South Charlotte

Streetcar relics spark Dilworth drive for art

The Dilworth community encompasses 15,000 residents and has a history that goes back almost 120 years.

It was Charlotte's first street-car neighborhood.

It is home to countless restaurants and shops, beautiful parks, tree-covered sidewalks and many churches and schools.

For decades, the Dilworth Community Development Association has worked to preserve the community's history and beauty while assisting with commercial expansion.

During recent construction on East Boulevard, pieces of history were unearthed. Original parts of the streetcar lines were found - spikes, brackets and tracks.

A small group of residents decided the fragments should commemorate Dilworth's history.

So the Dilworth Art: Founding Project began.

An advisory committee has been established to spearhead the project, which will need approximately $30,000 for an artist to create sculpture.

"Dilworth really is a very cohesive neighborhood, similar to a town in many ways, but we have no public art. I feel that art is a vital part of civilization. It's an affirmation of the need to communicate, to express, to reach out and touch, to take a stand for something," said Jill Walker, DCDA board member and resident of Dilworth for 27 years.

The large-format sculpture will reside at the triangle intersection of Romany and Dilworth roads - a small but highly visible piece of land. More than 200 area residents recently gathered there to generate enthusiasm for the project and begin fundraising.

"We wanted to kick off the public side of the fundraising to our neighborhood and businesses. The idea was to do an art mob and cover the site with neighborhood residents. We raised a 9-foot railroad thermometer at the site to track our fundraising," said John Fryday, DCDA board member and resident of Dilworth for 18 years.

The fundraising is separated into two segments and is being led by Geoff Owen, former DCDA president and resident of Dilworth for nine years.

"The advisory committee is seeking out friends, family and neighbors to support this project. It's a great way to rekindle friendships while also sharing the project. The second piece is 28203 zip-code brand awareness. I would love to see 15,000 people contribute any amount they can, no matter how small. This is the first of several art projects to come. Art is important. If it's a recession or not, we shouldn't slow down on our love of culture," Owen said.

Leaflets will be sent to every address in the 28203 zip code, including residences and businesses. In addition, posters will be displayed in many businesses to show support and publicity for the project.

The plan for the advisory committee is to complete fundraising in the fall, select and commission an artist for the sculpture in early 2012, and install the completed sculpture by May 2012.

To learn more about the sculpture, visit www.dilworthonline.org or facebook.com/dilworthart.

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