With the onset of spring, our minds naturally start to consider new beginnings as we witness symbols of the changing of the seasons, such as warmer weathers, flowers and trees blossoming, and greener lawns. And as we look around to consider areas of change, I’d like to encourage a broader look at beautification beyond one’s own backyard and offer some ideas for your consideration. Charlotte is a beautiful city but there is always room for improvement. Here are three ways to find and promote beauty around where you live, work or play.

Repurpose Unused Spaces

Unsightly urban lots don’t have to stay vacant until they gets on a developer’s radar - communities should take action to reclaim unused spaces and beautify their surroundings! Consider alternative purposes for unused or underutilized lots. For example, convert an empty lot to a community garden - no easy task, I’m sure, but certainly achievable with a small group of committed volunteers, a handful of tools and the support of area businesses, elected officials and local residents. While vacant lots or desolate areas may serve as dump sites for commercial waste or pedestrian garbage or as magnets for pests, petty crime or worse, well conceived and properly maintained community gardens are serene places and serve as havens for wildlife, sources of fresh food for local pantries, and creative outlets for the civically engaged, urban farmers. Start a food cooperative or fresh food market in your local neighborhood. Partner with an organization like Sow Much Good, an agency dedicated to making more fresh food available to urban food deserts and whose executive director, Robin Emmons, was one of the recipients of this year’s Top Ten CNN’s Hero’s Award. More community gardening will lead to reductions in pollution and crime, increase civic engagement and community pride, and add beauty to our community landscapes.

Preserve Green Spaces and Protect our Tree Canopy

With the rapid pace of development in the Charlotte region prior to the Great Recession, our tree canopy and open green spaces, both of which are assets for our region, were at risk. The recession slowed the pace of development, which of course was harmful to our regional economy, but hopefully it abated the further depletion of our tree canopy and allowed some ecosystems to be restored. Our region’s population is projected to growth by 50% in the next 20 years and to double in about 40 years. In other words, we are projecting to absorb about 2 million more people to our region by 2050. So if we aren’t intentional about the uses and misuse of our natural resources, among other factors like human capital and business development, the beauty of our region and our health as an economy are at risk. All I’m asking you to do is to look around and work collectively to revive dilapidated areas, preserve green spaces and protect our tree canopy.

Support a Local Arts Project

You know that eyesore of a building in your neighborhood - we all have them. Don’t just accept it; change it. Identify and work through your local business or neighborhood association to form a committee for site selection and fundraising purposes. Commission a muralist to convert an unsightly building or exterior sidewall to a beautiful work of art. Connect with local arts or cultural groups to conceptualize the project. Determine whether the mural should memorialize a fallen soldier from your area, a beloved teacher, a community leader or reflect the diverse cultural groups living in a particular area through a collage of people’s faces and cultural expressions? Leverage social media and bring out the masses in support to help paint or celebrate the unveiling. Rosalie’s Art and Project Art Aid are two arts organizations that come to mind as local, Charlotte-area leaders for the promotion of these types of public arts projects.

Get Involved - Ask for Help

The City of Charlotte supports neighborhood beautification projects through its neighborhood matching grants program. Create artistic signs to broadcast a business or historic district. The CATS transit system uses set aside dollars to fund public art projects along transit corridors. Serve on a public arts committee. Voice your opinions about public art. And lastly, we have a strong, nationally-ranked Arts & Science Council in our area so the point is that we have a plethora of financial resources available. Ask for their support. What we need is a vision, plan, community leaders and local artists to transform your neighborhood’s eyesore to a source of community pride through artistic expression.

Conclusions

I hope you are inspired to promote beautification efforts in your neighborhood, city or region. Success depends on our collective capacity to take a long view towards the type of places in which we want to live, work and play, our willingness to work within or to change existing systems or laws, and our ability motivate others and collaborate effectively for sustainable growth. Economic growth and environmental sustainability are not mutually exclusive. And face it, more green spaces, tree canopies, community gardens, fresh food markets and public art is both good for business and adds to the beauty of any region. Let’s all work together to keep Charlotte vibrant, growing, green and beautiful!

To determine if I can provide appropriate guidance or expert referral to you regarding your consideration or adoption of any of these above ideas, please reach out to Bill Garcia at garciatalent@gmail.com to set up a brief meeting or call. Thanks for supporting local artists.

Photo credits

I Love My City and two other pictures (https://www.facebook.com/dgphotography.biz) by photographer Debbie Lugo-Guerrero (https://www.facebook.com/debbie.lugo.351). Her company’s name is DG Photography (www.dgphotography.biz). The pictures were modified with PhotoGrid.