By Bernie Petit
Public art is all around us—even places we don’t expect to find it.
Hidden works lurk in interior locations and blend into parks and architecture, beckoning to us and inviting us to stick around awhile.
Some greet you warmly as soon as you enter one of our uptown buildings. Others force you to look up. Or down. Or to stop and smell the roses.
But once you discover any of them, your perception of that place and space is forever altered.
In what we hope will become the first in an occasional series uncovering some of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s “hidden” treasures, we take a look at eight of our favorite uptown public artworks hiding in plain sight.
Artist: James Carpenter.
Where You Can Find It: Charlotte Convention Center.
What You’ll Uncover: Perched in the circular opening of the dome in the Convention Center’s Grand Hall, the three-dimensional light reflective sculpture made of glass and steel creates shifting patterns and designs on the floor. It’s one of nine public artworks found at the Convention Center.
Passing Through Light
Artist: Erwin Redl.
Where You Can Find It: I-77 Underpass at West Trade Street.
What You’ll Uncover: The immersive public artwork consists of three sequences of light that slowly loop through a color gradient, turning what was an unsafe, unwelcoming space into a visual, dynamic gateway for vehicles and pedestrians as they enter and exit Charlotte’s Northwest corridor. The project was the first in the state to test the N.C. Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT) art on the right-of-way policy, which provides a way for communities to undertake public art projects within the NCDOT right-of-way.
Rendering the Familiar
Artists: Amy Baur and Brian Bolden.
Where You Can Find It: City-County Courts District, 700 E. 4th St.
What You’ll Uncover: Digital images past and present Charlotte are merged in this wall installation to provide a sense of perspective and peace.
We Hold These Truths (exterior) and Let Justice Like a River Roll (interior)
Artists: Robin Brailsford, artist & Fred Chappell, poet.
Where You Can Find It: Mecklenburg County Courthouse, 832 E. 4th St.
What You’ll Uncover: On the exterior, quotes from the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution are accompanied by complementary phrases that provide historical and philosophical context. The interior holds a carved poem written by Chappell, a former North Carolina Poet Laureate, which echoes, in poetic form, the sentiments of America’s founders.
Artist: Ned Kahn.
Where You Can Find It: Parking deck of the International Trade Center, 200 N. College St.
What You’ll Uncover: The inspiration for the piece came from the Archer Daniels Midland silos still standing in Fourth Ward. Its undulating metal screens are evocative of grain silos and are designed to allow ventilation while creating a visual screen.
Artist: Jean Tinguely.
Where You Can Find It: Carillon Building, 227 W. Trade St.
What You’ll Uncover: Cascade, created in 1991, was the last monumental work by the famed kinetic sculptor. Tinguely came to Charlotte at the behest of his friend Andreas Bechtler, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art benefactor. The artist incorporated pieces he discovered locally into the work, including a lion’s head from the façade of the old Hotel Charlotte, where the Carillon currently stands.
Artist: Ben Long.
Where You Can Find It: Exterior rotunda of the TransAmerica Building, 401 N. Tryon St.
What You’ll Uncover: The fresco requires you to crane your neck in order to see faces and images iconic to North Carolina. Among them are the Tar Heel mascot and former Bank of America Chairman and CEO Hugh McColl.
Traces of Fourth Ward
Artist: Shaun Cassidy.
Where You Can Find It: Fourth Ward Neighborhood Park, 301 N. Poplar St.
What You’ll Uncover: The steel sculpture is fashioned in the style of the Victorian homes prominent in the historic neighborhood. It also supports a climbing rose bush that covers the structure.