By Bernie Petit
Public art, artist Shaun Cassidy said, should acknowledge the space it inhabits and the surrounding community.
“Origins,” “Community Spring” and “Life,” the three pieces that comprise the public art at the new Reid Park Neighborhood Park in Charlotte, accomplishes both and more.
Created by the artist team of Laurel Holtzapple, Lauren Doran and Cassidy, the public art is part of the Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership initiative launched by the City of Charlotte, the Public Art Commission and ASC to bring more neighborhood-based public art to the city.
Mecklenburg County contributed additional funding to the Reid Park public artwork in order to have it located at the neighborhood park, which opened in November.
Beyond creating a sense of place, the thematic concepts that run through each piece connects to the Reid Park neighborhood’s deep history.
“Origins,” a gateway artwork at the park entrance, honors the pioneers of the neighborhood influential in its founding – Amay James and Ross Reid. “Community Spring,” comprised of three boulders and concrete seating and found along the edge of the playground, is inspired by the neighborhood’s spring, street patterns and quilting tradition.
And “Life,” located by the basketball court, is inspired by the okra plants found in the gardens of early neighborhood residents.
“This park is very, very much a localized community park, so we tried to make the elements and ideas very localized in the park,” Cassidy said. “A lot of that information becomes imagery that’s in the artwork, so hopefully the people that live in the community will see those elements and understand why those elements are in the artwork.”
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte also played a significant role in the Reid Park Neighborhood Park project. The park design was developed by Dylan McKnight with the residents of Reid Park while Dylan was an urban design graduate student at the university.
The university, thanks to the efforts of then-Ph.D. student Tara Bengle, received an ASC Cultural Project Grant to help create tile mosaic benches celebrating the history of Reid Park. Local artist Leslie Scott led the creation of those benches, which are located by the park.
Scott had residents create handprints that were integrated into the benches, while Holtzapple, Doran and Cassidy worked with Reid Park Academy students to create clay reliefs that were incorporated into “Community Spring.”
Considered together, the mosaic benches and the sculptural pieces within the park reflect Reid Park’s history and the legacy left by its pioneers.
“The children had an opportunity to help make those,” neighborhood advocate Ricky Hall said at last month’s park opening. “Our elderly had a chance to make those and all of our residents had an opportunity.”
So, if public art is judged by Cassidy’s standard – by its integration into its location and its connection to the community – the artwork for the Reid Park can only be considered one thing:
Through the Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership initiative, the Charlotte neighborhoods of Grove Park and Reid Park have received public artworks and the neighborhoods of Elizabeth, Sedgefield and the Shamrock Drive Corridor will receive new public art.