Public Art Installation ‘Particle Falls’ Will Reveal Charlotte’s Invisible Air Pollution, Beginning February 28

February 20, 2020

Andrew Whelan
Clean Air Carolina
(919) 408-7031
[email protected]


Note to Editors: Media interested in attending the private opening night reception of Particle Falls should contact Andrew Whelan regarding opportunities for advance photos and interviews.

Charlotte, North Carolina — Clean Air Carolina is pleased to announce the return of Particle Falls to Charlotte. The innovative real-time air quality display by environmental artist Andrea Polli will be projected onto the west side of UNC Charlotte Center City (320 E. 9th Street) every evening from February 28 through March 28.

Particle Falls is a dramatic public art and science exhibit that visually represents local air quality. Particle Falls is generated by translating real-time particle pollution data from the air into an animated light display, revealing the presence of an otherwise invisible but dangerous air pollutant. The more particle pollution you are breathing, the more bursts of orange and yellow dots cover the falling blue light.

“Because air pollution is invisible, we often don’t appreciate how it impacts our day-to-day lives. Particle Falls allows us to see the invisible particulate pollution in the air we breathe, connecting the complexities of air quality and climate change to policymakers and the general public,” said Andrea Polli, the artist who created Particle Falls.

Clean Air Carolina will launch Particle Falls on Friday, February 28 with a private opening reception at a remote viewing site at Skyhouse Uptown North (640 N. Church Street). The opening night reception will begin at 6:30 PM with remarks by artist Andrea Polli and UNC Charlotte Associate Professor of Atmospheric Sciences Brian Magi. Public remarks will be made at 8:30 PM at the street level demonstration site outside of UNC Charlotte Center City.

The four-week event will raise public awareness of the presence and impact of fine particle pollution in Charlotte communities. Throughout the month of March Clean Air Carolina and its partners will host several evenings of special programming that focus on various aspects of particle pollution and strategies for reducing emissions, including a Bike Night (March 3), a meeting of Charlotte-area Medical Advocates for Healthy Air (March 16), and panel discussions on Sustainable Development (March 13), Active Transportation (March 20), and Environmental Justice (March 27).

Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is a form of air pollution that occurs year-round and consists of a mixture of very small particles that are invisible to the naked eye. A typical particle can include hazardous heavy metals, air toxics, and various types of carbon which can cause significant inflammation in the human body. These particles are so small that our lungs cannot cough them out, and once in the lungs they can pass through cell membranes, enter the bloodstream, and even cross the blood-brain barrier. Exposure to fine particle pollution has been linked to a long list of serious health problems, including asthma, heart disease, stroke, and premature death.

“Particle pollution is unsafe to breathe at any level. As one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, we all are aware of an increase in traffic and construction, both heavy contributors to particle pollution,” said June Blotnick, Executive Director of Clean Air Carolina.

The largest sources of fine particulate matter in the Charlotte metro area are cars, trucks, diesel buses, industrial factories, and construction equipment. Strategies for reducing local levels of particle pollution include reducing electricity consumption, increasing the use of public transit, bicycles, and electric or hybrid vehicles, and adopting clean construction standards.

“Mecklenburg County is currently in compliance with the health-based regulatory standards for PM2.5 and other air pollutants, but the pressure’s on. Rapidly increasing population in our region brings more cars, congestion, vehicle-miles-traveled, energy demand, and even construction. Together this translates to more air pollution. Particle Falls captures how PM2.5 changes from moment to moment, showing everyone who sees it how the sources of air pollution are all around us, while helping to remind each of us that we should fight to protect the good air quality we have,” said Dr. Brian Magi, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Sciences with UNC Charlotte.

Particle Falls has been displayed in several cities across the U.S. and the world, including Philadelphia, San Jose, and Paris. It was last displayed in Charlotte in 2016. In addition to Clean Air Carolina, the 2020 Charlotte installation is co-sponsored by UNC Charlotte’s Department of Geography & Earth Sciences along with the Arts & Science Council, Odell, AIA Charlotte, and Urban Land Institute Charlotte.

“It’s really rare for an artist to be able to work with an advocacy organization like Clean Air Carolina to promote positive change, and I feel very fortunate to be able to do that,” said Polli.

Particle Falls will be viewable from many remote locations in uptown Charlotte beginning at sunset (approx. 6:30 PM) each night, rain or shine. Those interested in learning more should go to


Clean Air Carolina is a statewide nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote climate change solutions and ensure cleaner air quality for all North Carolinians through education and advocacy and by working with partners to reduce sources of air pollution.

Andrea Polli is a digital media artist whose work merges art, science, and technology to address how natural and man-made systems are connected. Since 1999 Polli has focused on environmental science issues in her work and has collaborated extensively with atmospheric scientists. Most recently Polli worked with scientists to develop systems for understanding climate through sound using sonification, a process by which data is translated into sound.


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