Competition lets artists adorn empty urban lots

Competition lets artists adorn empty urban lots

April 12th, 2010 by Brittany Cofer in News

Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press Bailey Wood threads bicycle inner tubes through a fence at the corner of Main and Cowart streets while helping her Montessori School art teacher, Joe Thomas. Mr. Thomas' design was chosen for the "On The Fence" Urban Public Art Competition.

Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press Bailey...

Bicycle tire inner tubes, bamboo and slabs of concrete are creeping up fences along the Main Street corridor.

Eight unconventional works of art, all being erected on chain-link fences, are part of the "On the Fence" competition, funded and sponsored by the Lyndhurst Foundation and Public Art Chattanooga. All of the fences are around properties now for sale, and the yearlong installations are meant to enhance and transform the urban environment until the properties are sold.

"The ultimate goal is for the fences to go away completely," said Peggy Townsend, director of Public Art Chattanooga. "This is sort of a nice temporary solution to really get the creative community involved."

The competition is part of a larger effort to revitalize the Main Street corridor, she said. The artists or teams were chosen at the end of February, but most just began putting their work onto the fences last week.

Each artist or team was given $2,500 for parts and will receive another $500 upon completion of the installation. The final works will be unveiled at the 4 Bridges Art Festival on April 17.

"What we're doing is very simple," said Joe Thomas, who teaches art at the Montessori School and has included his class in the competition. "Anybody can do it. We're just weaving a blade of grass made out of bicycle inner tubes into the fence."

Mr. Thomas' installation, Rubber Forest, is a meadow of bicycle inner tubes woven into the chain-link fence at 220 W. Main St. The 49-year-old has a degree in interior design and art and works mostly with wire and wood, but chose to use bicycle inner tubes as his medium because of their durability and as a way to reuse something that doesn't have many other uses, he said.


The "On the Fence" competition is meant to enhance the Main Street corridor by beautifying the chain-link fences surrounding unsold properties in the area. Eight local artists and teams have until Friday finish their installations, which will be erected on the fences and will be up for one year. The artworks will be unveiled at the 4 Bridges Art Festival on Saturday, and public voting will be available at the festival and online at until April 20. The winner will receive the "People's Choice Award."

Source: Public Art Chattanooga

Nathan Smith, owner of Set in Stone, and his brother, Jeremiah, used lightweight concrete panels for their design, called Spare Parts. Nathan Smith said he never has done a project like this one, "so it's been fun, a twist from the norm."

Some have used the competition as a way to keep busy despite a faltering economy that has left many searching for work. A team of architects from Elemi Architects chose to create Natura Tectum, an installation with locally grown bamboo woven through the fence at 1701 Rossville Ave.

"In this type of economy, when you're not necessarily that busy, we decided to keep ourselves occupied," said Eric Myers, an architect at Elemi. "It's been a blast. It's been a wonderful diversion from drawing."


* Our Shared Home: Battle Academy's installation of a collage made of recycled materials. Located at the corner of Rossville Avenue and Main Street

* Natura Tectum: Elemi Architects' installation of harvested bamboo woven through the fence. Located at 1701 Rossville Ave.

* Rain Wash: Matthew Dutton's installation of heavy-duty canvasses that will be splattered with watercolor paint located in mesh bags attached to the fence. Also located at 1701 Rossville Ave.

* Procession: Girls Preparatory School's installation of clothing treated to resemble metal sculptures on a clothes line. Located at 401 E. Main St.

* I Am Here On the Fence: Cat Collier's installation of a vinyl banner depicting Main Street. Also located at 401 E. Main St.

* Funderwall: Christian Rushing's installation of a series of Plexiglas columns and wall fixtures. Located at 1400 Broad St.

* Rubber Forest: Joe Thomas' installation of a meadow made from bicycle inner tubes. Located at 220 W. Main St.

* Spare Parts: Set in Stone's installation of lightweight concrete panels. Located at 301 E. Main St.

Source: Public Art Chattanooga