Public art gives communities new ground to share their stories

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'Finding New Ground.'
‘Finding New Ground.’

By Bernie Petit
Communications Specialist 

Broken sentimental things are made beautiful again in a public art piece representative of sacred symbols of protection and trust.

Charlotte-based artist Tom Thoune integrated chipped teacups, cracked dishes and similar items donated by residents from the surrounding Grier Heights neighborhood into “Finding New Ground,” installed in November 2011 at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Providence Station on North Wendover Avenue in Charlotte.

The community engagement involved in creating the two six-foot sculptures makes it one of Arts & Science Council Interim President Robert Bush’s favorite public art pieces.

ASC Interim President Robert Bush
ASC Interim President Robert Bush

“The neighbors gave Tom all of these dishes and pottery and things that were personal to them for him to then destroy and turn into a new work of art,” Bush said. “It’s not the most expensive piece have done – it was a $36,000 commission – but it’s a local artist who is beginning to make a name for himself in the world of public art, which I think is very important, and it’s clearly tied to that neighborhood.”

Making personal connections between public art and the communities in which they are located is a hallmark of the local public art process, Bush said.

“In every project, the artist is required to work with the community,” he said. “These pieces speak to those places where they are. They are not the sort of thing that can go anywhere. They are unique to that place.”

The sculptures at the CMPD Providence Station are in the form of pinecones, which are the symbol of Grier Heights. Sharing the same geometry of the rose and sunflower, the pinecone’s scales spiral in a perfect Fibonacci sequence, shielding the spine and seeds at its heart.

The shattered pieces of imperfect china make up the mosaic covering the two six-foot sculptures.

“They are incredibly detailed,” Bush said. “Even from the street you see this gorgeous pattern and they are quite unique.”Finding New Ground 2

That’s what public art does – create a distinctive sense of place and space. Whether funded through public or private sources, public artwork tells the personal stories of our neighborhoods while connecting them to the greater Charlotte-Mecklenburg community.

And “Finding New Ground” has a wonderful story to tell, Bush said.

“These pine cones are a symbol of the collaboration between the neighbors and the police in protecting one another,” he said. “That’s a big statement.”