More art for Main Street

More art for Main Street

September 9th, 2011 in Opinion Times

Those who reside on or along Main Street as well as those who visit there or who travel along the thoroughfare regularly have grown accustomed to the outdoor sculptures that have become a permanent and attractive part of the Southside streetscape. Indeed, the exhibition and permanent placement of sculpture there has become a hallmark of the area as well as an extension of the broader community's long-term association with public art.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Art on Main rotating sculpture exhibits or the permanent installation of sculptural works that is a logical extension of the displays. It gives Main Street and the nearby Fort Negley, Jefferson Street and Cowart Street neighborhoods a distinctive aura that mirrors the diverse community that is transforming an area once in considerable decline into a vibrant and diverse community. The new exhibit enhances both the reach and the value of the program.

The current display is composed of 13 pieces that will be displayed along East and West Main Streets. Previous exhibits were limited to East Main Street. The doubling of exhibit space is an indication of the popularity of the program as well as a testament to the vision of the Lyndhurst Foundation, which underwrites the Art on Main program.

Eleven of the sculptures already are in place. The remaining works will be on display by the end of the month. The works were chosen by a committee composed of Public Art Chattanooga Art committee members and Southside residents and business owners. The selection process was rigorous.

The committee viewed more than 100 submissions from artists residing in nine states and Washington, D.C. Artists whose works were selected received a $5,000 stipend. The works in the exhibit are available for sale, another positive tradition of the Main on Art program.

Sculptors represented in the current exhibit come from Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia. One artist is from Hixson, another from nearby Athens, Tenn., and a third from Nashville. There is a diversity of style and subject in the works selected. That's proved to be a crowd pleaser in the past and that should prove to be the case again.

There are many elements to the Chattanooga Renaissance that has helped revitalize much of the city's urban core and spurred growth and renewal to both the north and south of downtown. Public art is one of those components. Its increasing presence -- and the growing popularity it enjoys -- along Main Street and elsewhere in the community underscores the value of programs such as Art on Main.