CHARLOTTE – The school year has been put on pause, but Providence High School teacher Nicole Jenkins wants her students to know they’re not forgotten.
That’s why she asked Shane Pierce, a graffiti artist known as Abstract Dissent, to give the rock in front of the Charlotte school a makeover. Jenkins said she wanted to reinvigorate the spirit of #OneProv and remind the seniors, in particular, that the year wouldn’t end without recognizing their achievements.
“A rock is very tiny thing, I know, in the context of everything, but here is something you can see,” she said. “Everyone in the community drives by this, parents drive by this, and we are all a part of this community group together.”
Tracey Harrill, principal of Providence High School, said the staff misses the students.
“As teachers, we went into education in order to build relationships with our students and have daily interactions with them in person,” Harrill said. “Seeing them from behind our computer is not the same. We want to show our students, especially our seniors, that we are thinking of them and hope for a quick return to school.”
Jenkins, a longtime English and journalism teacher at the south Charlotte school, said things feel “very unsettled,” especially for the seniors. Spring sports seasons have been cut short, prom is canceled and the senior debate team won’t be taking its trip to nationals.
“A lot has sort have been taken,” Jenkins said. “This is not the ending anyone had planned.”
Without those events, and a graduation ceremony still up in the air, she said the school year feels unfinished.
“When you read a book and you’re finished with it, you put it back on the shelf. Now, it feels like we’re missing a chapter,” she said.
Pierce, who used to live in Charlotte but recently moved to Kannapolis, said Jenkins reached out on social media after he painted a rock at Mooresville High School. Pierce said he’s used to doing projects at schools and gets a lot of attention from teachers across the districts.
Over the years, Pierce has spray painted murals at over 20 schools in five counties. Locally, he’s known for the “We are Butler” mural in the cafeteria at Butler High School in Matthews. He painted it just a few days after the shooting there on Oct. 29, 2018, as a way for the school community to heal. He also painted a cougar inside Carmel Middle School in Charlotte in March 2019.
It took Pierce about an hour April 9 to transform the rock at Providence High School into a panther, which is the school’s mascot.
Afterward, he posted a photo of the finished piece on his Instagram (@abstractdissent) with this caption:
“Things that have changed seem normal now. I believe we will all look back one day and never forget these times. We will remember when half the country couldn’t work, the other half was nervous about working. Schools and institutions closed indefinitely. We made adjustments and acclimated to our environment, we had a will to survive like a panther in the night!”
Pierce knows there’s a chance most people will drive by the rock on Pineville-Matthews Road and not notice, but that’s not why he painted it.
“The fact that there will be a handful of people that it is inspiring to and they’re reading the post and connecting with me as an artist and being community-oriented as I am, that’s really cool,” he said.
Because of all the murals he’s done at schools, Pierce said fans of his work are starting to see him as an inspirational figure to students. He never realized his talent could heal people emotionally, but he does now.
“[Nicole] saw my art as something that could make a difference,” he said. “I hope it encourages the students to stay positive and conveys the message that we’re all in this together. I’m thinking of you guys, a lot of people are too, especially your teachers and staff.”