The Arts & Science Council (ASC) announced Wednesday that Cornelius-based artist Meredith Connelly will spearhead the creation of a “significant public artwork” at Ezell Farms Community Park in Mint Hill, a 90-acre county-funded project that will be located on what was once a privately owned farm at Matthews-Mint Hill Road and Mintwood Drive.
The artwork is expected to be completed in spring 2023 as part of the first phase in the park’s construction, rezoning for which was approved by the Mint Hill Board of Commissioners in December. Phase one will also include a basketball court, splash pad, playground, meadow, amphitheater, restrooms, parking, and enhancements to the existing community garden, according to Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly.
As for Cornelius-based multidisciplinary artist Connelly, she will now work with residents and community stakeholders “to create an impactful artwork that is integrated into the site and connects to the historic farm theme and agrarian and nature-based project vision,” according to an ASC release put out Wednesday.
ASC, which manages the public art programs for Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte, will introduce Connelly to the community at a virtual community engagement workshop scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 20 from 6-7 p.m. The artist will provide an overview of her experience and past projects and listen to residents about their connection to Mint Hill and the Ezell Farms site to identify themes and ideas to inspire her artwork.
“I would love to hear stories from community members about any memories, experiences or special connections they have to the land at the park,” Connelly said in Wednesday’s release. “I also deeply care about nature and light, which typically presents itself in my work, so I would like to know more about what community members are drawn to when they are outside, what they hope to experience within the park through art and how art might enhance and complement the land in their eyes.”
Those wishing to attend the Jan. 20 workshop are asked to RSVP by Jan. 19 to Randella.Foster@artsandscience.org or 704-335-3262 to receive the Zoom meeting link.
Connelly is best known in Charlotte for public projects such as “I Heart Rail Trail” in Charlotte’s South End and “Lights,” an illuminated walking trail commissioned by the U.S. National Whitewater Center in 2019. Her works have also been on view in museums throughout the South and are housed in various private and corporate collections.
How artists are selected for public art projects
In 2002-03, the city and county passed separate but similar public art ordinances that allocate 1% of the funding for capital improvement projects to go toward some type of artistic work on the site. For the county, that means facilities such as parks, rec centers, libraries, greenways and community resource centers. For the city, it’s typically police stations, fire stations, and streetscape projects such as Blue Line stations. ASC also manages public artwork at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
In June 2021, Queen City Nerve spoke with Todd Stewart, vice president of public art for ASC, about how the organization’s Public Art Commission selects artists for county- and city-funded projects.
“We try to do a majority of arts and design professionals, local as much as we can, and then community representatives and stakeholders as well,” Stewart said of the commission’s artist selection panel. “Like if I’m doing a project in a specific neighborhood, I’m reaching out to Housing and Neighborhood Services with the city or various neighborhood associations to see if anyone is interested in public art and things happening in their area and would be agreeable to serving on these [panels].”
Stewart said he tries to champion local artists like Connelly for selection when possible, though it’s not always feasible.
“This seems like a huge field where anyone can do it, but nationally we tend to see the same artists applying for our opportunities,” Stewart said. “I’m always looking for new artists who possibly haven’t done this before, and how ASC can work with them to build their career up. Because public art is weird; it’s not exactly like studio art — of course it’s art and artists are super creative in finding myriad ways of working — but where public art differentiates is it’s almost like you’re an architect-slash-contractor.”
Connelly’s past pieces seem to fit with the themes that will run through the new piece at the new Mint Hill park, as she said her work is inspired by science, nature and technology.
“I am very excited to collaborate with the Mint Hill community regarding creating art for the future Ezell Farms Community Park,” Connelly said. “I truly care about creating impactful art that is designed specifically for a space and the ways in which viewers engage and experience art.”