Saturday, Sept. 28, with a celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Public Art Ordinance. The ordinance, adopted by Mecklenburg County on Dec. 17, 2002, and the city of Charlotte on May 27, 2003, established a funding source for public art by allocating 1-percent of eligible capital improvement projects.
The celebration will be highlighted by the “Finding Your Part in Public Art” Scavenger Hunt, where anyone with an interest is invited to follow clues to discover public art along Uptown Charlotte’s “Cultural Mile,” which stretches from the McColl Center for Visual Arts to the Levine Center for the Arts along Tryon Street.
Uptown Charlotte, in particular, is a treasure trove of public art, which provides a sense of space and place in the center city. In many ways, uptown is defined by the public artwork found on seemingly every corner.
Here, we tell you what public art says about the Queen City in this look at eight public artworks that have shaped Uptown Charlotte.
Artist: Sally Rogers
What It Means to Uptown: Located in front of the Trademark Building on West Trade Street, the stainless steel piece is an example of a private business partnering with ASC to create public artwork.
7) Flying Shuttles
Artist: Andrew Leicester
What It Means to Uptown: The colorful artwork, which some refer to as “Bobbins,” creates a whimsical entry plaza for Time Warner Cable Arena. The piece highlights the Carolinas’ textile history and celebrates its craft and ceramic traditions.
6) Sculptures on the Square
Artist: Raymond Kaskey
What It Means to Uptown: The sculptures were gifted to the city of Charlotte by Queens Table, a private philanthropic group whose members choose to remain anonymous. The four bronze statues located at the busy Trade and Tryon streets intersection represent Commerce, Industry, Transportation and The Future.
5) The Writer’s Desk
Artist: Larry Kirkland
What It Means to Uptown: The tribute to longtime Charlotte Observer publisher Rolfe Neill fronts ImaginOn and The Joe and Joan Martin Center on East 7th Street. Coupled with the nearby “Touch My Building,” it’s helped create a family-friendly spot for public art uptown.
4) Touch My Building
Artist: Christopher Janney
What It Means to Uptown: If you’ve walked by the Bank of America Seventh Street Station, you’ve likely touched this interactive kinetic sculpture of illuminated glass fins attached to the exterior of the parking garage. The piece brings a melodic sound to uptown. That’s because, when touched, a fin lights up and emanates a mix of tones, and the entire building ‘performs’ on the hour.
3) Wind Sculpture
Artist: Jack Pentes
What It Means to Uptown: There was no Gateway Center when this Queens Table purchase went up in Third Ward on West Trade Street. The stack of six spheres, made from metal and in the shape of a triangle, helped create a sense of excitement and place for a location that’s grown up around it.
2) Il Grande Disco
Artist: Arnaldo Pomodoro
What It Means to Uptown: Representative of industrial growth, it’s affectionately referred to as the Disco Wheel. Located at the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets, the magnificent piece is a popular photo op for tourists.
Artist: Niki de Saint Phalle
What It Means to Uptown: The youngest selection included, Firebird is already one of the most beloved public artworks in the city. Folks love posing for pictures in front of the piece, so much so that The Charlotte Observer usually holds a Firebird photo contest each summer.
Think You Know Charlotte’s Public Art?
Prove it by taking part in the free ‘Finding Your Part in Public Art’ Scavenger Hunt in Uptown Charlotte Sept. 28. Anyone looking for a fun way to get better acquainted with public art in Uptown Charlotte is invited to participate. The hunt provides an overview of public art along the ‘Cultural Mile.’ You can begin the hunt at the McColl Center for Visual Art and walk south on Tryon Street, or you can use clues to find the pieces that intrigue you.
Scavenger hunt brochures can be picked up between 9:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, at the McColl Center or downloaded from artsandscience.org beginning Sept. 14. Participants are asked to take creative pictures of the works they find as part of the scavenger hunt and to email them to ASC at firstname.lastname@example.org and to also share them with ASC via social media: on Facebook at Facebook/ASCCharlotte; via Twitter @ASCCharlotte #PublicArtCLT; or on Instagram @ASCCharlotte. Already have plans Sept. 28? That’s okay! Just download the scavenger hunt brochure and complete as much or as little of it as you want at your leisure. Happy hunting!