ArtPop makes a museum of Charlotte’s city streets

ArtPop Charlotte
Wendy Hickey of ArtPop CLT

Heard of ArtPop Charlotte yet?

Glance up from the line of unmoving car bumpers during rush hour and, thanks to the mission and vision of Wendy Hickey, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by your surroundings. With a gallery spanning Charlotte’s city limits, ArtPop Charlotte has brought the work of local artists to the streets and united the community through an artful urban landscape.

Through a grand collaboration with outdoor advertising companies, ArtPop Street Gallery’s mission is to provide local creators a canvas of unprecedented scale, by turning highways, airports, and thoroughfares into cultivators for public expression and discovery. Between budget cuts and mass digitization, access to and support for local art is growing scarce; yet, ArtPop represents a grassroots artistic liberation of sorts – a cultivator of curiosity, community, and commitment to artistry emerging from our very city streets.

ArtPop, or the Art Public Outdoor Project, is the brainchild of Charlotte art lover Wendy Hickey. After years spent working in advertising and later serving on the board of directors for a local arts council, the epiphany came to combine her experiences and devote billboards to artistry.

ArtPop Charlotte
Carmella Jarvi’s ArtPop billboard

“Art is the great uniter,” Hickey beams, “it has the power to heal, to inspire, to bring together divided communities… no one should have that joy and inspiration taken away from them!”

Created to ensure public art accessibility and support for local artists, ArtPop has provided over 200 artists in communities across the country the space to showcase their work, enriching not only the skylines, but the lives of creators and onlookers alike.

The 510c3 organization operates through the support of local sponsors and donors and the participation of community creators in 14 cities sprawling from Charlotte to Las Vegas. Every fall, a call for artists is posted; from there, the submissions are juried, voted on, and the work of lucky applicants is selected to be displayed on available media space in the community – if your work is chosen, as Hickey apprises, “get ready for your world to change!”

With the trope of the “starving artist” persisting in actuality, communities are subsequently starved of exposure to art – the art that keeps us inspired, the art that keeps us curious. This growing deficiency is the mission that drives ArtPop Charlotte: to defend public access to art that unites and beautifies our community.

“I hope that people become curious,” Hickey says, “that they want to know who the artist is on the billboard or newsrack; that they become inspired to buy art or go to a gallery showing… that people become curious for more.”