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Public Art - Accomplished Kids

by Dennis Marsoun

April 3,2004

We’re about to get a new headquarters in Uptown Charlotte. Not a major corporation, not a new banking division, and not an Internet dot.com start-up. This will be a headquarters for KIDS!

ImaginOn, the Joe & Joan Martin Center, a joint venture of The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County and the Children’s Theater of Charlotte, is transforming a city block that used to contain three parking lots and an abandoned uilding into something truly special. See the building details here: www.imaginon.org.

Why Uptown for this center? It is not uncommon to see kids of all ages being herded towards Discovery Place, sometimes holding onto rope, to see an exhibit like Sue, the T-Rex currently on display. Yellow school buses vie for position to load and unload kids—quite something to see in a buttoned-up town.

It’s magic for kids to go where their parents go—only without them. I remember growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, and how I would love to go downtown for parades or with my mom to shop at one of the department stores, Higbee’s, Halle’s or The May Company.

It was, in my way, my introduction to public art as well. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument took a central position on Public Square, and contained both statues of naval heroes and soldiers ready for action. There was also a gallery inside with paintings of famous battles.

As impressive as that was, it was no match for the public art located throughout Charlotte, whether the mobiles in the Carillon Building, frescoes in the Bank of America Corporate Center or the Trans-America Building, the water falling front of the Interstate Tower, the ceramic birdhouses in Fourth Ward, or the book motif on The Green.

ImaginOn will be a form of public art as well. Located a block away from the new arena site, and adjacent to the Trolley/Light Rail line, it will be festooned with art from accomplished artists and accomplished kids. Much of the art will be performance art, but art by any name is art.

ImaginOn is no minor effort. There will be two theaters within the building—one rising four stories off the ground will hold 550 people, and a second, more intimate theater will embrace 250 people. There will be a technology center, classrooms, library areas, story time rooms, and a special section just for teenagers as well.

If you haven’t seen it grow, take some time, and you will be amazed at what’s happening.

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