Shamrock Drive corridor prepares for new public art

Seven communities in east Charlotte’s Shamrock Drive corridor are trying to redefine their voice in the big city.

Individually, they’re too small to do it alone. Together, they are strong, resilient and persistent.

The residents say they’re tired of being recognized only for bad things – crime and poverty, for example. They want to be recognized for the good things as well. So now, the newly formed coalition has a plan to reinvent itself. The first step? Commission public art.

While searching for grants and programs for public art, residents Sharon Bodrick and Frank Quattrochi stumbled on the Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnerships Initiative of the Arts & Science Council, City of Charlotte and Public Arts Commission. The initiative allots $23,600 each to five neighborhoods for a public art project.

Earlier this year, they learned they were selected.

“There really isn’t any public art located in this part of the city,” Bodrick said. “We have some pieces here and there, but not anything that really ties our neighborhoods together and that speaks to the spirit of our neighborhoods.”

Todd Stewart, ASC public art project manager, said 22 neighborhoods and 23 artists applied for the grant. Recipients are the Elizabeth, Grove Park, Reid Park and Sedgefield neighborhoods and the Shamrock corridor, which includes the Aldersgate, Eastwood Acres, Holiday Hills-Alexander Place, Plaza-Shamrock, Shamrock Hills-Shannon Park, Windsor Park and Country Club Heights communities.

“It’s almost going to be a way of reassuring the existing communities that they’re moving forward and also allow new people to be a part of that,” Stewart said. “This is the starting point for much bigger and better things, and you hear the communities reflect that.”

The Shamrock corridor is different from the other four neighborhoods because it includes seven communities in a 3-mile radius of Shamrock and Eastway drives.

Residents thought it made sense to combine, considering the similarities between them.

“We were all very concerned about the image that the eastside gets,” Bodrick said. “We feel that so often we hear the negative news about what happens on this side, and we hear the positive things happening in other parts.”

The corridor is diverse, which is something the representatives and artists see as a characteristic distinguishing them from the other neighborhoods.

“They have seven different cultures, and we have three different backgrounds and speak several languages, so it’s kind of fun to bring that into the foreground,” said Tina Alberni, one of the three artists working with the Shamrock Drive Corridor. “It’s an ideal complement almost.”

At a community meeting in April, Bodrick says the ideas just kept coming from the residents. One resident suggested the artists play off the corridor’s diversity by placing flags throughout the neighborhoods from different countries. Another suggested the artists create cement blocks so the residents could leave imprints of their hands, like the tiles found on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

Residents noticed the different neighborhoods all have similar values: family, education, safety and nature. And they realized the corner of Eastway Drive and Frontenac Avenue, the center of the corridor, is where they feel the most united.

They suggested putting the art project near high-visibility Garinger High School, which is only a block away.

But the grant’s funding restrictions stand in their way. The grant allows art only on city-owned property. And while Frontenac Avenue is regulated by the city, Eastway Drive is a part of Charlotte Route 4, which is regulated by the state.

The location and project is up to the ASC, which will approve artists’ designs. The schedule will vary by neighborhood, depending on when artists submit proposals. All pieces must be installed by October 2015.

“It’s already helped unite the neighborhood, which is very important,” Bodrick said. “As we come together, we realize that we also have some problems here that all of us in working together can help solve. There’s nothing like unity and commitment and sharing that will help to make a difference – not only in art but also in our government and in our community image.”

Stewart is excited to see how these public art creations turn out in the coming year, but he knows this is not the end of the ASC’s experiment with public art in neighborhoods.

“It’s really just kind of a placeholder for how these residents feel about their community,” Stewart said. “It’s all something that they can hold as a source of pride for themselves.”