By: David Fowler
Seattle has Mt. Rainier and the Puget Sound. San Francisco and Oakland are fondly referred to as the “Bay Area.” The beautiful ridges of the Rockies are visible from Denver. New York City boasts one of the largest harbors in the world. Many of the great cities in this country have some geographic landmark that helps define them and tell their story. So, what does Charlotte have? Creeks.
The history of the city of Charlotte begins at the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets. Many years ago, Trade and Tryon were Native American trading paths. Trade and Tryon are located where they are because they run along the high ground formed by nearby creeks. Many people fail to realize the significant impact that the creeks have had in Charlotte’s history.
Mary Newsom, Associate Director of Urban and Regional Affairs at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, is one of the leading minds behind a project called City of Creeks designed to celebrate the creeks of Charlotte. City of Creeks, which is expected to launch in the spring of 2015, will combine hard science, heritage, and the arts to highlight the importance of the creeks in the area and engage the public on the topic in a new way.
“There seems to be this civic angst about the lack of a distinctive land form in Charlotte. We don’t have a mountain or a harbor or a bay,” said Newsom. “What we have is creeks.”
The project will consist of written and published narratives of three different creeks in the area. These narratives will analyze in depth the current state of the creeks as well as explore the history and heritage of the creeks and the impact they’ve had on the community. In addition to these publications, artists in the area will create pieces of art influenced by the profiles and scientific findings in the creeks studied.
The goal of the project is to celebrate the creeks of Charlotte while also engaging locals in local environmental issues.
“The artists that work with us will put together gallery exhibits in the UNC Charlotte gallery uptown,” said Newsom. “They will also be out in the community, taking their art and our message to the people in order to engage and educate them.”
City of Creeks is year two of KEEPING WATCH, a three year collaborations between the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and the UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture. KEEPING WATCH is designed to explore three different environmental issues and engage citizens in public discourse. For more information on KEEPING WATCH, visit www.keepingwatch.org.