By Bernie Petit
It’s too early to compare the North Tryon Business Corridor to historic South End, the bustling urban neighborhood south of uptown Charlotte.
But that’s the type of long-term growth public art created in conjunction with the North Tryon Business Corridor streetscape improvement project could help encourage.
The Arts & Science Council (ASC), in partnership with the City of Charlotte and McColl Center for Visual Art, has commissioned artist Sheila Klein to create artwork to compliment the streetscape project, which will include Charlotte’s first Greenroad (a certification similar to LEED for buildings), just outside the I-277 loop.
Klein will develop permanent artwork, as well as temporary art and engagement projects, to draw attention to the potential urban agriculture center envisioned for the area.
“I think this all ties together and that’s what the community has been telling us,” said Tom Russell, project manager for the city’s North Tryon Business Corridor team. “They want to rebrand the area. We want this to be a destination.”
That’s where Klein, who calls Bow, Wash., home, comes in. With a background in architecture and art, her expertise is in creating spaces where people want to be and want to see.
Her permanent artwork and temporary pieces in the North Tryon Business Corridor will hopefully serve as a catalyst for civic experiences that would not happen otherwise, she said.
“It feels like the edges are pushing out there and things are being connected,” Klein said. “This is going to be one of those things that threads it all together.”
Indeed, the corridor is poised and ready for growth, said Tony Kuhn of Vision Ventures and North End Partners, both of Charlotte. Kuhn was a member of the committee that selected Klein for the project.
The Greenroad will be located along the corridor from Dalton Avenue to W. 30th Street/Matheson Avenue. The project will be adjacent to the Lockwood, Graham Heights and Tryon Hills neighborhoods; the 30th & Atando and Rosedale areas; and the Intown & Railroad Area – generally bounded by I-277, Graham and North Tryon streets, Dalton and Matheson avenues and the railroad tracks along Brevard Street.
The permanent public artwork will be one of the first physical signs of the change happening in the area, Kuhn said.
“It’s symbolic,” he said. “This is going to be one of the starting points of the revitalization of the neighborhood so we want to make sure residents and the community is engaged so everyone takes ownership of the change that’s coming.”
Klein has already sought out community input to better understand the corridor and the people that live there. She will develop and refine her concept for the streetscape project in the coming weeks. Her permanent artwork is expected to be completed this fall or winter.
“I really try to learn as much as I can about the place itself – the position of the site, the physical attributes, the goals of the projects, the limitations – and then I try to expand upon what is possible and try to make connections between things,” she said. “I try to make an experience that is really special and unique to that place.”
ASC and the City of Charlotte were awarded a $100,000 National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant to support the artwork and place Klein in residence at the McColl Center through November. The grant supplements funds allocated from the city ordinance that appropriates one-percent of eligible capital improvement funds for public art.