A new park invites neighbors to stay awhile and relax, or smile a little passing through.
by Sharon Smith
SouthPark has a new bright spot — and it’s okay to walk on. In fact, artist Laurie Smithwick would love kids and grownups alike to follow the path of the whimsical bubbles she painted on the sidewalk, part of a new mural at the newly-finished Anne O. Moffat Park at the corner of Sharon Road and Hazelton Drive.
“My goal was to create something that was happy, fun, uplifting — but also a little nostalgic,” Smithwick says. She hopes visitors see the bright circles and think back to blowing bubbles in their youth. The bubbles follow a meandering yellow line, reminiscent of that familiar old-fashioned chalk color, the only chalk color anyone over the age of 35 might recall using as a kid.
“It’s a little piece of nature in an urban setting,” said Angela Rigsbee, CEO and president of Sharon Towers, during park construction. The park was created through a partnership with the continuing-care retirement community and the City of Charlotte. As the campus undergoes a major revitalization and expansion project, dedicating this half-acre as a public park seemed like a positive way to benefit their residents and the community, Rigsbee said. Eventually, plans include connecting the park to public retail space (like an ice cream shop) on the Sharon Towers campus, steps away from The Loop, a planned 3-mile urban trail being built in phases around the SouthPark core of shops and businesses.
The park is named after Anne Moffat, who served as CEO of Sharon Towers for nearly 20 years. It’s a tribute to her leadership and dedication to the community — including community beyond their walls. The mural is the 50th Inspiration Project managed by ArtPop Street Gallery and was commissioned by the SouthPark Association of Neighborhoods.
Smithwick says she drew color inspiration from the park’s landscape — green trees and pink flowering shrubs. Steps from the mural, a fountain is encircled with benches framed by a buffer of trees on one side. It’s a peaceful setting by sight and sound, as the bubbling fountain drowns out Sharon Road traffic.
“People are really excited about it,” Smithwick says, sharing the reaction of neighbors across the street about her hopscotch-like mural. “They say, ‘I’ve been watching you and it’s so fun to watch it take shape.'”
So if you happen to see people winding their way down Hazelton Drive in a zig-zag fashion, don’t be alarmed. They’re just experiencing art in the way that Smithwick intended. SP