Underpass Mural Builds Community in North End

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Why This Matters: ASC Cultural Vision Grants respond to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community’s interest in cultural programming by helping Mecklenburg-based creative individuals and groups pursue projects that build community and increase relevance.
Part of a community mural at the 16th Street underpass. An ASC grant will support a second mural at the underpass.
Part of a community mural at the 16th Street underpass. An ASC grant will support a second mural at the underpass.
By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Officer Charlissa Reiber’s creative idea to brighten a much-traveled underpass transformed what was a problem area into a source of community pride.

Last January, CMPD Metro Division sergeants, asked officers to come up with possible community projects. Reiber, an officer for the CMPD Metro Division for seven years, thought a new mural could bring a much-needed sense of color and light to the underpass at 16th and North Tryon streets in North End, just outside of uptown Charlotte and a spot where officers regularly encountered issues with prostitution and drug use.

So she approached NorthEnd Partners, which helped arrange a mural at the underpass for the 2012 Democratic National Convention. That meeting led to artists from Brand the Moth, volunteers from NorthEnd Partners and guests of the nearby Men’s Shelter of Charlotte joining with CMPD officers to paint a mural along the northbound side of underpass in August.

“It makes a nice statement as a new entryway to the area,” Reiber said. “I think some of the men in the shelter have pride in their work as well. It makes the area look nicer.”

It’s also an unexpected way of reducing crime, said Brand the Moth co-founder Sam Guzzie, one of the lead artists for the project.

“Murals have an amazing way of bringing people together and making people want to stand up for their community,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot more community rallying around keeping this a safe space.

“A lot of the men have said that just because they’re homeless doesn’t mean that they don’t care about the community and they don’t want to help make it better.”

Volunteers paint one side of the underpass at the 16th Street bridge. An ASC Grant will help NorthEnd Partners, Brand the Moth, the Men’s Shelter and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to create another mural at the underpass.

The collaborative did not have the funds to paint both sides of the underpass, which is where ASC comes in.

The group will receive $5,000 to complete a second mural at the underpass as one of 17 projects supported by the latest round of ASC Cultural Vision Grants, which help nonprofit organizations and creative individuals pursue initiatives that build community or demonstrate relevant cultural expression.

The grant from ASC will also allow artists and residents from the Men’s Shelter to be paid for their time and will potentially support additional lighting for the underpass, Guzzie said.

“It’s support for exactly what we want to do and that is giving back to the community,” she said.

The current mural at the underpass depicts a series of waves to mimic the ups and downs of life that many of the homeless men that helped paint the mural said they were experiencing. Like that mural, the next one – expected to be finished by May – will be based on community feedback.

“By working directly with the community,” Guzzie said, “it’s a direct reflection of the people that will see it the most.”

The latest round of Cultural Vision Grants will provide nearly $89,000 in funding for cultural projects. Award recipients selected are:

To build community by connecting individuals across points of difference to increase understanding, acceptance and positive regard between communities:

  • Charlotte Jewish Film Festival (CJFF) – $5,000 to support valued-added programming in the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival that promotes cross-cultural understanding and engagement through partnerships with Charlotte’s LGBTQ, autistic and African-American communities.
  • Moving Poets Charlotte – $10,000 to support “We See Heaven Upside Down,” an evolving multidisciplinary arts project responding to challenges of migration, displacement and identity in contemporary society.
  • NorthEnd Partners – $5,000 to foster community pride by bringing together artists from the collaborative Brand the Moth, volunteers from NorthEnd Partners, guests of Men’s Shelter of Charlotte and CMPD officers to create a mural for the underpass at 16th and Tryon streets.
  • Stacey Rose – $10,000 to support open developmental workshops for the play “The Danger: A Homage To Strange Fruit,” bringing West Boulevard residents together with theatre professionals for the creation of a new work that represents their lived experiences.
  • The Arts Empowerment Project – $7,500 to bring together youth and law enforcement officers through shared visual arts experiences to begin the process of healing and improving community-police relationships in Charlotte.

To build community by nurturing, celebrating and supporting the authentic cultures and creative expression of specific neighborhoods:

  • Bunong Indigenous Community Association – $1,000 to create a series of Charlotte-based workshops on traditional Bunong performing and visual arts for the Bunoung community’s youth.
  • C.N. Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church – $3,000 to support the Global Peace International Festival, a rich cultural heritage celebration that brings together performers and artists from 11 different countries in a traditionally African American community.
  • Central Piedmont Community College Foundation – $5,000 to produce “Dances of India,” an authentic Asian Indian cultural program that builds appreciation and understanding of Charlotte’s Indian community through the sharing of performing arts traditions.
  • Charlotte Dragon Boat Association – $5,000 to support the 2018 Charlotte Dragon Boat/Asian Festival at Ramsey Creek Park – a celebration of Asian traditions, arts and heritage.
  • CrownKeepers – $3,500 to support #ImAnArtistDammit, a month-long residency program for four artists from underrepresented communities – showcasing their individual talents and culminating in a collaborative exhibit that explores similarities across their experiences.
  • Girls Rock Charlotte – $4,925 to provide a one-week camp for girls and trans youth ages 14-18 learning to create a short films using accessible technology, a unique opportunity to promote more women/girls in film.
  • Latin Americans Working for Achievement – $5,000 to support Dancing for Diversity, a series of Latin dance classes for Latino elementary students and their peers, bolstering the understanding and appreciation of Latin culture, boosting self-confidence and fostering friendships across cultures.

To increase relevance and innovation by activating nontraditional performance or exhibition spaces close to where people live:

  • Let Hope Rise Foundation – $2,500 to create a two-week arts, performance and technology academy for 50 students from the Steele Creek area after which students will present a major musical for the community.
  • Project Art Aid – $4,290 to support The Mobile Device Creativity Lab, which brings hands-on instruction and creative art making to the residential communities of seniors and members of ALAANA communities using digital tools and cutting edge technologies.
  • Que-OS – $7,500 to produce the 3rd year of BOOM Festival, Charlotte’s artist/community-led fringe arts festival. BOOM draws local/national talent to showcase experimental visual/performance art over three days in Charlotte’s Plaza-Midwood Neighborhood.
  • Jimi Thompson – $4,750 to support Wake-n-Make, a bi-monthly art education program that increases art literacy in communities of color surrounding Camp North End through creative problem solving skills and traditional art education.

To increase relevance and innovation by providing groundbreaking and participatory experiences that reflect the changing communities in which we live:

  • Davidson College – $5,000 to support the gallery’s exhibition and performances of “Jen Ray: Surrounded by Wolves,” an exploration female rebellion and the shifting nature of a woman’s identity, including what it means to be a feminist in the South.

Want to Apply?

Mecklenburg County-based creative individuals and nonprofit organizations that want to apply for the next round of ASC Cultural Vision Grants must submit a letter of intent by Friday, March 2, 2018 by noon. Full application guidelines are available here.

Organizations that have a current operating or project grant from ASC are not eligible to apply at this time. Funded projects must start between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019 and conclude before June 30, 2020.