By Bernie Petit
Artists Shaun Cassidy, Lauren Doran and Laurel Holtzapple on a tour of Winthrop University with students from Reid Park Academy. Cassidy, Doran and Holtzapple are creating the public artwork for the Reid Park community as part of the Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership initiative.
Elementary students from Reid Park Academy in Charlotte connected to the history of their community – and contributed to what will be a future source of pride for their neighborhood – during a college-level crash course in public art last month.
The students traveled to Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., to meet with the artist team of Shaun Cassidy (an associate professor at the university), Lauren Doran and Laurel Holtzapple to learn about the new public artwork the artists are creating for the Reid Park neighborhood as part of the Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership initiative.
In addition to touring the campus to see how art is integrated into the university setting, the students created clay reliefs that will be incorporated into one of the three sculptures for the Reid Park public art project.
That had Reid Park Academy student Tierra Rice excited about the project, which is expected to be completed later this year and placed at the future Reid Park community park.
“Some of the things that are going to be on it I made, so of course I’m excited,” Rice said.
For the Reid Park neighborhood, the community engagement component of the public art process is just as important as the soon-to-be completed artwork, said neighborhood advocate Ricky Hall, who accompanied the students on the trip.
Students learned about prominent names woven into the fabric of the neighborhood, such as influential schoolteacher Amay James and community founder Ross Reid. In the early 1900s, Reid, a World War I veteran, purchased the land that became the neighborhood.
The artist team explained to the students how the future public art will connect to the rich history of the neighborhood, which became a home for African-American families displaced from Charlotte’s former Brooklyn neighborhood, the prominent uptown African-American business and residential district razed by the city in the early 1960s.
“That was a capstone for me because it brings together the whole notion of community, education and public art,” Hall said. “The students will know their hands helped produced pieces of that artwork that will be there for perpetuity.”
Throughout their time on the college campus, the elementary students were engaged, excited and asked thoughtful questions, Cassidy said. The art professor said he wanted to feel special by being guests on the university campus.
Sculptor and Winthrop University Professor Shaun Cassidy working with Reid Park Academy students to create clay reliefs to be integrated into the Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership public artwork in Charlotte’s Reid Park community.
“I was surprised by how many people enjoyed the tour of campus, where the ideas came from, understanding that a young person could build a very large scale sculpture and have it be put somewhere permanent,” he said. “I usually don’t get to work with young kids like that so their energy and enthusiasm was uplifting.”
Public artist Laurel Holtzapple talks to students from Charlotte’s Reid Park Academy about the public art process. Holtzapple, Shaun Cassidy and Lauren Doran are the public artists creating artwork for the Reid Park Community as part of the Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership initiative.
Many young students aren’t encouraged to pursue careers in the arts. The workshop was a way to open the participants’ eyes to that notion, said Holtzapple, the artist lead for the Reid Park project.
“We wanted the students to leave knowing how art can be found everywhere, you just have to look,” she said. “We also wanted to introduce them to the idea of a career as an artist.”
At the very least, they introduced one student to what will possibly be her future home for four years.
“When we were headed back home, one kid said, ‘I love this. I’m coming here when I go to college,’” Hall said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
The Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership initiative, a collaboration between the City of Charlotte, the Public Art Commission and the Arts & Science Council, will bring public art to Reid Park and four other Charlotte neighborhoods: Elizabeth, Grove Park, Sedgefield and the Shamrock Drive Corridor.