Officials from the Town of Chapel Hill are considering plans to “activate” the 140 West plaza — an open, public area at the intersection of W. Franklin Street and Church Street that is currently the home of the “Exhale” sculpture, a large, public art display commissioned in 2013.
Currently, the plaza is only used for occasional events. "Activating" it would give the plaza a busier schedule.
A public forum will be held this evening to gauge public opinion on the future of both the plaza and the sculpture.
“Back in June, the Town Council had a discussion about 'Exhale' and about the plaza and directed staff to engage folks about this,” said Susan Brown, library director and executive director for Community Arts and Culture for the Town.
The Council’s discussion considered the future of the 140 West plaza and whether activating it for regular use would coincide with the presence of "Exhale."
The meeting will ask the public’s opinion on potentially moving the sculpture to allow for more engagement at the plaza.
Exhale was created by public landscape artist Mikyoung Kim in 2013 as part a contract with 140 West plaza’s previous owner, Ram Development Company, to provide public art at the heart of Downtown Chapel Hill.
The sculpture is a collection of textured stainless steel that emanates light and fog when activated. The piece was created with public interaction in mind.
UNC students have mixed opinions about the sculpture. Some didn’t realize the sculpture was art, while others, like sophomore Baylee Roy, think that its presence is vital to the culture of Franklin Street.
“I think it’s important that there is public art because it inspires other people to take action,” she said.
Asana Partners, the current owner of the plaza, has designed plans for the space that involve keeping the sculpture, but the council wants to explore the public’s opinion on all potential options.
"It doesn't speak to me, so maybe they can put something there that speaks to more students," sophomore Jared Bowen-Kauth said.
Brown said Tuesday’s meeting will guide the public through four innovative exercises that are designed to get feedback on moving the sculpture and activating the plaza.
The “public focus group,” as Brown called it, is open to everyone and will be held at 6 p.m. at the Chapel Hill Public Library. The Town encourages anyone to come for the hour and bring “curiosity and creativity.”
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