Knight Foundation grant will boost Urban Institute’s ‘City of Creeks’ project

Monday, November 4, 2013

The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute’s online publication has won a $12,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to boost a project that will look at Charlotte’s creeks.

The grant from Knight Foundation Fund at Foundation for the Carolinas will pay a researcher in local history to examine the role the creeks have played in Charlotte’s growth and development, including the city’s cultural and social history, with a special focus on neighborhoods in west and northwest Charlotte.

The PlanCharlotte project “City of Creeks” is envisioned as a way to combine history, environmental science and community engagement, all focused on the city’s distinctive landscape of creeks and ridges. It will feature online publication as well as exhibits in one or more venues around the city, including at UNC Charlotte Center City, in partnership with the UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture.  

“We think this project will add to the city’s understanding of where and why it grew as it did and will be especially interested to hear stories coming out of the neighborhoods,” said Susan Patterson, Knight Foundation’s program director in Charlotte.

“Charlotte’s creeks are all around us, but most people tend to ignore them,” PlanCharlotte director Mary Newsom said. “We think it’s time to celebrate them as a major reason why Charlotte is where it is, and a largely unheralded factor in how the city and its neighborhoods developed. The opening of the new Little Sugar Creek Greenway uptown has made people take a fresh look at that creek. We think now’s the time for a bigger look at all our urban streams.”

Newsom, associate director at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, said the “City of Creeks” project is continuing to seek funding.  It is part of a proposed three-year collaborative endeavor with the UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture’s Projective Eye Gallery and independent curator June Lambla. The collaboration, called the Keeping Watch Alliance, will offer audiences an annual series of exhibitions and programming, each focusing on a specific environmental issue: recycling/plastics in 2014, water and urban streams in 2015 and air in 2016. was launched in 2012 with a grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. The online publication offers information, analysis and news to help citizens in the Charlotte region as they deal with issues of growth, urbanization, transportation and environmental protection.

The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, founded in 1949, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan applied research and community outreach center at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.