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Cornelius News

Meredith Connelly: This artist is a community builder

“I do not wait for inspiration to strike. I seek it out and work to harness it daily,” says artist Meredith Connelly / Photos courtesy Meredith Connelly

Feb. 17. By Dave Yochum. Cornelius artist Meredith Connelly has landed a major commission from the prestigious Arts and Science Council for site-specific public art at a new park in Mint Hill.

She said the commission is to create artwork that is expressly designed to welcome residents and visitors to a new 90.6-acre park.

The budget is $73,100, which includes all artist’s fees, design, fabrication and installation of the artwork. Engineering fees and all requirements for code compliance are also included in this amount.

Connelly will work with residents and community stakeholders to create an impactful artwork that is integrated into the site and connects to the historic farm theme and agrarian and nature-based project vision.


That’s the factual side.

The creative side is what Connelly is all about. Her lighted work at the Whitewater Center is visually stunning and at the same time soothing.

“I am first and foremost motivated by building opportunities for connection and community through accessible public work,” she says.

The best experiential work transcends age, race and socioeconomic status, invigorating her.

“I believe art-making is my humble role in this world and that art is a catalyst for growth, healing, and impact,” she says.

The act of working and creating is a motivation builder. “I do not wait for inspiration to strike. I seek it out and work to harness it daily,” she says.

Home studio

Connelly lives on Sandy Cove Road with two children and husband Mike Zak, a senior business development consultant at Scantron.

Fiberglass mushrooms light up the trails of the U.S. National Whitewater Center

Her studio is in the house overlooking Lake Norman.

She believes artists are born with the innate drive to express and create. In fact, her degree is in studio art.

“There is a level of self-acceptance, vulnerability, and commitment associated with the decision to pursue art as a career and business. This is especially the case when there is a focus on ensuring the creative process is prioritized in the midst of it,” Connelly said.

She said she created “quietly and humbly” for years and had a very hard time calling herself an artist.

“Owning my commitment and confidently claiming my path was a huge step and true turning point for me as a creative businesswoman,” she said.

She funded her own installations for at least 10 years.

Her first permanent sculpture, “Fairy Ring” at Atherton Mill, officially opens in South End with a community lighting celebration Feb. 17. There will be entertainment, local vendors, food and more. She will speak about her process as an artist at the Mint Museum March 16. Another permanent sculpture will be installed at the Charlotte Art League this spring.

Regardless of funding and commissions, Connelly tries to create as if no one will see the work except for her.

“I have to feel fully satisfied or as if it is time to release it, so I suppose in a way, another form of motivation is to stay true to my vision and myself,” the artist said.

She may be recognized as a serious and accomplished artist, but recognition is not a driving force in what she does or how she is motivated.

Being creative

How does she create? Well, it’s complicated.

Connelly is inspired by science, nature and technology.

She is equally inspired by science, nature and technology. Concepts usually arise as she explores the natural world and connects with the intricacies of an environment.

The land at Ezell Farms in Mint Hill is breathtakingly beautiful, full of historical narrative and a joy to explore—stimulating and challenging for the artist.

“Many times something strikes me and I will visualize the glowing installation forms. From there I go down a rabbit hole of sketching and research to further conceptualize the design while identifying materials, lighting, and tech that will best achieve the overarching vision,” Connelly said.

She cares about creating impactful art that is designed specifically for a space.

“The work and my life are layered with motivations to contribute to others, to the greater good, and to the next generation, and to my loving family,” Connelly said.

Tonight, Feb. 17, is the opening of Connelly’s first permanent installation “Fairy Ring” at Atherton Mill. Festivities are from 5:30-8:30 pm, with a ring lighting at 6:30 pm.