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ArtPop crowns billboards with local Q.C. talent

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Billboards aren't meant to be too distracting — even as you speed along in or sluggishly sit cursing at rush-hour traffic — but they are meant to catch your attention.

In its second year, the ArtPop program has finalized the next round of local art to don these huge canvases around the Queen City. The opportunity is a result of a partnership between the Arts & Science Council and Adams Outdoor Advertising; the designs go up the week of Jan. 5, 2015, and will stay up all year.

"Charlotte has a wonderful pool of talented artists," says John Horne III, Arts & Science Council's cultural and community investment program director. "Just as the community takes pride in other aspects of the city such as the Hornets, Panthers and local craft breweries, we should take pride in our hometown artists. Why look to New York? Why look to Los Angeles, Seattle, or San Francisco? Charlotte has its own distinctive voice and we need to highlight that voice and make our own artistic mark."

Artists whose works will become larger than life include Arthur Brouthers, Bree Stallings, Deborah Triplett, Leandro Manzo, Sy Arden and Emily Andress, along with 14 others chosen by jury-selected program artists and public vote.

According to Horne, this year's public voting on was three times the number hit last year and drew submissions inquiries internationally.

"I told them sure, but they have to move to Charlotte," Horne says.

For her submission, Bree Stallings created a multi-media piece of acrylic, ink and spray paint on canvas, titled "Supernova," a name inspired by astronomy and the concept of new life.

The work features koi fish, strawberries and a woman wearing earrings that are glass bowls with goldfish. "It's a piece about the circularity of life, ying-and-yang, the flow of energy and growth," says Stallings. "The koi fish and strawberries represent ripeness and wisdom. Her earrings, glass bowls containing goldfish, are saying that we carry our experiences everywhere we go."

Applying an artist's work to billboard format is a simple process, says Wendy Hickey, founder of ArtPop. "The artists send us an image of their work and we have a template that we put it into. We then send that off to our printer to be printed on billboard vinyl. Typically, our printer turns around the image to the actual vinyl product in five to 10 business days and, of course, in rush situations the printers can work faster than that."

Tina Alberni was among last year's ArtPop participants. She believes the experience has had a positive effect on her career in the art world. Her work "Tropicana" was influenced by her former home in Puerto Rico. "It is hard to express the overwhelming excitement one feels to see one's work blown up to the huge scale of 672 feet," says Alberni. "I never imagined that I would ever see my work on such a large scale that was so accessible for everyone to see. I really liked the fact that anyone from any walk of life could have the opportunity to engage with my work on their own terms. I could never, in a lifetime, get the exposure I have gotten through regular gallery venues."

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