Over the past few years, Uptown Charlotte has become a hotbed of mural art, thanks to artists from Talking Walls and many others. In fact, TWO new murals have been painted the 7th Street side of Duckworth’s and Spirit Square (across from Victoria Yard), one from Duarte Designs and the other from Caitlin McDonagh, in the last two years.
But, if you’re not careful, you’ll miss the mural above nestled in between them. And, that would be a shame as it is the absolute grand-daddy of Uptown murals. It may be faded and a little weather-worn now, but this piece represents a significant event in the cultural life of the Queen City.
Entitled “Man Feeding Poor Man,” the mural has adorned the side of Spirit Square, unveiled to the public on Feb. 6, 1992. It was painted by 15 students from University Park School under the supervision of artist Allen “Big Al” Carter. “Big Al” was in town for a short, three-week working tour through Charlotte. “Big Al” provided the vision and the students filled in the design according to his instruction, as he had in other cities.
While in Charlotte, “Big Al” helped create other community murals at local recreation centers and displayed work in the Knight Gallery. He also participated in a panel discussion, “Public Murals Through Community Involvement” — which sounds like it could easily be scheduled for next week — with local artists like Tommie Robinson and Ruth Ava Lyons, who remain pillars of the local art community.
The next time you’re Uptown checking out new murals, give this one a moment or two. It hails from a time when the Center City was a little quieter and we were pondering how public art can help build community and spark discussion — a notion that inspired the newer murals on either side of it.
** Thanks to Charlottean Karen Beach and the 1992 paper, “A Report on an Arts Administration Internship with Spirit Square Center for the Arts” by Karen L. Thompson for information used in this story.
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