Charlotte Greenway Art Guide
Along the Little Sugar Creek Greenway and at the Metropolitan shopping center in Charlotte there has been a large emphasis put on public art. We love exploring public art especially if we are visiting a new city, so we wanted to give you a quick & walkable guide to explore these beautiful pieces.
Uptown Charlotte has a lot of public art and we even have a walkable guide to see many spots around the city already. You can see that full blog post here. You could easily do both of these short walks on the same day or over a few days.
The Little Sugar Creek Greenway is just outside of the 277 loop that defines Uptown Charlotte. There are two parking spots for the main paved area of the Greenway, one is at the parking deck at 1116 Metropolitan Avenue and the other is at Thompson Park at 1129 East 3rd Street. If you are doing the whole art walk either spot works, if you just want to see the Metropolitan art, the easiest would be parking in the deck! The entire path from start to finish is 1.29 miles so it’s an easy walk there and back for anyone to enjoy. It’s also fully paved and fairly flat so it’s won’t be a strenuous hike, just an easy stroll.
For our walk, we will start as if you parked at Thompson Park at 1129 East 3rd Street, if you parked in the deck skip on down to stop #2 on the list to start.
Stop #1: Captain Jack Statue
Thompson Park 1129 East 3rd Street
Our first stop is right at the parking lot to start your journey down the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. The statue of Captain Jack (The Spirit of Mecklenburg) was unveiled in 2010. It is by artist Chas Fagan. The Spirit of Mecklenburg Statue is a depiction of Captain James Jack, a local tavern owner and later Revolutionary War hero, who risked his life to deliver the draft of The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1775. If he had been caught trying to deliver these papers he would have been hanged by the British for treason. The Spirit of Mecklenburg Statue depicts Captain James Jack and his horse racing to Philadelphia and remains a reminder of all that Jack risked for the independence we celebrate today. It’s definitely been highly debated but the folklore is Mecklenburg County declared its independence before the Continental Congress did. You can read more about it here if you want the full history. Also fun fact Walter’s favorite beer is named the Captain Jack Pilsner from Olde Mecklenburg Brewery after this very same hero.
Head down to the greenway trail in the park and go to the left to head to the next stop.
Stop #2: The Metropolitan
The Metropolitan shopping center in Uptown Charlotte is known for having Target, Best Buy, Dressler’s, and of course the ever popular Trader Joe’s. However, most people don’t know it has a TON of public art. Honestly, we had never even seen many of the pieces until we were trying to get photos of them all. The Talking Walls project brought many new murals to the space in 2019 and a brand new installation just popped up in 2021 as well. You can start your journey anywhere to explore here but we will start from walking up the greenway if you hit Stop 1.
As you head up the stairs from under the tunnel on the Greenway you will head to the left side of the building to see the first mural.
Metropolitan Stop 1: Vibes
If you have seen our Top 20 Lesser Known Instagrammable Spots in Charlotte you might recognize this spot. We loved this mural as we passed by one day & just had to stop and get a photo. “May all your vibes say I got this” is a great life motto & we love how beautiful this piece is. This mural is by @traveling_gypsy & @duarte_designs
If you walk past this mural you will see its sister mural.
Metropolitan Stop 2: Sands of Time
This mural is also by @traveling_gypsy & @duarte_designs We found this info on the artist’s page about it and love the message: The sands of time ⏳✨? In case you needed a friendly reminder ⏳:
– our lives are but specs of dust falling through the fingers of time. Like sands of the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.
– the best time for new beginnings is now
– never miss an opportunity to tell someone what they mean to you
– laugh often
– seek the good
– be the change
– time is non-refundable use it with intention
– lead with an open heart
– do all things with love
– find joy in every moment
– trust the timing of your life
Head into the middle of the parking deck for the next piece.
