Best Sight in CLT Right Now ~ The I Heart Rail Trail Lights

Those I Heart Rail Trail Lights, presented by U.S. Bank, are back and better than ever this year. From February 19 – March 7, the Rail Trail will celebrate local art with interactive light installations spread throughout South End. The installation footprint will span from Carson Blvd. to Atherton Mill and will feature 6 works by seven artists in the following locations:

  • Light Beans by Luvly Moon – 1100 South plaza (at the apartment splash pad) 
  • Threads by Kit Kube – Charlotte Urban Design Center plaza (1507 Camden Road)
  • Covid Confessionals by Rachel Dickey – Dimensional Fund Advisors plaza (1616 S. Tryon)
  • Lover’s Lighthouse by Sharon Dowell & Chris Holston – 1616 “Coop” (1616 Camden Rd. above Leroy Fox)
  • Seating ReArrangements by Ellie Richards – Dilworth Artisan Station Plaza (118 E. Kingston Ave.)
  • Fairy Ring by Meredith Connelly – Atherton Plaza (2102 South Blvd.)  

As part of this unique experience, you’ll enjoy music, performers, freebies and more surprises as you tour the lights.

Sunday 2/21:  

Pepperbox Doughnuts will give out free doughnuts to the first 100 customers who show a picture of what “Art they Heart” the most out of the interactive installations.  

Wednesday 2/24: 

Oh Script Paper Co and Three Little Birds greeting cards on the Rail Trail Chalkboard in the afternoon – grab a card for a friend!  

Friday 2/26: 

Central Coffee to give free hot chocolate + coffee: 5-6pm at their shop 

Saturday 2/27: 

  • Bookout Blooms will give out 100 roses at the South End Farmer’s Market at Atherton Mill  
  • Brown Sugar Collab will provide 10 candles to be hidden along the Rail Trail for a fun scavenger hunt  
  • Central Coffee to give free hot chocolate + coffee: 5-6pm at their South End shop 
  • Three Little Birds greeting cards on the Rail Trail Chalkboard 

Sunday 2/28: 

Pepperbox Doughnuts will give out free doughnuts to the first 100 customers who show a picture of what “Art they Heart” the most out of the interactive installations.  

Friday 3/5:  

Central Coffee to give free hot chocolate + coffee: 5-6pm at their South End shop 

Saturday 3/6: 

  • Bookout Blooms will give out 100 roses at the South End Farmer’s Market at Atherton Mill  
  • Brown Sugar Collab will provide 10 candles to be hidden along the Rail Trail for a fun scavenger hunt  
  • Central Coffee to give free hot chocolate + coffee: 5-6pm at their South End shop 

Sunday 3/7:  

All day: Pepperbox Doughnuts to give out free doughnuts to the first 100 customers who show a picture of what “Art they Heart” the most out of the interactive installations.  

For the 2021 I Heart Rail Trail: Lights, Center City Partners collaborated with Lauren Harkey, owner/director of Hodges Taylor, an art consulting firm and gallery based in South End. Harkey worked as an independent curator to facilitate the project, from creating the call to artists to consulting on the nuts and bolts of each installation.

More detail on the installations:

Seating ReArrangements Artist: Ellie Richards @ellieinthewoods

Created by sculptor and furniture designer, Ellie Richards, Seating ReArrangements is an engaging composition of ten motion-illuminated chairs on the Dilworth Artisan Station Plaza. Viewable from the Rail Trail, visitors will be invited by rotating colors of embedded LED lights within plywood chairs to this socially-distanced seating arrangement. Click thru to Ellie’s instagram to watch a video of her installation.

The pandemic has altered the way we convene, and therefore the way furniture is situated in familiar spaces. Dining and leisurely activities typically taking place with closely placed chairs around a table have moved outdoors or disbanded altogether. This project considers these new behaviors and furniture layouts in outdoor space by creating a way for visitors to safely engage in the company of others through intentional arrangements that give way to an experience of social intimacy lost during this time.  


