Institute, partners launch 3-year look at environmental topics

The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, in partnership with the UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture, has launched KEEPING WATCH, a three-year initiative designed to bring a higher profile to, and engage the public in, issues about the natural environment. The initiative will foster collaboration across various interest groups and disciplines.

An exhibit opened Friday, March 28, at UNC Charlotte Center City to kick off the initiative.

Working with historians, writers, artists, scientists and environmental experts, KEEPING WATCH will explore three local environmental issues: plastic waste and recycling (KEEPING WATCH on PLASTICS, 2014), urban streams (KEEPING WATCH on CREEKS, 2015), and air quality and the value of trees (KEEPING WATCH on AIR, 2016). The bulk of each year’s events will take place around Earth Day in April.

Trash, urban streams, and air quality are significant issues being addressed by many local government agencies and groups. KEEPING WATCH aims to create an alliance among the public and private entities in order to provide a stronger voice and broader platform for their efforts, using programming at multiple venues, involving multiple groups. Contemporary arts, narrative nonfiction, online multimedia, public exhibitions, film screenings, panel discussions, neighborhood-level events in underserved areas, and public lectures and forums are all part of the planned three-year project. PlanCharlotte, the online publication of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, will publish an ongoing series of articles examining these key, local environmental issues.

Programming for KEEPING WATCH on PLASTICS begins March 28 with the opening of the exhibition Sustain Me Baby at the Projective Eye Gallery at UNC Charlotte Center City and Is This Yours?, a collection of public art installations in spots around Charlotte. Related programming throughout the spring includes a “Recycled Runway” fashion show April 12, film screenings and panel discussions May 16 and June 13 at UNC Charlotte Center City, plus an installation at the McColl Center for Visual Art by resident artist Aurora Robson. For more information, please visit, a website that will offer information about the initiative’s events, publications and programs.

The KEEPING WATCH initiative is directed by Mary Newsom, associate director of urban and regional affairs at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute; Crista Cammaroto, director of galleries for the College of Arts + Architecture; and independent curator June Lambla, Lambla artWORKS.

KEEPING WATCH is funded by the UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture, the Arts & Science Council, the Blumenthal Foundation, the Knight Foundation Fund at Foundation For The Carolinas, the North Carolina Arts Council.

Community partners in the initiative, to date, are the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, the City of Charlotte, Clean Air Carolina, Discovery Place, McColl Center for Visual Art, Mecklenburg County Solid Waste, North Carolina Dance Theatre, Slow Food and Sustain Charlotte.