Public Art and Community Design
Thomas Sayre, Artist
Uptown Arena, Charlotte, North Carolina
"The difference between utility and utility plus beauty is the difference between telephone wires and a spider web."
-- Edwin Way Teal, naturalist and author
Public art was once defined as artwork located in a public space. The notion that public art is just a memorial or sculpture placed on a plaza has given way to art forms incorporated into the fabric of the community and defined by citizen participation. When properly integrated, public art enhances the environment, create a sense of place, expresses a community's values and identity, and can bring creative people together find solutions to a community's infrastructure and social challenges.
As part of the overall community design, artists can build a visual vocabulary of places, forms, patterns and materials that describe a community's unique qualities.
Since the inception of the Creating Place Program in 2001, some 30 public art planning or implementation grants have been awarded. Grants for public art visioning and planning have resulted in Master Plans for the communities of Asheville (1% for art program), Hendersonville, Hickory, Chapel Hill (1% for art program), Cary, Wilson, and Kinston. Public art planning is currently occurring in Raleigh and Burlington. Other notable planning projects include: a design competition for a Floyd Flood Memorial in Greenville, a fanciful Tribute Garden to the late folk artist, Minnie Evans at Airlie Gardens in Wilmington, interactive playground components for special needs children at the Paul Braxton Center in Siler City, and a significant gateway project for the Town of Cary.
Public art implementation projects have included a community-based, tile table and bench project in Spruce Pine, the initial artwork for a fishing heritage trail in Morehead City and a series of colorful concrete fern-like sculptures along a portion of the Perry Ruddick Nature Trail at the Center of Craft, Creativity, and Design in Hendersonville.
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