Charlotte neighbors convert yards into art

Hogan Schussler paints artwork to be displayed in the yard.

From vintage glass totem poles in 28226 to a corrugated cardboard installation in 28205 and a “twig and found art sculpture” in 28207, Charlotte residents are letting their creativity out to play.

Billed as “an exhibition curated by the community for the community,” Yard Art Day gives anyone with a front yard, or even a balcony, the chance to display or perform art of any kind for a 24-hour period on Sept. 3, otherwise known as Labor Day.

“Labor Day seemed appropriate because we’re supposed to not be working,” said creator Deborah Triplett, who stresses Yard Art Day is about releasing your inner child. Regardless of age or expertise, anyone interested in signing up for Yard Art Day is welcome, as long as the artwork is original and viewable from the street.

Information and photographs of participating “yard artists” are available online at www.yardartday.org.  A map of participants can be accessed through the event website, http://yardartday.zeemaps.com/.

Though most participation is concentrated in central and south Charlotte, the interactive map features pins all over the region, as far north as Huntersville and Mooresville and as far south as Fort Mill, S.C. “There’s even one person participating in Colorado and another in Los Angeles,” said Triplett, whose goal for next year’s event is an even farther reach.

Triplett, a photographer by trade, has always wanted to curate a show of her own art in her front yard.  Inspiration struck one evening in front of the computer reading about an art contest in Times Square.  She started a “Yard Art Day” Facebook group that had 300 people join within 48 hours.  As of press time, the group is almost 1,500 strong.

Yard Art Day encourages a return to what Triplett calls “front yard culture,” where neighbors opt for interaction rather than retreat to backyard privacy. Growing up in Elkin, Triplett recalls small-town life as a “front yard kid.”  Children would play together in the street without fear because, “you knew you were being watched by all the parents who were also there socializing,” she added. “Everyone joined in.”

Triplett founded Yard Art Day as a tribute to her grandmother, “a Depression-era mountain woman with a lot of knowledge of plants and nature,” she recalled.  Her fondest memories include tending grandma’s garden and snapping green beans on the porch.

An accomplished gardener in her own right, Triplett started her yard from the ground up shortly after moving into her Plaza-Midwood home in 1999.  Today, her backyard boasts a diverse array of flora from tomato plants and fig trees to climbing roses and a fragrant called a “4 o’clock,” aptly named since it blooms in the evening.  She caught herself pouring hours of sweat equity into her backyard but has since returned to the front.

Triplett originally planned an elaborate set-up to showcase her front yard complete with handmade photographic transfers on fabric and an elaborate network of clothesline.  In the busyness of organizing Yard Art Day, she has simplified her plan to follow “her own advice” to not take it too seriously.  Now her yard will feature a garden party tableau with mannequins wearing vintage hats and floral wigs.

Like Triplett, several Yard Art Day participants are professional artists taking a whimsical approach.  Artist Sharon Dowell traded paintbrushes for plastic mini-blinds, cups and bowls to create “Sea Robot Goddess,” a recycled creature accompanied by floating jellyfish “1” and “2.”  Muralist Rosalia Weiner has painted a carnival cutout of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera complete with separate canine cutout for any photogenic pooch.

The beauty of many Yard Art Day projects lies in their simplicity, like Joanna Fadel’s fabric-wrapped trees.  Dione Goyette created a homemade Wheel of Fortune upon which would-be spinners can land “jump on your bed,” “eat lots of candy” or “see a llama.”

Colleen Taylor recruited friend David Northey and his jigsaw to cut out a pint-sized Volkswagon bus and related highway-themed signage from scrap plywood.  In preparation for Yard Art Day, Taylor enlisted painting help from neighbors and her twin sons Hogan and Ryder Schussler.  Borrowing inspiration from a beloved Grateful Dead song, Taylor has planned to inscribe the party bus with a verse from “I Know You, Rider.”

“Yard Art Day is more about the process than the product,” said Triplett, who added that poetry reading, storytelling and dance and are welcome forms of yard art.  Participants are encouraged to list exact performance times on their online map descriptions.

In addition to creating their own artwork, Triplett hopes the Charlotte community will get out and enjoy each others stuff.  Several neighborhoods have planned informal Yard Art Day gatherings including a spontaneous dance down Matheson Avenue.

Triplett sums it up best: “Who is anyone to judge?”

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