September 3, 2017
You’ve seen them before. They make the unavoidable traffic around Charlotte just a bit more pleasant and certainly more interesting. I’m talking about the art-piece billboards that pop out from the treetops and adorn cityscapes here and there. These billboards are provided by ArtPop Street Gallery whose mission is to promote local artists’ work and make art accessible to communities through available media space.
Headquartered and founded in Charlotte, ArtPop is a 501c3 that was started by Wendy Hickey in January of 2014. Since then, ArtPop has expanded to 14 cities and nine states, and has promoted 205 artists to date. The Charlotte region, which spans 11 counties around the city, remains the largest market with about 20 artists represented each year.
“When you’re walking by or driving in your car you’re probably not expecting to come across a piece of art. It’s a really different and wonderful way to see artwork,” said Hickey.
Hickey, whose background is in marketing, has worked in billboard advertising for 20 years and was serving on the Board of Directors for the Pocono Mountain Arts Council in PA when she was inspired to merge the worlds of art and outdoor media.
“The idea came to me there but I’ve always had in my heart that I want to be a voice for artists to help get their work out,” she said.
The “pop” in ‘ArtPop’ means public-outdoor-project. The sheer opportunity of exposure sets ArtPop far and above (pun considered) traditional outlets that artists use such as galleries and other brick-and-mortars. Even digital outlets, which offer widespread exposure opportunities as well, don’t connect the artist to their own community in the same way. It really is a unique opportunity for both those creating and experiencing the art.
“We want to make art accessible to the communities we serve,” said Hickey. Hickey “We read a study that only 23% of the population actually goes to galleries and museums. We want to be sure that regardless of income levels or where people live that they are exposed to artwork.”
In addition to helping artists gain exposure, ArtPop is focused on propelling careers forward.
“Exposure is one thing but we want to see people reaching out and artists getting commissioned. We want artists to be able to sell their work for more than before they were a part of the program. We want it to be a ‘next step’ in their careers,” she said.
To help facilitate this, ArtPop hosts a Pop-Up Gallery Event the first and third Wednesday of each month at Le Meridien hotel in uptown Charlotte. This offering is exclusive to Charlotte and is available for artists who are a part of the program and, recently, for other artists in the community as well. ArtPop also hopes to offer further professional development opportunities in the future.
As the fourth season of ArtPop wraps up, the 2018 call for entries will run from September 1 until October 15.
All works submitted must be the correct specifications: a .PDF with a live file size 24” x 5.5” and a 0.6” x 0.3” bleed, CMYK, 300dpi. Once submissions close, a panel of seven will jury the work and choose 20 pieces for the 2018 season. A few tips artists should remember when curating their work are that small details don’t translate well for this type of project and things that are vibrant in color are most effective. There is no strategy behind which art is placed on each billboard. All work must be done in the last three years and there is a $25 fee to enter.
As for content, artists across all mediums are encouraged to submit work with restrictions on nudes and slanderous material.
“If you look at our submissions across the country, many of them have a flavor of what is going on in those cities. I think artists are naturally in tune with what is happening in the world and often reflect that in their work. As long as there is nothing slanderous I would love to see some issues vocalized this year,” said Hickey.
The opportunities that have come to artists who have been a part of the program are too numerous to count. Many get requests for prints of their featured piece are commissioned for originals, and one is even opening their own gallery!
“ArtPop can’t exist without the artists so we really want to encourage them to submit their work and hope to represent some new Charlotte talent in the coming season,” said Hickey.
None of this would be possible if not for the efforts of the board members and volunteers who work tirelessly to make the program a success year after year. As of now, ArtPop runs solely by those volunteered efforts but hopes to be able to hire two full time employees in the near future. If you would like to contribute to the program, you can find information on volunteers, sponsors, and donations on their website.