The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Public art can be found throughout Charlotte. To highlight some of these diverse artworks in the uptown area, the Arts & Science Council put together a Public Art Walking Tour podcast. This is so easy to use, and it guides you through a cross section of the free art in our city. Even if you are familiar with the works of art on the tour, this podcast will give you a fresh perspective.
Simply go to the Arts & Science Council link and download the 45-minute podcast into your favorite device. Its website has a black and white map of the tour, as well as another helpful brochure showing many more public artworks in the area. (The podcast only focuses on a dozen or so areas of public art in the Charlotte Center City.)
Even though it is summer in the South, getting out of the car and taking an art walk uptown is well worth the effort. The tour starts in the Carillon Building at 227 W. Trade St., which also happens to be where the Arts & Science Council office is located.
The Carillon Building history is intertwined with Charlotte’s own. The Bechtler family asked Jean Tinguely to create “Cascade” for the building, which turned out to be his last work before his death. "Cascade" is a fantastic, large-scale example of Tinguely’s kinetic sculptures. More of Tinguely’s art can be found in the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art on Tryon Street.
(On a side note, Tinguely was married to other Bechtler artist Niki de Saint Phalle. The Bechtler Museum of Art exhibition “Niki de Saint Phalle: Creation of a New Mythology” is on view through Oct. 3, 2011 and includes some of her larger sculptures that are accessible to everyone — also for free — out on The Green across the street from the Bechtler Museum.)
Continuing through the walking tour will provide lots of history, both contemporary and about the roots of Charlotte. These various murals, fountains and other sculptures are an integral part of the urban architecture and a delight to the senses.
Some of these public artworks are large outdoor “can’t miss” structures, like at the Seventh Street Station. “Touch my Building” by Christopher Janney is an interactive public art project he calls “environmental participatory art.” Colorful plexiglass sheets run up the height of the parking deck and the touch panels, which circle the base of the structures for people to make their own sound and light combinations.
Ned Kahn’s “Wind Silos” is located on one side of the International Trade Center’s parking deck between Fifth and Sixth Streets. This silo-inspired structure is comprised of many stainless steel discs that connote architecture and science, while pointing to the area’s history.
Uptown Charlotte has many fountains, but one of the most interesting is by Howard Ben Tre. His cast glass and bronze sculpture, called “Castellan Figure and Light Towers,” sits at the front of the Hearst Tower Plaza. The simpler cast glass form with constant water trickling over the surface is an excellent contrast to the Art Deco look of the Hearst Tower itself.
These are just a few of the many public artworks everyone can enjoy for free in Charlotte. Thanks to the Arts & Science Council’s mission of shaping a vibrant cultural life for all, we can learn more about these works through their Public Art Walking Tour podcast.