Preserving Charlotte’s history isn’t often viewed as the job of the Millennial generation, but that’s an outlook Ting Li and some other artists around the city are trying to change.
She’s designed works on many popular locales including everything from the Duke Mansion to the Thirsty Beaver.
Li hopes the art engages younger people in preservation, and proceeds from sales go toward conservation projects.
“Historic preservation provides context to the places we live, play and work,” Li said. “It’s essential to our city’s personality. Art is a part of this experience, to connect with us emotionally and spark an intellectual curiosity about our past, about where we have been and help shape our future.”
BuiltCity’s research is a good mix of old school and Millennial, tapping into the work of Charlotte’s Historic Landmarks Commission or researching from Wikipedia. Li’s team digs up blueprints from original construction when needed — as was the case with BuiltCity’s print of the Carolina Theater — and takes some artistic license with others to imagine the space as it could be.
The entire project is done in house, and usually it takes close to a month for each design.
The process starts with a basic pencil and paper sketch in black and white, then the design is fed into a computer, and pixel graphics are layered on top before coloring is done.
“It’s like paint on canvas, but just on the computer,” Li said. “It’s pretty labor intensive, which is why we don’t do many new pieces every year. But it’s really a project done out of love for these buildings.”
BuiltCity’s latest project is a rendering of the Siloam Schoolhouse, a fixture of the city’s Jim Crowe era and, as Li described, a tribute to Charlotte’s black history.
“Siloam Schoolhouse is a part of Charlotte’s history of community strength and perseverance in the face of adversity,” she said.
Li has also teamed up with Gallery Twenty-Two’s Alex Kastanas on a project aimed directly at saving the schoolhouse.
Li, Kastanask and a group of developers, artists, business owners and city officials are working to raise funds — upwards of $600,000 — to restore the schoolhouse and move it to the campus of the Charlotte History Museum.
That effort includes a fundraising at Gallery Twenty-two (1500 Central Ave. in Plaza Midwood) on Saturday night July 8, which will feature artists from around the area who’ve been inspired by Charlotte’s history, and the release of BuiltCity’s entire archive, available for sale.
“Structures that may seem dilapidated, as in the case of Siloam Schoolhouse, often contain a rich history of how our city’s experiences have shaped its growth,” Li said. “The event will be an unique chance to meet local artists, learn about our city’s many precious build spaces and register to vote, while getting to dance to great music and sip cocktails and local brews inside the chill vibe of Gallery Twenty Two.”
Looking to buy a poster and support? Here’s Built City’s online store.