Local Arts

Engaging the public with color and light

This rendering reflects the sculptural seating that Kim has designed for the UNC Charlotte station on the light-rail Blue Line Extension.
This rendering reflects the sculptural seating that Kim has designed for the UNC Charlotte station on the light-rail Blue Line Extension. COURTESY OF MIKYOUNG KIM

Terms such as community, engagement, integration and environment are ringing in the ears of all who want to improve Charlotte. These descriptors translate to public art in the work of Mikyoung Kim, Boston-based urban designer, landscape architect from Mikyoung Kim Design.

Kim will visit Charlotte for a free lecture at Mint Museum Uptown Feb. 18 as part of the Museum’s Contemporary Architecture + Design series co-sponsored by the Charlotte Area Transit System. She’ll talk about her design for the Blue Line Extension’s UNC Charlotte Station, among other work.

Kim’s projects are focused and specific to both physical context and users. Her use of sound, light and mist are both playful and meditative, and weave through each project to varying degrees. “Exhale,” installed in 2012 in Chapel Hill, illustrates this concept; LED lights fade through colors to tint the mist emitting from a long, low perforated steel crescent, ripe for climbing children’s hands and feet.

In an email, Kim said she is “particularly interested in the choreography of space and the way in which the body engages the experience of color and light – that comes from my background in music.” Indeed, she studied music and piano but also found interest in sculpture and design, illustrated through her degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and and MIT’s Visual and Environmental Studies program.

Here in Charlotte, the UNCC Station will bookend this new portion of the Blue Line light rail system, to be completed in spring 2017. She joined the project in 2013, among a group of 13 Blue Line Extension artists to quickly produce an engaging and integrated design.

While most other commissioned artists on the project are relegated to their stations’ platforms, Kim has access to a large plaza area, which she plans to transform into a “dynamic interactive shadow play environment,” the Art in Transit website says.

The land, whose shape resembles a trapezoid, will include both paving patterns and a sculptural seating element whose forms mimic a wrapping movement or embrace. The two long benches twist and arc, cantilevering at both ends. Light poles at the corners of the main plaza have motion sensors, which will turn on as visitors walk through. “This project brought together two types of projects that we enjoy working on,” she said, “both transit and university work. I am interested in how our work engages the campus and young minds.”

This evidence of concern with audience and site context are reaffirming to CATS Art in Transit Program Manager Pallas Lombardi. “Mikyoung Kim’s experience in academia, training as a landscape architect, and achievements in public art made her a perfect match to integrate art into the UNC Charlotte station and plaza,” Lombardi said.

This story was produced as part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance.

Want to go?

Mikyoung Kim, one of the artists designing for the Blue Line extension, speaks at 6 p.m. Feb. 18 at Mint Museum Uptown. Free with registration.

Details: 704-337-2000; www.Mintmuseum.org.

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