The Gaston County Planning Department, in conjunction with the City of Gastonia’s Planning Department, applied for and was awarded the 2019 Love Where You Live Creative Placemaking Assistance Grant in June of 2019. The grant was awarded by the Centralina Council of Governments, for a project that included public engagement, placemaking and community engagement. Our project consisted of two art competitions, one for high school students to produce work that would be mounted on the back wall of the County Administration Building, the second for a mural that would be painted on the three planters also located in the rear of the County Administration Building. The winners of the competitions were announced and recognized at the City of Gastonia’s Tree Lighting Ceremony held on December 1, 2019.
The projects focus was to entice artists to think and produce artwork that highlighted their connection with their community, answering the question “How can/does my local government produce opportunities for me to be in nature, to have community, to enjoy arts, experience culture and be nurtured by connectivity while also speaking to “The natural beauty in Gaston County: Parks, Greenways and Crowder’s Mountain” to name a few. The artists responsible for the mural brought with them a community of friends to complete the mural painting. During the process, both the artists as well as planning staff received positive feelings and feedback regarding the mural from individuals that live within the area and those visiting.
We felt that this project is the genesis of more projects and initiatives to come that will aide in the beautification of our community, and further push a sense of pride, equity and inclusion.