published Saturday, August 13th, 2011

Building set for demolition becomes a giant canvas

When a group of artists learned a Southside building that had formerly housed La Discoteca was in talks to be torn down, they asked to turn the building’s facade into a canvas.

They called it the Discoteca Demolition Project.

With a development deal still pending on the property at Main and Wilhoit, the structure and, therefore, the artwork have lasted longer than the artists anticipated.

“I wasn’t expecting the building to still be standing,” Kevin Bate, a Chattanooga muralist, said this week.

Bate is one of six area artists, led by Shaun LaRose, who have been painting a series of murals in a variety of style and spirit on the building, all in preparation for it to be decimated.

When people see the work, they are excited, he said, but then upon learning the work will be torn down, they ask whether the artists will mourn the loss of their work.

“No, I’m not sad,” said Bate. “I got to create it; it’s there. A lot of people have seen it, which any artist who says he doesn’t want people to see his work and comment on it is a liar. The response to it has been so great.”

Part of Bate’s contribution is a 13- by 12-foot rendering of actor Samuel L. Jackson, a Chattanooga native. He said he spent time collaborating with artist Rondell Crier, a Hurricane Katrina refugee who splits his time between Chattanooga and New Orleans.

“We started working independently ... but toward the middle of the process, we were thinking of ways to link the [styles] up,” Crier said. “We found a way to tie in our styles, working in those different platforms.”

But with several artists taking part in the project, some passed in the night. Bate, for instance, said he never had the chance to meet graffiti artist Seven, who was another contributor to the project.

For Crier, part of the project was the opportunity to mentor a young artist. He brought in 14-year-old Jarred Green, whom he’d met through Mark Making, an artists’ collaborative.

“That’s the kind of energy I’m interested in,” Crier said, of Green’s youthful, emerging artistry. The teenager’s contribution includes a large painting of Elvis Presley.

The project, Bate said, was an instance of pure artistic freedom.

“We had literally carte blanche,” he said. “We could do whatever we wanted to. A lot of times you don’t get to do that. If you’re going to be doing a large mural for someone, you’re going to paint what they want you to paint. Without [the building] being knocked down, we wouldn’t have had free rein to do what we wanted to.”

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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