New art brings ‘something bright’ to NoDa during difficult time

Jason “Tinker Bird” Parker (@tinker_bird_) grew up in the Gaston County town of Belmont. His artistic journey began in the mid to late 1990s, when he became inspired by street art and skate culture. As a teen, Parker regularly crossed the Catawba River to partake in the Queen City’s skateboarding scene. Since there was little nightlife in the city then, uptown was a “kind of a Mecca for skateboarding and graffiti,” he said.

Stenciling, central to this graffitist’s style, grew out of necessity. “I was in bands when I was younger and needed a cheap way to ‘screen print,’ so we could make T-shirts on the fly and spray paint our logo on the back of our equipment,” he explained. “I thought it was fun and continued working with that…started playing with the stencils more. I’ve always been a doodler. I’ve drawn my whole life. When I was in high school, that’s when I started working with graphics. I got really into the skateboard graphics and wanted to make boards or T-shirts. My love for that and spray paint, combined with the zen of cutting stencils, that’s where my style developed.”

Parker left the area in 1999 to live near the ocean, and worked some in construction and built props for theater and film. But the artist returned about two years ago, making his home off 36th Street, near Tryon.

Parker recently collaborated with local street artist Stencil Spray on the Brooks memorial. Spray founded the artists’ collective Tough Ass Crew, which boasts 30-plus working artists. When the NoDa Neighborhood and Business Association’s NoDaRioty committee announced a project to turn NoDa’s trash cans into pieces of art, it was this group that encouraged Parker to submit a proposal.

Parker’s piece, now at the corner of 36th and North Davidson streets, features a motif that spells out N-O-D-A in American Sign Language. “I wanted it to celebrate diversity and inclusiveness,” he said. The spray-painted colors also tie into the neighborhood landscape, reflecting hues from murals and awnings of nearby businesses.

The project was not without challenges, the main one being the trash can’s original pebble-dash exteriors. “I still think graphically as an artist…as a designer,” Parker explained. “The finish wasn’t going to work for crisp lines.” So the artist skimmed the surface with stucco to make it smoother and better able to accept his stencils, cut from poster board. The geometric backgrounds are all freehand.

“I’m proud to be part of the project,” he said. “And glad that we are able to bring something bright, in a time that isn’t so bright for local businesses.  I’m grateful for the opportunity and for the art community and my friends.”

Eight trash cans are being turned into pieces of art as part of the project, called the North Davidson Street Art Installation Project. Three have been completed, two are under way, and the remaining three are expected to be done in late June or July. To learn more about the project, click here.