Billboards don’t usually inspire us, except perhaps to buy a fast-food cheeseburger. But the Arts & Science Council and Adams Outdoor Advertising have teamed up to change that in Charlotte.
ArtPop – the “Pop” stands for Public Outdoor Project – showcases the work of 20 local artists. The first billboards went up in late December and will remain on display all year.
The project was spearheaded by Wendy Hickey, who started a billboard art program while working for Adams in Pennsylvania about 10 years ago.
“I thought, from time to time we have available space, so why not help promote local artists’ work?” she said. “And it just grew from there.”
After duplicating the project in other cities, Hickey brought the idea to the ASC after moving here just over a year ago.
“Charlotte, by far, has been the most well-received program I’ve run to date,” she said. She said the city has a “very welcoming to art” attitude.
“For the community,” Hickey said, “I think it’s an opportunity to be exposed to art (in a way) that maybe they haven’t had before, because it’s a private experience as you’re driving in your car. And then for the artists, to me, it’s as big as it gets. It’s a 672-square-foot canvas, and anybody commuting on a particular roadway is going to get exposed to it. So it’s marketing and advertising for an artist that I’m sure most of them probably wouldn’t be able to do on their own.”
Tim Sheaffer, whose painting “Marbles” was among those chosen (Independence Boulevard near Idlewild Road), understands the enormity of this opportunity.
“It’s crazy, one of my artworks is being seen by millions of people,” Sheaffer said, chuckling. “It’s pretty incredible. As an artist, you’re always trying to get your work out there so that it can be seen by as many people as it can be seen by; blown up to that size, it’s a fact I could have never dreamt of. My name is bigger than most of my paintings, and the painting is bigger than my house.”
Carmella Jarvi, whose glass work is featured on a billboard at Interstate 77 near Morehead Street, realizes the potential impact on the artists’ careers.
“The artists who are savvier are going to use it as a strategic marketing tool to get people excited. … Even the ones who aren’t quite as savvy don’t have to worry, they’re still getting exposure,” Jarvi says, adding that the ASC and Adams are “creating new partnerships and new paradigms for supporting the arts.”
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