Metropolitan Stop 3: Rorschach Test
Right before the entrance to the parking deck, you will see this beautiful mural by artist Nick Napoletano. From the artist’s page “The beauty and magic of life is in the eye of the beholder. ? ?Thrilled to continue exploring these Rorschach-themed pieces. I wanted to push the watercolor effect a bit further and sneak in a few more symbolic ingredients.”
Head into the parking deck to the other side going up to see the next piece.
Metropolitan Stop 4: Portal
Portal is also by artist Nick Napoletano and it sits in the walkway between the levels of the parking garage. They have it roped off so you can safely explore this beauty. It’s a BIG art piece and spans the whole ramp. It even continues on into the floor. According to the artist “This one is interactive. Stand in the right place and the anamorphic shift makes the floor disappear.”
After you finish exploring here head to the stairs or elevator to go up to the 6th floor for the next piece.
Metropolitan Stop 5: Plight of Hand
On the very top of the parking, deck sits the next piece. Normally this whole level is blocked off to drive up to, but it gives a better view of the skyline & the beautiful art. This piece was part of the 2019 Talking Walls project and is by artist Tarantuga. If you get the angle just right you can see the skyline as well!
Head back down to the first level to continue the art journey. This time head over to the side with Trader Joe’s.
Metropolitan Stop 6: Community
This piece was also part of the Talking Walls project and is by artist Ivan Roque. From the artist: “The brown trout and the iris are two native species of flora and fauna here in North Carolina. Both of them being a symbol to community and prosperity a trait that I’ve noticed in all of Charlotte. The placement was also perfect as it sits at the entrance of @traderjoes strengthening the concept even more. ”
Head out the walkway to the next stop that will be literally right under your feet.
Metropolitan Stop 7: Lilly Path
This piece is a little worn from traffic but still beautiful to see. Artist Mike Wirth painted this mural. It reflects the nature of the nearby Sugar Creek to the bustling Metropolitan shopping center. According to Wirth, the lily pad design dips into art history, drawing inspiration from Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies.” Wirth consulted with his 11 year old daughter to create the interactive hopscotch lily pad experience, encouraging kids of all ages to safely jump each leaf while crossing the street.
After you cross the street look directly up for the next piece.
Metropolitan Stop 8: Andy Rocco
There were a few really cool murals by Andy Rocco at the Metropolitan but unfortunately, they were replaced. We hope some make it back soon. However, a homage to one of them still is on the walkway between buildings that has a stunning stained glass effect.
You can’t miss the next piece, it’s right at the alleyway in front of you.
Metropolitan Stop 9: Umbrella Alley
Umbrella Alley is a brand new display by Studio Cultivate. It took about a day and a half to complete and is a temporary exhibit. Nearly 100 magenta, teal, blue and yellow umbrellas hover about 15-20 ft in the air. It popped up officially on April 7th, 2021.
After seeing lots of neat Umbrella Alleys in our travels, with the most famous being in San Juan, Puerto Rico, we love getting to have such a fun piece in our city as well. They are encouraging lots of photos in the alley. So make sure to tag them at @metropolitanclt or use #metropolitanclt for a chance to be featured on their Instagram.
Head through the Umbrellas and around the corner to the right for the next piece of art.
Metropolitan Stop 10: Tania Tucker
This unnamed piece is by artist Tania Tucker. We honestly couldn’t find anything about it online, so if anyone has any information share it away. It does have our beautiful city logo with flowers though and we just loved that!
Head to the stairs right in front of you for the next piece.
