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I Heart Rail Trail: Lights


Artwork by Meredith Connelly, Photo by Rebrand Media

Unique Works of Art Light Up Charlotte’s South End Neighborhood

Inspiring or amusing for one person, provocative or even boring for another, the universal truth about art is that no two people see or hear the same thing. Public works shown outdoors, often free-of-charge, add to the mix an element of exploration and low-stakes adventure—an invitation to engage with familiar, everyday places in a new way.

During a pandemic, when many events are postponed or cancelled, art in open spaces provide a rare cultural moment for us to safely come together. I Heart Rail Trail: Lights, an installation that opened on February 19 in Charlotte, North Carolina, is an ideal opportunity to explore the city’s South End neighborhood. The installation’s footprint spans from Carson Boulevard to Atherton Mill, where visitors can stroll the Rail Trail, enjoy unique works of art, take fun pictures, grab a bite to eat or a drink, and do it all again tomorrow!


Our goal is to enhance the Rail Trail and bring light and fun at a time when winter is not quite over, and spring is just around the corner. The entire project is outdoors, ensuring an engaging experience while wearing masks and socially distancing. We were blown away last year by the positive response to the inaugural event. People loved the opportunity to explore something new; we responded to their enthusiasm by bringing installations back for a second year.

Megan Liddle Gude Vice President, South End with Charlotte Center City Partners

Nearly 20 artists from North and South Carolina submitted proposals to create works for I Heart Rail Trail that incorporate light into the medium and concept in some way, including sculpture, digital projections, wayfinding, or interactive solutions. From that group, seven finalists were selected to bring their ideas to life.

This year’s installations are all created by North Carolina artists, most of whom are based in Charlotte. The artist Meredith Connelly will debut a new work located at Atherton Mill titled Fairy Ring, connecting her soon-to-close installation, Lights, at the U.S. National Whitewater Center.

I Heart Rail Trail: Lights is a great opportunity for non-traditional artists who have an interest in creating public art to gain experience and see their work in practice. It’s a celebration of the area’s creative community and an opportunity for Charlotte to see the trail in a new light. The adaptation of Meredith’s nature-based light installation in an urban setting like the South End neighborhood is a new moment for her practice, adding an element of magic for visitors.

Lauren Harkey Owner/Director of Hodges Taylor and the organizer of the installation

As stewards of communities where EDENS has a presence, we know that we are better together. With its remarkable history, the revitalization of Atherton Mill has brought a resurgence to the South End with exciting retailers and restaurants.

Common-area enhancements and maintaining open spaces were mandates for the revitalization of the historic Atherton factory. This is our first year on the walkway of I Heart Rail Trail and we’re very excited! We look forward to engaging with visitors during this unique event and sharing memorable moments with the Charlotte community.

Lyle Darnell Managing Director, EDENS.

I Heart Rail Trail: Lights, organized by Charlotte Center City with Hodges Taylor, runs from Friday, February 19, through Sunday, March 7, in Charlotte’s South End neighborhood.

Atherton Mill

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