While Charlotte has several parks where visitors can appreciate nature, one of its newest and most innovative urban parks is built around appreciating art. Named for a beloved Charlotte-born artist, designed by a well-known public artist, and featuring the work of several others, Romare Bearden Park is a kind of outdoor art museum. But unlike most art museums, it’s free and features kid-friendly areas such as "dance chimes" as well as plenty of space to run around. The park’s central structure, which looks like a curved stone wall at first glance, is actually a waterfall where kids can play and cool off. It also lights up, making this a particularly fun place to visit in the evening.
Completed in 2013, the park is already a popular place for events, including a free family-friendly live music series in the summer. It’s located Uptown near the Bank of America Stadium, right by where the Carolina Panthers play.
The park’s namesake, artist Romare Bearden, who passed away in 1988, was born in 1911 in Charlotte. When he was a toddler, his family moved to New York—during this period, many African Americans were leaving the US south for northern cities as part of the “Great Migration.” Despite growing up mostly in New York, Bearden was fascinated by the South and it was the subject of his early paintings. After serving in the US Army during World War II, he became a professional artist represented by an avant-garde gallery in New York. Because of the GI Bill, he was able to study at the Sorbonne in Paris and meet influential European artists including Picasso. Back in the US, he made his name with abstract paintings addressing subjects that held emotional weight for him, particularly the story of Christ. During the civil rights movement, Bearden’s work became more socially conscious, and he transitioned to collage as his primary medium.
The park’s primary designer, artist Nori Sato, was born in Japan in 1949 and moved to the US when she was four years old. Based in Seattle, she is known for public art that incorporates unexpected materials as well as landscape and lighting effects. She’s also created public art in California, Texas, and Iowa. Her design for the park was inspired by Bearden’s collages.
Cover photo: James Willamor, CC BY-SA 2.0 via flickr.