“I want to use my art as a vehicle to beautify neighborhoods, but make change and impact people in different ways. I just love my life. I’m just so happy to be doing all of this.” – Sharon Dowell
Earlier this year, Rosalia Torres-Weiner painted a mural to the Eastside Crossing shopping center. Last week, Sharon Dowell, Charlotte muralist and East Charlotte resident, added a companion piece with help from fellow muralist, Irisol Gonzalez. Both works share the same theme, “Eastside Pride.”
Sharon was commissioned for the project by Denice Abbott of DA Project Management. This is something Sharon says she’s seeing more and more in Charlotte.
“People and businesses see it as important to create an environment and to differentiate themselves. Creating an interesting environment is really important. I like that it’s a trend, ” said Sharon.
Sharon Shares Her Eastside Pride
Sharon, an East Side resident since 2007, started painting murals in Charlotte in 2008. She was excited to have the work and a chance to add something to her neighborhood.
“I wanted to capture the essence of the people who live and work on the East Side –definitely vibrant color was one way,” she said. “The imagery looks really abstract upon first glance, but there are actually bridges embedded into it. I’ve been using the form of the bridge a lot in my work lately because it symbolizes connection and community and even transition.”
The mural took about ten days to complete and Sharon took time to make sure her work, which join’s Rosalia’s existing work at a corner, was additive to the overall space.
“I thought about what was there. Our murals meet in the corner and you can see both at the same time and they’re really, really busy,” she said.
Reaction to the work was immediate. Sharon says “So many people stopped by saying ‘Thank you.’ They were really happy to see their neighborhood being beautified.” One woman drove up with her children and was moved to tears.
Working with Artists to Add to an Environment
Sharon is encouraged by the growing demand for murals and art in Charlotte placemaking, as well as a growing understanding she sees that artists deserved to be fairly compensated for their work. “… it’s helping me and other artists who are doing this full time now — you couldn’t do that before. There weren’t enough commissions happening for people to do that. For me, I’ve seen it improve a lot. I get paid properly for what I do.”
For that to continue, Sharon says mentoring and self-advocacy are critical.
“There are still some people who don’t want to pay properly and there will always be artists who take on a job for people who don’t pay properly when they’re starting out. So, I think it’s also important to be kind of like a mentor. All of us should be helping each other. You’re seeing a lot of that happening in the arts community.”
That goes for creatives, too.
“It’s overwhelming when you’re first starting out. It’s still sometimes hard to make a quote because every job is different –square footage, design, etc. So it’s important to be a mentor to other artists to make sure we’re all paying ourselves properly because it affects everybody.”
In her experience, Sharon is seeing businesses and developers moving art and creativity further to the front of their plans. Where she often felt her work was an afterthought, she’s being brought into the planning stages of new projects and construction earlier and working on an increasing number of construction sites. (In fact, we interviewed her on a break from painting a mural at Velvet Taco in Optimist Hall with construction going on around her.)
No Rest for the Wicked
When Sharon wraps up her work in Optimist Hall, she’s got a full dance card waiting for her. Sharon is preparing for a mural in Chicago, a sculpture in Boulder and a December show at C3 Lab.
“I want to use my art as a vehicle to beautify neighborhoods, but make change and impact people in different ways. I just love my life. I’m just so happy to be doing all of this.”
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