published Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

ArtsMove shifting city's landscape

Who is Eligible

Full- and part-time artists living 50 miles or more from downtown can apply. The program accepts emerging, mid-career and established artisans working in performing, visual, literary and culinary arts.

A jury of peers makes their selection based on quality of work, how cohesive and well-defined the work samples are and the level of interest the applicant has shown in community involvement.

Web site: createhere.org

Since its inception four years ago, ArtsMove Chattanooga has helped 25 "creatives" relocate into the city's "urban core," according to Jessica Martin, an administrator at CreateHere, the privately funded agency which facilitates the program.

"We have five artists approved and pending also, so that number could increase," she said.

In addition to adding homeowners into those areas, Ms. Martins said the program has changed the look and feel of the neighborhoods by introducing people of all walks of life with diverse backgrounds and socio-economic profiles into the mix. Many of these artists have involved themselves in their new communities through exhibits and classes.

"We are a city that wants and needs creatives to live here," Ms. Martin said. "Having them here has returns that can't be added as a line item on a budget."

The ArtsMove program was designed to serve as an incentive to attract artists and artisans to downtown neighborhoods. In its first four years, the program has adapted as certain goals have been met.

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Angela Lewis Christian Rushing stands outside of homes that he designed on Madison Street.

For example, the original goal was to get artists to move to one of five downtown neighborhoods -- Main Street, Cowart Street, Jefferson Heights, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard or Fort Negley.

Today, that goal is to get artists to relocate within a three and a half-mile radius with the CreateHere office on Main Street as the center.

"Once we reached a density in those (original neighborhoods), we opened it to offer a broader range," Ms. Martin said.

The original incentive package was in the form of a $15,000 forgivable second mortgate that required a five-year commitment to live in the house. Today, the incentive is in the form of a one-time $2,500 moving expense reimbursement. Also, applicants today must live outside of a 50-mile radius to be eligible.

Applicants who are approved are given six months to buy or lease a home within the approved area, according to administrator Trey Meyer.

Christian Rushing moved his family from North Chattanooga to Jefferson Heights off of Main Street just before Thanksgiving last year. A city planning consultant and designer, Mr. Rushing designed the home, and five similar homes next to his on Madison Street. He developed three of the six homes.

His family enjoys having a park right across the street and he said that except for trips to the grocery store or to sample a new or different restaurant in another part of the city, they rarely leave downtown.

Both work in Jack's Alley, and their two children attend school or daycare downtown, so they can either walk or ride the shuttle to work and they enjoy meeting their neighbors either in the park or in nearby eateries along Main Street.

"(North Chattanooga) was more dense population-wise maybe, but I know more of my neighbors here," Mr. Rushing said.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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