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🎨Gastonia Community Receives Grant for Public Art

Gastonia's Highland Community has been awarded a $208,000 grant to support public art.

Why it matters: The grant, awarded by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, will fund an upcoming project to showcase art outside the Erwin Center. This project aims to amplify the stories of underrepresented individuals from North Carolina, fostering conversations and opening up new perspectives in historically divided communities.

  • The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation is a North Carolina organization that was founded over 85 years ago to, “invest in quality of life for all North Carolinians,” according to the foundation’s website.

The journey to securing the grant began in March 2022 when the Highland Neighborhood Association submitted a letter of intent, vying for the public art funding. Out of numerous applicants, the association emerged as one of the 20 semi-finalists, each receiving $5,000 grants to engage their respective communities in conversations about the direction they envisioned for the artwork.

Original Article: Gaston Gazette

The Highland Neighborhood Association distinguished itself as one of the nine finalists awarded the grant. Since then, the association has actively involved community members in the decision-making process. Through three meetings, residents have shared their insights regarding design concepts, locations, and the selection of artists who will bring the envisioned work to life, according to Gastonia City Councilwoman Donyel Barber.

To find artists for the project, the Highland Neighborhood Association issued a widespread request through numerous community partners. So far, three artists have been hired: David Wilson from Durham, Carlos Gonzalez from Hillsborough, and local artist Pamela Underwood from Belmont. What's next: The artwork is scheduled to be displayed outside the Erwin Center, and its creators anticipate that it will foster meaningful conversations.

  • What they're saying: Tiki Windley, program manager for the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, emphasized the transformative power of art, stating, "Art can open the door to conversations, and those conversations can be healing. Especially in communities that may have been historically divided. This can open up new perspectives."

The Highland Neighborhood Association has not finalized which stories will be featured in the art project. Barber affirmed that the selection process is ongoing, ensuring that the final artwork reflects and honors the community's diverse narratives.


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