Blue Line Extension Brings Collaboration Between Artist, Students to Life

A windscreen at the Tom Hunter Road light rail stop, inspired by art from local students.

IN 2009, artist Tom Stanley received an unusual commission from the Charlotte Area Transit System: He would create the art integrated into the Tom Hunter Station for the upcoming LYNX Blue Line Extension. One of the painter’s first steps was establishing a sense of trust between himself and the nearby neighborhood, prompting a visit to a Hidden Valley Community Association meeting in 2012. “Quite naturally, the neighborhood association was a little skeptical about the whole ball of wax,” Stanley says today. “And I totally understand that.”

The group suggested that the artist learn about the community through the perspective of local children. Stanley visited schools for the project with the theme of “home” in mind. His first stop was the art club at Hidden Valley Elementary, where students drew and cut out images of their own homes. He then combined and created stencils out of those houses to craft a street scene on the stop’s windscreens. The second visit brought Stanley to the Citizens School’s after-school program at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. Those students wrote poems about their neighborhoods, providing the words that now adorn the columns at the station.

Today, many of the kids whose work inspired the station’s art attend Vance High School. Eleventh-graders Unique Patton and Karen Fuentes and 10th-grader Udi Mok visited the finished station in April, weeks after it finally opened to the public. For Fuentes and Mok, much of their involvement in the project is now hazy, with both saying they had actually forgotten about participating before reconnecting with Stanley last year at a preview event. “When we brought the students back together, they were surprised that this was actually going to happen,” Stanley says, with a laugh. “So that was so neat to see their reaction.”

A repeated word on one column—“PEACE”—ignites a memory for Patton, who today vividly recalls writing a poem about her neighborhood in sixth grade using that word as her theme. She says the word will “always, always, always” mean something to her. “I think the area where I live, the Hidden Valley community, is sometimes seen as a bad place, with shootings all the time,” Patton says. “In reality, it’s a very peaceful neighborhood. My family itself, we stand for peace in our community and our neighborhood. Not everyone in Charlotte is violent, and we have to keep the peace to survive here.” 

Categories: Arts + Culture, In Print