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Making Art 'Pop' On Highway Billboards

Monique Luck

Sometimes highway billboards are an eyesore. But the Arts and Science Council and a group called ArtPop are trying to change that by placing the work of 20 local artists on billboards. Fifteen have already been chosen. And this week, the public can vote on the last five artists. 

Monique Luck is a local mixed media artist. That means she uses a lot of different materials – like paper, fabric, glass beads and paint, to make her pieces pop. Her most recent collage is of a woman closing her eyes and smelling dogwood flowers as the wind holds her hair back.

The collage was one of the 15 selected by the Arts & Science Councilpanel of judges. Wendy Hickey was on the panel and says Monique's piece was her favorite.

"The colors," Hickey says. "It was just very original and very beautiful and very eye-catching and I knew that it was something that would lend itself well to something that somebody drives past on the roadways."

Credit Courtesy of ArtPop

Hickey started a billboard art program about ten years ago as an account executive with Adams Outdoor Advertising. At the time, she was living in Pennsylvania and was involved with the local arts and science council.

"As a lover of art, I thought what a great medium for artists to be able to place their work," Hickey says. "So I talked to my general manager about creating an art program for local artists and she said yes and been doing it ever since."

Eventually she formed a group called ArtPop – the pop stands for "public outdoor project." ArtPop has launched similar programs in six cities. When Hickey moved to Charlotte about a year ago, she approached ASC about doing it here.

Locals also have a say in what gets to be displayed on the billboards. This week, people can vote for their five favorite submissions. Hickey still works for Adams, which is donating 20 billboards for one year. The ASC is pitching in $10,000 to cover production costs.

John Horne with the Arts and Science Council says he was excited when Hickey first approached him with the idea.  

"It's a wonderful opportunity to take something that you might normally use as white noise on your drive home or you're on your way to work and really let it capture your imagination and hopefully inspire some people," Horne says. 

The billboards will be on display for one year starting January 6, 2014.