Local Arts

On the Charlotte mural tour: Sharon Dowell, thinking about coexistence

Sharon Dowell
Sharon Dowell

Sharon Dowell created artistic imagery out of the constant construction around Charlotte in a recent mural. “We often think of construction as progress … which is true, but then also there’s this sense of loss for nature,” she says. “The concept behind the imagery is about how can we coexist, man and nature together.”

The mural on the CATS underpass at 11th Street, “Halcyon Idyll,” looks complete but is yet to be finished. It is inspired by photos she took of uptown construction. What will eventually be a bike/pedestrian path is not open to the public; CATS is testing trains on those tracks and plans to open the line in 2018. You can currently see the mural safely from the sidewalk across the street.

To create the work, Dowell used Photoshop to manipulated her construction photos into flatter, graphic images. She then wove organic shapes, such as vines, into layers visible in a mixture of bright orange (like construction fencing), neon green and purple.

More of her work is at UNC Charlotte Center City: “Truss Trust” and a piece that responds to HB2 called “City on Its Side.” With public murals, Dowell says, she loves the opportunity to work with the community, who help shape her imagery. She also teaches at Community School of the Arts.

And another mural project is coming to fruition soon: A collage of drawings Dowell helped create through the Arts Empowerment Project (AEP), in a project in which teens and police officers drew together.

The AEP, founded in 2011, places kids who have gone through the juvenile detention system, foster care or abusive homes, into Charlotte arts programs. Founder Natalie Allen and Dowell organized a six-week class in 2016 in which teens and officers were instructed to draw about how they viewed each other. Both women laugh now about how uncomfortable both groups were at being expected to draw – but both came around to enjoying themselves. Among the officers who attended was Lt. Steven Durant. “It’s a little bit bigger than art,” says Durant. “It’s about building relationships.”

The shooting of Keith Lamont Scott occurred during that six weeks. Allen says she didn’t see anger among the teens and officers afterward: “There were a lot of questions.” The program created a space for teens to get some answers, she says. The resulting mural is scheduled to be placed, in panels, onto newsstands and kiosks on South Tryon Street in September.

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