Randolph Billingsley Passenger Shelters
Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc., Engineers & Landscape Architects
Redline Design Group, Architects
Michele Tejuola Turner, Charlotte, NC, Artist
Grier Heights - The Early Years
High Resolution Printed Aluminum Panels
CATS’ Art-in-Transit staff recently identified a way in which to incorporate vibrant, multi-colored images into four bus shelters located at Randolph and Billingsley Roads. Local artist Michele Tejuola Turner created pencil drawings of historic structures, portraiture, and nature relevant to the community. The colorful art is richer because it retains Tejuola’s selected colors and her pencil marks easily reproduced onto metal panels and inserted into the bus shelters.
Tejuola identified her content for the art during a Grier Heights Community meeting where photos of past influential citizens were displayed on the walls of the community center. Turner researched these people and honored several community leaders by drawing their portraits, quoting their words and illustrating architectural landmarks from the neighborhood.
Arthur Grier is honored for developing the African American suburban area known as Grier Heights. He was one of Mecklenburg County’s most successful African American businessmen during the era of segregation. Turner depicts images of Grier’s stately home, which is one of the few homes that survived the destruction of the Brooklyn neighborhood.
The first African American landowner in the area, Samuel Billings, purchased 50 acres in 1892. Billings donated his land for the original Billingsville School built in 1927, which now houses the Grier Heights Community Center. Principal Minnie Gamble and teacher Pearl Dinkins were influential in the school’s early years. Tejuola’s farmland drawings and the familiar entrance to the Billingsville School also are reminders of the place and these people.
Naomi Drenan is heralded as the “Mama of Grier Heights” for her community efforts and portrayed by Tejuola. Naomi Drenan participated in founding Grier Heights Presbyterian Church and served as chairwoman of the neighborhood voting district board for 25 years.
Although Ms. Drenan did not have children of her own and only had an elementary school education, she encouraged the neighborhood children to pursue their studies. She often walked the children to school to make sure that they attended. Tejuola quotes Drenan, “Anyone can make a difference. It doesn’t take a whole lot of money. It doesn’t take a whole lot of education. It takes getting involved.”
Photos by James Karner