A brand new public art exhibit will hit Uptown Charlotte this spring, with 35 individually painted globes popping up on North Tryon Street between 11th and Trade streets in late March and remaining through early October. Cool Globes: Cool Ideas for a Hotter Planet is a nonprofit organization that curates a traveling public art exhibit created to raise awareness of solutions to climate change. Since 2007, the exhibition has traveled around the United States and the world reaching millions of viewers across the actual globe.
There are currently 35 globes being housed at Camp North End in north Charlotte, awaiting their chance to be placed amid the foot traffic of Uptown. While 30 of the globes have already been painted, five remain blank white canvases awaiting the markings of a local artist. The Camp North End site is being used as a staging facility for the globes to be spruced up before going on the streets, says Megan Scarsella, executive director of Cool Globes, and there are requests for proposals out for Charlotte artists to get involved. Each globe comes with a $2,000 stipend to be used by the selected artist.
“It is really fun getting to know the local artist community in the cities that we are involved in,” she says.
Cool Globes was founded in 2006 by Wendy Abrams as a way to acknowledge her commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative, which facilitates commitments to action from members in an applied philanthropic model and aids in many post-disaster efforts globally. Abrams aimed to address the issue of climate change through an interesting and public medium, which is where the scale and size of the globes themselves come in to play. Scarsella calls it, “public art with a purpose.”
Scarsella says the exhibit is a way to educate the public on opportunities to contribute that they might not have been aware of prior to coming to the exhibit.
“Some of the solutions are simple, like turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth or take shorter showers,” she says. “Others are more abstract and are open to self-interpretation in terms of, maybe, needing to do some reflection.”
Deidre and Clay Grubb of Charlotte-based Grubb Properties were behind efforts to bring the globes to the Queen City, according to Scarsella. “That’s what tends to happen; sometimes it’s a local company or an independent person that sees the globes elsewhere and wants to bring them to their city,” she says.
Other partners on the project include Clean Air Carolinas, Arts and Science Council, Sustain Charlotte, Arts+, McColl Center for Arts + Innovation, Bank of America, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation and Charlotte Center City Partners.
Cool Globes is also working with Center City Partners to commission a new mural that relates to climate change as a whole. The art will be done by a local artist, though the location and stipend amount for the project have not yet been set, as organizers continue to find the perfect space for the message.
“Everything we do we aim to be positive and hopeful in the subject matter,” Scarsella tells us.
The Cool Globes exhibit also works as an opportunity for local artists’ work to be featured on a world stage — figuratively and literally — once the exhibit leaves Charlotte and moves elsewhere, as the globes are never stripped of their artwork.
The company started with 120 globes when it opened its first exhibit in Chicago in 2007. Since then they have auctioned many off, while gifting a “legacy globe” to each participating city has become part of a local presenting sponsor package. The proceeds go to environmentally friendly youth organizations such as the Chicago Public Schools Eco Club following the first year.
Scarsella says the youth play an important part in the application of solutions to climate change, as we’ve all seen the “OK Boomer” expression pop up on signs at climate strikes across the country and young people have taken leadership in pressuring federal and local governments on implementing more sustainable practices in the areas that they live.
There are plans for programming around the exhibit to include field trips, summer camp activities, scavenger hunts and more to ensure a greater impact from the exhibit while it’s here.
Cool Globes is looking for artistic innovation from high school students as well. In 2009, Cool Globes began using posters to promote the exhibit around the cities that they take over. That year in Los Angeles, street artist and Obey Clothing founder Shephard Fairey donated his time in creating the posters. His artwork moved around from city to city before the team began to work exclusively with local artists. They are now in search of a high school student to design and develop the artwork for posters to be mass distributed throughout Charlotte.
Scarsella says there is even a possibility to enlarge the images and use them as bus shelter ads in Uptown.
“In meeting with the local committee in Charlotte we thought that it would be a really great opportunity for local high school students,” she says. “We always tend to have youth involved with the exhibit but never has it been so intentional and it’s really exciting to get to involve them.”
Though the globes will be installed in late March, a public unveiling event is planned for April 3, where environmental attorney and anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is scheduled to speak.