Charlotte, NC

Charlotte's 2022 Transit Passes Will Feature Work by Local Artists

Shannon Cuthrell

The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) announced it selected three paintings by local artists to be printed on its next lineup of transit passes. Launching in 2022, the monthly bus and light rail passes will be adorned with colorful artwork inspired by the Queen City's downtown streetscapes.

In launching the inaugural transit pass design contest earlier this year, CATS provided applicants with a design template and asked them to consider the prompt, "What Does Charlotte Mean to You?"

Juliann Sheldon, CATS' acting public relations manager, tells News Break that when the agency started designing the 2022 lineup of transit passes earlier this year, it "saw the physical pass as an open canvas to incorporate local art."

Sheldon says CATS received 13 submissions for the contest. Judges were asked to rank the entries based on whether they addressed the theme and promoted multi-modal transportation either in Charlotte specifically or in general terms. The judges also considered whether the pieces were eye-catching and well-composed, without including any text.

Local art instructor Eva Crawford, who works out of a studio and gallery space at the Dilworth Artisan Station in South End, landed the first-place spot with her piece, "Uptown."

Crawford says the piece was inspired by the energy she saw as artists painted the Black Lives Matter mural on South Tryon Street last June. To demonstrate an art lesson for her students at West Charlotte’s Lorien Academy of the Arts, she created the watercolor collage piece from a photo of the mural she took that day.

"I am thrilled that a nod to our city’s implementation of the Black Lives Matter mural will be on the monthly CATS local transit pass," Crawford tells News Break. "My fellow artists brilliantly executed a mural that was then emulated throughout the country, and I was moved to see Charlotte and other sponsors support them through the process."

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"Uptown" by Eva Crawford.Eva Crawford

Crawford says she's grateful to have her artwork enriching CATS riders' experience next year, adding, "Charlotte’s development of her transit system is crucial for the city’s continued growth, and inclusion of local art enhances the monthly passes."

CATS' second selection is a watercolor piece by local illustrator and sculptor Maria Senkel. The work, which Senkel titled "Looking Through The Rearview Mirror," will be featured on the Express monthly pass.

Senkel says the design came to her while daydreaming on a bus ride through the Ballantyne area.

"Just a glance at the rearview mirror of the bus I was in gave me the idea," she recalls. "It was a quick passing thought that I was able to recall when I saw the contest announcement."

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"Looking Through The Rearview Mirror" by Maria Senkel.Maria Senkel

"What I love about the idea of riding in any kind of transportation system is the number of possibilities it offers from the mental-state point of view," Senkel adds. "You can use the time on the ride to daydream (that is how the idea came to me), to read a book, to plan something, to journal, to meditate if you want to, and even to think about what your next painting will be. The possibilities are endless."

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"Angel en North Tryon" by Leandro Manzo.Leandro Manzo

Leandro Manzo's "Angel en North Tryon" won third place and will be featured on the Express Plus monthly bus pass.

Attempts to reach Manzo went unanswered for this story, but the local artist said in CATS' press release that the work began in Charlotte and was completed in Buenos Aires, Argentina, while he was traveling for a series of exhibitions.

"I think the biggest motivation to finish it was that I was terribly missing Charlotte in that time I spent in Buenos Aires," Manzo stated in the announcement. "I first came to Charlotte in 2001 to make an exhibition, so I met, toured, walked and experienced the city for [the] first time. And from the first moment began to emerge, along a love for her, a series of oil paintings of Charlotte landscapes."

Manzo added that he hadn't painted landscapes before, but the city inspired him to start something new.

CATS' Community Engagement Efforts

The transit pass design contest is the latest in a series of community engagement programs operated by Charlotte's public transportation authority. So far this year, the Charlotte Area Transit System has hosted a Ride With The Music concert series, a Senior Sweethearts Valentine's Day card project and an Art Bus Contest engaging local students in designing a bus wrap promoting public transit.

Asked whether CATS plans to run a second transit pass design contest after the new lineup launches next year, Sheldon said the agency will seek the public’s opinion in evaluating its options.

"CATS will continue to look for opportunities to bring in local art (of all mediums) into our initiatives," she added.

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Shannon Cuthrell is a Charlotte-based freelance journalist with a background covering business, technology and economic development. She has written for Business North Carolina magazine, WRAL TechWire and EE Power, among other publications.

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