MICD 25 Spotlight on Greensboro, North Carolina
Greensboro, North Carolina
Overture Gate, commissioned for Regency Park (concert park entrance) by the Town of Cary. Material is stainless steel and brass. Photo by Jim Gallucci
Action Greensboro is a not-for-profit organization in the Piedmont region of North Carolina that coordinates citizen initiatives on enhancing the economy for the city of Greensboro. In the past, Action Greensboro has helped make a city park part of the downtown revitalization that included public art and an outdoor theater, and commissioned two pieces of public art for a city pedestrian/bicycle trail. We spoke with Dabney Sanders, the project manager for Action Greensboro's Downtown Greenway project about the organization's recent MICD 25 grant.
NEA: Please describe your MICD 25 project and what you hope it will bring to the residents of Greensboro.
DABNEY SANDERS: The Greensboro Downtown Greenway is a planned four-mile urban trail that will encircle downtown Greensboro, North Carolina, and will enhance the urban landscape with a green space and walking and biking path that will promote fitness, encourage alternative transportation, and provide connectedness and well-being for our residents and visitors in an aesthetically pleasing environment. The loop itself provides a unique opportunity for Greensboro to have the only one of its kind in the state and one of the few in the country. In addition, with the connections to the extensive existing and planned trails systems in the city and the county, this loop will connect residents from all parts of the community and beyond.
The NEA MICD 25 grant will provide funding to create an innovative public art venue as part of a planned renovation of an abandoned railroad underpass that will link an economically disadvantaged part of the city to its center by way of the Downtown Greenway. The vision for this currently inaccessible underpass, which travels underneath the still active Norfolk Southern-operated North Carolina Railroad rail line, is an ambitious one. It includes the design and fabrication of twelve decorative iron gates to be placed in existing arched doorways along the underpass, through which will be seen two 60-foot graphic panels that will tell part of the story of Greensboro?s history. Innovative artistic lighting, designed by a local lighting expert, will illuminate the entire area. Situated within 1/8 mile of an already commissioned $150,000 public artwork scheduled for installation in April 2011, the underpass will be a gateway to and from an art plaza that will serve as one of four cornerstones of the Greenway. It will connect the plaza to a trailhead with parking, making this site a key link within a quarter-mile stretch of the trail known as the Morehead Linear Park.
NEA: Why is it important to have arts and culture at the table when planning community revitalization efforts?
SANDERS: It is important to have arts and culture at the table when planning community revitalization efforts for many reasons: to encourage community dialogue amongst diverse constituents; enhance economic development efforts; create authenticity of place; drive tourism; and to provide pure moments of beauty, creativity, and inspiration.
NEA: Given the nature of your MICD 25 project, how would you define the term "public art"?
SANDERS: We consider public art as works of art created and installed in public places for the enjoyment and education of the general public as experienced during everyday living. They can be works that serves a functional purpose like a bench or a bike rack, or can be inspirational or historical in nature.
NEA: How do you think having works of art incorporated into features such as underpasses, etc., benefit the civic life of a community?
SANDERS: The art adds a layer of aesthetic interest or beauty that can tell stories, create dialogue, and enhance the general landscape.
NEA: How important is MICD 25 funding for the success of your project?
SANDERS: The MICD 25 funding is of critical importance for the success of our project. Public and private funds are covering just slightly over 50 percent of the total costs of the project. With this railroad underpass restoration being just a part of an overall $27 million project budget---funds from outside the community are important. The MICD 25 funding also adds a national prestige that we hope to use to leverage further funding support.
NEA: Any last words?
SANDERS: There is a recent effort in North Carolina to make the incorporation of public art easier within NCDOT projects like sounds walls, bridges, underpasses, etc. and we hope that our project along with those efforts will create a true shift in thinking so that having artists as a part of design projects of these functional structures becomes the norm rather than the exception.
Visit our website to learn more about all twenty-one MICD 25 projects.