Art + Ecology Community Campus at Brightwalk located at Historic Double Oaks

McColl Center for Art + Innovation

Funding Received: 2013
Charlotte, NC
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
March 12, 2014

Artist Aurora Robson advising a Central Piedmont Community College student

On January 20, National MLK Day of Service, ArtPlace America Environmental Artist-in-Residence, Aurora Robson, led 69 community volunteers into Irwin Creek, the major stream that runs through the Art & Ecology Campus at Brightwalk, for a stream cleanup. The cleanup is a key activity in Robson’s engagement strategy for students and Brightwalk. The day started with McColl Center’s Team Brightwalk and Robson attending the Annual MLK Prayer Breakfast. Annually, community members and leaders from all over Charlotte come together to pray and celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. This year’s keynote speaker was well-known actor, Hill Harper, who prompted us with a call to action to lead with reason, courage and passion. The stream cleanup is integral to the curriculum Robson created. Called Sculpture and Intercepting the Waste Stream, Robson is facilitating the course at Central Piedmont Community College. Students are utilizing waste intercepted from Irwin Creek to create sculptural works that will be exhibited and auctioned. All of the proceeds will support stewardship efforts at Brightwalk.


Team Brightwalk after hauling three pick-up loads of trash out of the creek on National MLK Day of Service


Aurora Robson is a multi-media artist known primarily for her transformative work intercepting the waste stream using plastic debris, excess packaging and junk mail. Concerned about our natural environment, Robson uses her work to address issues poetically, not forcefully. She believes that transforming waste transforms lives by allowing others to see the hidden potential in both waste and in themselves. In her words, "Waste is displaced abundance.”


Statesville Ave Corridor residents intercepting the waste stream

Descriptions of the Statesville Avenue Corridor often start with the existing challenges –urban blight, threatened hot spots, and lack of facility services. Although these descriptions may be true, the sum of the challenges does not accurately reflect the people who live in the Corridor. The artists who are engaging with the neighbors, leaders and business owners in the Corridor are sensitive to perceptions versus the realities. They are in the process of revealing the cultural assets and identity of the Corridor to the greater community, resulting in a renewed sprit of collaboration and appreciation for the neighborhood. My parting thought for the field: as we lead these initiatives and continue to work within communities, we need to lead with the richness of people and community. And, just like on MLK day when neighbors and friends plunged knee deep into the creek, we need celebrate the essence of humanity, love of community and the people who lead through their seen and unseen actions.