Charlotte local artist Norma Gely paints her creative spherical rendition for the Cool Globes exhibit. (Photo Credit: James Lane Imagery)

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Aug. 5 that Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan will be extended, keeping a number of businesses and amusement venues closed until at least Sept. 11. That includes museums, many of which have turned to virtual programming and online exhibitions to keep their patrons engaged.

#MuseumFromHome is a worldwide social media campaign promoting these, and places like the Mint Museum are offering things like virtual art studio tours and craft projects you can do without venturing out of your house. For many, however, there is still a loss in not being able to physically interact with the remarkable artwork that exists in the city’s museum collections. “We begin to miss the brightness of colors and seeing the painted brushstrokes in front of our eyes,” says aspiring curator Nina Relf. “You get a special feeling inside when you see the real artwork for the first time.”

Science museums, often built around hand-on experiences, are also creatively addressing the need to fulfill their missions while keeping guests safe and following health and government mandates.

One of the many Cool Globes artistic creations on exhibit across Charlotte, N.C.’s landscape. (Photo Credit: James Lane Imagery)

A new public art exhibition in Charlotte helps feed that need for art this fall, while also educating around an important global science issue. “Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet” features 35 globe sculptures, each sharing a simple way individuals or businesses can reduce climate change. The project premiered in Chicago in 2007 in partnership with the Field Museum of Natural History and Mayor Richard Daley’s Office of Environment, with more than three million viewers. The exhibit has since traveled the world, exhibiting on four continents.

Charlotte is the 23rd city that the exhibition has toured — this time, in partnership with Discovery Place and Trane Technologies. “We were so impressed by the response by the local Charlotte community,” said Wendy Abrams, founder of Cool Globes, Inc., during a recent Zoom interview with WCCB’s Jon Wilson. For Discovery Place, the exhibition is an opportunity to expand upon its organizational mission to make science learning accessible to everyone.

Seven of the globes were created locally by artists Norma Gely, Rosalie Grubb, Elisa Sanchez, Jackie London, Rosalia Weiner, Britt Flood, Max Dowdle and a group of students from Trinity Episcopal School. Most of these locally designed globes are centered around Discovery Place’s Uptown location, and the exhibit continues along N. Tryon St. between Trade and East 11th, with 31 globes spanning eight city blocks. The remaining four globes are located at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the U.S. National Whitewater Rafting Center, Truist Field and Camp North End.

The goal of the nationally-recognized exhibition is to inspire participants to learn about small actions that can add up to a large impact. They are perfectly designed for the current times as well. Abrams points out that the exhibition has never been in a pandemic before, but “the silver lining is the globes are kind of meant to be enjoyed while socially distancing because they’re each about ten to fifteen feet apart.”

“Cool Globes is a creative and unique educational opportunity for our community,” said Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles. “I urge everyone to visit the art exhibit and learn about small steps they can take to help make our environment more sustainable.”

As the press release for the project points out, Charlotte was named a winner in the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge in 2018. As a winning city, Charlotte received technical assistance and support valued at $2.5 million to implement the City’s strategic energy action plan and achieve their carbon reduction goals. So far, Charlotte has been able to advance a large-scale solar initiative, green workforce program and institute sustainable policies that will support the City’s transition to electric vehicles.

As aptly named, these Cool Globes are showcasing an important issue using artwork that is engaging and imparts beauty to the urban landscape, a welcome addition to pandemic walks through the city. “The Cool Globes exhibition is an opportunity to showcase sustainability, along with the amazing talents of local and national artists, on a city-wide level,” said Catherine Wilson Horne, Discovery Place president and CEO. So, if COVID-19 has you begging for an art experience (and education), consider adding this exhibition to your socially distanced list of outdoor activities. It’s really “cool.”

The exhibition will be on display in Charlotte through the end of 2020.