Metropolitan Stop 11: Third Eye
Third Eye is another piece by artist Nick Napoletano and another piece on our Top 20 Lesser Known Instagrammable Spots in Charlotte. Nick describes this piece better than we ever could and here is what he had to say: “This one is all about perspective. This is part of a 3 part narrative piece @metropolitanclt that covers the whole property. I’ve been thinking a lot about how as conscious beings we move through the world. Our vantage point is everything to understanding the “truth” of what our reality is. In thinking about this piece I wanted to create something that was interactive from multiple locations but only truly came into focus when the viewer found its alignment. I feel like in my lifetime it’s been a process of finding and following the small breadcrumbs that gradually lead me to what is right. We can feel that there is a method to the madness but fully understanding what “it” is can be elusive. The mural is about waking up to our own power and ability to make choices and design our world the way we feel fit. The piece plays with the symbols of the 3rd eye and a dismantled caduceus hinting at this. By following the puzzle pieces and standing in the right place the anamorphic perspective the image becomes clear. We wake up to our power to design the world we inhabit. If you go and find this piece by the Greenway, stand on the pink eye. ?”
Head back up the stairs through the Umbrellas and turn right to see the last stop in the Metropolitan.
Metropolitan Stop 12: Life Is Good
Life Is Good is a piece by artist Alex Duncan and spans 2 walls on the corner of the building. We loved how bright and colorful this piece was and that it even included Mickey Mouse. Plus as bad as it seems sometimes… Life Is Good and that’s a great reminder. There is even a Thank You to the health heroes added recently to this piece that is just great. They really were superman in 2020 and all the time.
After you finish up seeing all the art pieces in the Metropolitan. Head back onto the Greenway to finish this art walk! Need some help finding a few of the spots? Here is a map to guide you!
Stop #3 Sight Unseen
Midtown Park 510 South Kings St.
Sight Unseen is located in Midtown Park, which in itself is a beautiful little park to explore. It’s by artists Po Shu Wang and Louise Bertelsen and was installed in 2012. Here is a description from the artist about the piece: “Normally, visual art is by definition not accessible to the sight- impaired. For this project, the artists began by envisioning through the ears and hands of a sight-impaired person. Noticing the similarity between the embossed dots of Braille signage and those embossed on a music box cylinder, they created a union of these two seemingly unrelated items in their artwork. The works feature a modified music box which plays Braille letters placed on a music staff to create notes. When the music box within the art is moved, visitors experience a unique music. The artworks are subtle and deliberately obscure structures, offering no clues to their function. They are designed to trigger the curiosity of the community. The artworks play poems the artists wrote about the greenway. The English text of these poems is purposefully not displayed on the site. This offers an underlying intimacy to the sight-impaired public. A sighted person cannot easily experience the full meaning of the artwork. You must read Braille or ask the assistance of one who does to appreciate the entirety of the art. Their thought is that in time, one could even learn the art of understanding any Braille text just by listening to its music. The work is a fusion of art, music, and poetry that investigates the universal question of how we all interface with our environment through our senses.”
Continue down the greenway until you reach this last piece right on your path.
Stop #4 The Aquifer
1347 Harding Place
The Little Sugar Creek Greenway Project itself was a large restoration of a once polluted river. Masayuki Nagase was the artist chosen for The Aquifer in 2010. The artist chose the overall design theme of the artwork from the elements of the natural universe: Air, Earth and Water. He designed multiple art elements that were placed throughout the mile-long greenway. 1) A landmark vertical sculpture that acts as a major focal point for pedestrians. The interior of the stone elements are carved with relief patterns based on natural aquifers in the bedrock of the earth’s crust. This visual theme also suggests a body of water that exist but that is normally invisible to us. 2) The artist carved a number of natural boulders into sculptural seating with varied wave patterns, offering rest and reflection along the greenway. 3) A series of stone mosaics set in a circular paving design around a small fountain and an information kiosk. The mosaic designs are based on the native flora and fauna of the region.
Now you can enjoy the greenway on a nice stroll back to your car. Make sure you stop in the Metropolitan on the way back to grab a bit to eat or snack after a fun day of exploring public art. From great coffee from the Waterbean Charlotte to one of the many great restaurants, there is a lot to do in Midtown Charlotte.
There is so much public art to explore in Charlotte from murals to sculptures to art museums. Are you looking for more spots to check out? Start with some of our other blog posts here: