Arts & Culture

Best Public Art in Uptown Charlotte

October 1, 2012 6:00 AM

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(photo credit:

(photo credit:

Uptown Charlotte is fortunate to have an abundance of free art on display for the public. From The Green to the lobby of the Carillon Building, there’s always something to see, and it’s all for free.

Cascade by Jean Tinguely
Carillon Building
227 W. Trade St.
Charlotte, NC 28202

“Cascade,” a 40-foot kinetic sculpture suspended over a fountain, was created by Jean Tinguely and commissioned by the Bechtler family for the lobby of the Carillon Building. “Cascade” is an amazing piece of work that changes every time you look at it. From its brightly colored light bulbs to the lion spitting water, young and old will be charmed by the creation. “Cascade” is operated by 15 motors, which turn a collection of car hoods, antlers, chain links, spirals, wood and metal slabs at different speeds. The effect is magical and shouldn’t be missed. While in the Carillon Building, you can also check out the art collection on the walls – it changes seasonally.

Il Grande Disco by Arnaldo Pomodoro
Bank of America Plaza
101 S. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC

A bronze sculpure titled “Il Grande Disco” stands in front of the Bank of America Plaza. The large, coin-shaped piece with dark edges was created for the space by Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro. The disco wheel was installed in October 1974. A sister piece was placed in the Piazza Filippo Meda, in Milan, Italy in 1980. “Il Grande Disco” is a popular stop for tourist photos. The plaque attached to the piece by Pomodoro states, in part, “We do not know what our world will become. I try to say something about this uncertainty in my work. I try to communicate a sense of viatality and connection with the movement of life today … and to be a part of its movement.

“Charlotte the Center of the Known World” by Gary Sweeney
The Green
400 S. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC 28202

Across from the Mint and Bechtler Museums is a wonderful pocket park filled with notable sculptures. The giant fish sculptures created by Carolyn Braaksma spout water so children can splash and play. The giant stacked bronze book sculptures on the far side of the park depict classics of world literature. Jim Green’s sound art installation, “Rhythm Walk,” features the sounds of water running and kittens purring when triggered by motion sensors. The most popular sculpture in the park is the signpost, “Charlotte – The Center of the Known World,” created by Gary Sweeney in 2002. The signpost points the mileage and direction to other Charlottes throughout the world. Sweeney also produced the signs in the park, which use the names of cities to create the names of famous authors including Mark (Illinois) Twain (California).

Firebird by Niki de Saint Phalle
The Bechtler Museum
420 S. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
(704) 353-9200

Since its installation in November 2009, Niki de Saint Phalle’s sculpture has captivated Charlotte and become one of its best-known symbols. The mirrored statue stands at more than 17-feet tall and is a permanent fixture in front of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art where a relatively inexpensive ticket buys you all of the odd art your heart desires.

Panther Statues by Todd Andrews
Bank of America Stadium

800 South Mint St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
(704) 358-7000

Jet black statues of fierce Panthers stand watch over the Bank of America Stadium where the Carolina Panthers play. The massive sculptures have emerald colored eyes and gold teeth, and were created by Todd Andrews. Each of the three entrances to the stadium are flanked by two eight-foot-tall panthers resting on 10-foot-tall pedestals engraved with the names of charter personal seat license holders. The panthers weigh 2,000 pounds each. These statues are the largest sculptures ever commissioned in the United States.

Lauren J. Walter is a freelance writer covering all things Charlotte. Her work can be found on

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