Lover’s Lighthouse Artist: Sharon Dowell (@sharon_dowell) & Christopher Holston (@christopher.holston.art)

Sharon Dowell and Christopher Holston, Charlotte-based painters, created an illuminated lightbox in the second story conference room of 1616 Camden. Their original design of colorful cutout shapes comes to life printed on frosted vinyl film placed directly on the room’s exterior windows and wraps around the exterior. Illuminated from within by rotating and slow changing LED lights, the design’s colors change and shapes dance projected from the building’s conference room-turned-lightbox installation. At times, the last year seemed to be the year of taking a deep breath. The vibrant window murals seem to bellow air, portraying a space that appears alive.

Sharon and Chris’s collaborative paintings and murals layer abstracted imagery, texture and color. This project expands upon their past works together into a new media involving light and glass.

And PS, they got engaged right in front of their installation in the what has to be the most romantic thing to happen at the Rail Trail lights thus far….


Fairy Ring Artist: Meredith Connelly @meredith.connelly

Meredith Connelly, installation and paper artist, created Fairy Ring, composed of approximately eighty hand-sculpted thermoplastic fungi. Fairy Ring, embedded on the grassy corner in front of Atherton Market, appears like a naturally occurring phenomenon that serves as its inspiration. Fairy rings emerge as a ring or arc of mushrooms in various climates and locations around the world and have deep ties to ancient mythology. Each mushroom varies in size and contains internal light that softly diffuses through the thermoplastic to create a soft and grounded glow. Meredith is fascinated with how viewers react to her large-scale artificially illuminated sculptures, always taking cues from the natural world. She seeks to bright light, warmth, and magic to the community by transforming perception of space and inspiring contemplation in the beauty of nature.


Threads Artist: Kit Kube (http://kitkube.com/)

Composed of repurposed stainless-steel spools from textile mills, harvested from a local scrap yard, Threads, is a light installation creates ties to the design district and former industrial neighborhood of South End. In Threads, Kit Kube has reworked remnants of the area’s textile industry, creating a new object from the sum of varying pieces and parts. Inside of each sculpture, Kit has incorporated and wired different light sources to project threads of colored light through the pieces and its surroundings. As a local artist who uses light as his primary medium and an exhibition developer for arts and science museums, Kit utilizes light-based objects fabricated from remnants of the mechanistic past to bring about surprise and wonderment in viewers.


Light Beans Artist: Luvly Moon @luvlymoon_

Luvly Moon’s Light Beans, playfully placed on Atherton Plaza, are painted acrylic semi-circular sculptures of varying sizes, between two and four feet in diameter. Each Light Bean is outfitted with a lantern light suspended from an antenna-like extension of each Light Bean. Elevated off the Light Rail, these quirky sculptures create a clever interruption of the public space and are intended to spark joy in passersby. Light Beans represents the light from within each of us and its power to illuminate any dark night, and each other.


Covid Confessionals Artist: Rachel Dickey (studio.dickey.com

Covid Confessionals is a timely response to Covid-19 measures for social distancing as a set of iridescent curved walls with a six-foot radius that are activated by light characteristics of color and reflection. Each of the confessionals act as room-sized face shields that provide a barrier for meeting. The spacing of these urban shields encourages physical distancing, while also providing a place for interaction, and contemplation. The ground plane surrounding the shields is demarcated by a set of vibration activated lights at the center of each confessional. As a passerby steps on the interactive lights, a field of light dynamically bounces off the illuminated shields and encourages distanced and interactive play. 

I Heart Rail Trail: Lights is part of the I Heart Rail Trail initiative, a partnership between the Charlotte Rail Trail, Charlotte Center City Partners and U.S. Bank. The initiative will feature events large and small to activate the Rail Trail and enhance the experience of this 3.5-mile linear park. In addition to sponsoring the I Heart Rail Trail initiative, U.S. Bank in 2019 contributed $1 million toward the planned construction of a pedestrian bridge that will connect the South End and Uptown portions of the Rail Trail.

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