Around Town

Move over, Disco Chicken. There’s cool public art outside of uptown

Most Charlotteans are familiar with uptown’s iconic public art.

Niki de Saint Phalle’s “Firebird” at the Levine Center for the Arts became the QC’s symbol practically from the day it was installed.

Raymond J. Kaskey’s “4 Statues at Independence Square” (that is the formal moniker for the statues at the Trade and Tryon intersection, by the way) sees more bankers in a day than the Federal Reserve.

But what about Charlotte’s other, less prominently displayed public art? Here are my favorites.

(1) “Ascendus” by Ed Carpenter.


– Location: Josh Birmingham Parkway at Billy Graham Parkway.

– Why it’s cool: This 60-foot-high alloy and stainless steel and glass sculpture reminds me of a huge flying wing right out of “Star Wars.” It is placed at a wicked angle right at the main entry road to Charlotte Douglas International Airport. It looks like it’s either about to take off or fall over – each outcome is equally cool.

– Did you know? It glows in the dark.

(2) “Grandiflora” by Thomas Sayre.


– Location: Randolph and Wendover roads.

– Why it’s cool: Because it’s reviled. My pal Sarah Crosland wrote in 2011 that the rings were the “worst of the worst” of the city’s public art. The giant “onion rings” have grown on me over the years.

– Did you know? The rings led to a series of similarly spheroid discs by the same artist. The six large concrete and steel discs that ring the Scaleybark Blue Line station are collectively known as “Furrow,” and pay tribute to our agricultural past.

(3) “Timeline” by Robert Winkler.


– Location: Latta Park.

– Why it’s cool: It’s constructed entirely with reclaimed streetcar rails used more than 120 years ago in this neighborhood. The Dilworth Community Association rallied the neighbors to pony up $30,000 to fund the public art project. Plus it is very yellow. I like yellow.

– Did you know? Local filmmaker Donald Devet produced a 30-minute back-story video on the entire project.

TIMELINE • History Transformed Into Art from Charlotte ViewPoint on Vimeo.

(4) “Metalmorphosis” by David Cerny.


– Location: Whitehall Office Park, 3700 Arco Corporate Drive.

– Why it’s cool: No, it is not misspelled — it’s “METALmorphosis.” C’mon what is cooler than a GIANT human head that doubles as a disco ball?

– Did you know? It actually spits water out of its mouth into a pool below. I think it’s water.

(5) “Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg” by Raymond J. Kaskey.


– Location: In cold storage somewhere at an undisclosed location. Between the two daily parking decks at the airport. Formerly: Charlotte Douglas International in front of the main terminal.

– Why it’s cool: No the Queen hasn’t been kidnapped; she’s simply cooling her heels while the airport parking deck construction finishes up. I love this statue of her more than the Lilliputian one on College St. uptown cuz she’s huge here, 15-feet-high and she looks like she just got a chest pass from Steph Curry in the gut.

– Did you know? The sculptor is the same guy that did the “4 Statues at Independence Square” at Trade and Tryon. Both were funded by the uber-private “Queens Table,” a group of art-minded philanthropists who like to give cool stuff to the city.

Photo: Steve Copulsky (“Timeline”); Creative Commons


Read more from Michael Solender at and follow him on Twitter at @mjsolender.