South End Creative Lab

It’s back! We are thrilled to announce the 2017 South End creative microgrant program, now called the South End Creative Lab.

Here’s what it is:

You know all those times when you have thought, “This place would just be better if someone would ________…” Well, we want to help you be that someone. Tell us what you want to make better. We’ll give you $50 – $1,000 to make it happen.

Why are we doing this?

  1. Life happens on the street. We want to help you bring the creativity and serendipity that happens within four walls in South End out onto the streets and sidewalks where everyone can see it.
  2. We want to help you live your dreams. Sometimes a few dollars and a team of people standing behind you to cheer you on is all you need to take matters into your own hands and make something awesome. We believe that this program will build community and local leadership with people like you.
  3. Creativity thrives in South End. We hear all the time about neat start-ups, art collaborations and new ideas taking root in South End. Let’s show off all the neat things that can happen here.

So, you’ll just give me money?

Almost. There are a few requirements.

  1. Creative Lab projects must be designed for and implemented in Historic South End. If you aren’t sure exactly where the boundaries are, see this map.
  2. Creative Lab projects must enhance the public realm, meaning that they are outside or visible from the street or sidewalk. They can be in the street or sidewalk (we’ll help you through the red tape on that one), on private property, on the side of a building, in the sky… just as long as anyone can see or interact with it. Creative Lab projects should be accessible all (or most) of the time, and be welcoming to all.
  3. Eligible projects can be temporary or semi-permanent. (Nothing lasts forever). Previous winners of our microgrants have done things like create public seating on the Rail Trail, offer free pop-up classes for dog owners, create interactive art experiences like the coloring-book wall on Camden and collaborative collage, and add art and color and poetry in unexpected places. We are looking to fund things like static improvements (a little library, a garden, a bench, art) and interactive programming (yoga, dog training, dance, performance art, games).
  4. Funds can help pay for materials but generally cannot pay for your time. Sometimes there are exceptions.

Challenge Areas

New for 2017, there are bonus funds available if your project enhances one of a few challenge areas along the Rail Trail. These are:

  • Edna’s Porch (Location) Edna’s Porch is the Rail Trail’s front porch in South End. The bright yellow porch swings and amphitheater seating make it a natural spot for performances, art or events.
  • Trolley Powerhouse (Location) The Charlotte Trolley Powerhouse building is at the heart of South End, and right at the Bland Street light rail station. What could you add to the alley, the windows, or someplace else to make this space more than a walkway?
  • Duke Substation – Yellow Chair Lawn. (Location) The yellow chairs on the grass are a natural chill spot during the day, and the Duke substation has an illuminated light show at night. What else could happen here? Art, games, furniture, flowers?
  • Dilworth Artisan Station. (Location) The back parking lot area at Dilworth Artisan Station once hosted the Neighborhood Living Room (a temporary, creative South End project) and it’s ready for the next big thing. All summer, pushcart vendors will set up shop here. What else would you want to see here while you eat an ice cream? Art, seating, signage, shade?
  • Shook-Kelley Porch. (Location) The low wall that runs along the Rail Trail at the back of the Shook-Kelley building at 2151 Hawkins Street is where the Runners’ Respite bench popped up last summer; one of the first round of creative South End microgrants. The bench was fabulous but nothing lasts forever. What should go here next? This area is a great opportunity to make a big impact on a long, and busy stretch of the trail.


How do I apply?

The initial application is easy. Tell us about what you want to do and why, how you think you might do it, and what you think it might cost.

If your idea is a winner, we’ll give you funds to help make it happen, and invite you to a workshop with our partners and past winners to help you get started.

When is the deadline?

May 8, 2017:       South End Creative Lab 2017 announced

June 8:                 Applications due

June 23:               Winners notified on or before June 23rd

July 11 or 13:      Winners’ workshop – 6-8pm

July 15 – October 31:      Creative Lab takes flight! (Bring your idea to life.)

November 30:   Report about your experience


Like everything great, it takes a village to make great things happen. Here’s who you’ll have on your team:

  • Advice and coaching from the staff of planners, designers, and event wizards at Charlotte Center City Partners
  • Advice and coaching from previous microgrant winners
  • Fabrication guidance and access to the Makers Space at C3 Lab
  • Borrow tools from the Charlotte Community Toolbank

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply?

Fill out this form. Don’t forget to email us your inspiration images. (Details in form.)

Will you help me find a location to implement my project?

It’s up to you to research location options. We can support you in connecting with property owners, but you are ultimately responsible for obtaining permission from them. Check out the challenge areas for a few places where we know we can help.

If I receive a grant, can I have more money than the amount I applied for?

Winners will be awarded the specific amount for which they apply. The application requires a budget outline so you may identify upfront how much is needed to implement your project. We cannot guarantee additional funds if you incur costs beyond the amount identified in your application.

What can the grant money go towards?

Funds may be used to purchase materials, rent equipment, or enlist expert assistance.

How long does the installation have to last?

Depending on the scope of your project, temporary physical improvements may last anywhere from a few days to several months.

May I submit more than one application? Can previous applicants and winners apply again?

Yes, yes and yes! Bring it on.

Am I allowed to do a project on the Rail Trail?

LYNX Blue Line platforms are off limits for safety reasons, but CATS has a Task Order process to allow for temporary installations on the Rail Trail. There are a few extra steps to gain permission. We can help.

Am I allowed to do a project in the street?

If you want to do something in the street (jargon: “public right of way”), you must work with the Charlotte Department of Transportation. For safety reasons, there are some specific rules. Permits are required to close a street or a lane for work, events, or placemaking. We’ll help you connect with the right people at the city to figure it out.

How do you define the “public realm”?

Public realm means all of the places and structures that are accessible or viewable by the public. That means parks, sidewalks, plazas, bus stops, street trees, parking spaces, landscaping, planting strips, walls, windows – everything you can see from the street that gives a place its character. Not all parts of the public realm are “public”–a window or a wall might be owned by a private owner, and managed by a business tenant; something you should think about when you consider your project, partners and permissions.

Do you have more questions? Drop us a line: email Megan Gude at mgude (at) charlottecentercity (dot) org.


Streets Reconsidered

Project for Public Spaces

8 80 Cities

The Better Block Foundation

Charlotte Rail Trail Public Art Master Plan