Mobile Masterpieces: Art Car Festival this weekend - April 4-5

Creations ready to roll for Scenic City Art Car Weekend

photo Art cars such as "The Lipstick Car," below, "Radio Flyer," above, and "Lonesome Duck" will be on hand for the the third annual Scenic City Art Car Weekend.

IF YOU GO¦ What: Scenic City Art Car Weekend.¦ When: Friday and Saturday, April 4-5.¦ Where: Downtown and Southside.¦ Admission: Free.¦ Phone: 423-314-6659.¦ Website:

Some wildly creative works of art will be tooling along downtown streets during the third annual Scenic City Art Car Weekend, scheduled April 4-5. Events include an Art Car Ball on Friday night and a tailgating party and parade on Saturday.

The goal of the event is "to get art off the walls, out of the galleries and into the community," says Kate Warren, executive director of Art 120, a nonprofit organization created to enrich the city's art scene.

Chattanooga has "an amazing art community," she says, "but the public at large is not connected."

According to Warren, more than 70 percent of area elementary schools do not have visual art programs, and art students have few opportunities to display their works outside their schools.

"And while there are free opportunities to visit our museums, plays and performances, many in Chattanooga lack the transportation necessary to get there," she says.

Twenty artists from across the country are bringing their mobile masterpieces for the Art Car Weekend. Students from four schools are expected to enter their own creations in the parade.

"Art teacher Heather Hawkins from LaFayette (Ga.) High School has entered her students every year, as the experience gives her students not only the opportunity to create public art but also meet professional artists and experience life outside of their neighborhood," Warren says.

photo "The Lonesome Duck," part of the Art Car program.

Shaun LaRose, an art teacher at Chattanooga Christian School, teamed up with local nonprofit Art Part, who coordinated their art car project for this year's event with Calvin Donaldson Elementary School.

"It is especially important for our school and students to participate in community-building opportunities and to collaborate with other nearby student bodies," LaRose says. "This has been a brilliant opportunity for our students to experience serving their community as artists."

Warren says the Art Car Weekend is drawing bigger crowds each year.

"We are experiencing a consistent 35 percent growth in attendance since 2011," she says. "Student entries have doubled since last year, and we are reaching 10 new elementary schools in Hamilton County this year."

The Chattanooga event is modeled after The Orange Show in Houston. Twenty-six years ago, the Texas city began with about 10 art cars and 30 bystanders, Warren says. Today, there are more than 280 entries from artists, nonprofit organizations and students.

"Their event also brings over 280,000 spectators downtown," she says.

Any school can participate in the parade as long as their entry is on wheels.

"LaFayette Middle School's Spanish classes, led by teacher Mike Wooden, won the Golden Gnome Award last year for the most popular art car. Warren expects they'll be a strong contender in this year's competition as well.

The public may vote on their favorite school entries before the parade Saturday.

Art 120 welcomes inquiries about the program via Registration for the 2015 event will begin next January. "All schools have to do is register online at under the For Schools tab," Warren says.

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at or 423-757-6396.

photo "The Lipstick Car," part of the Art Car Art-Car-A-Van parade.


¦ Friday, April 4: The Art-Car-A-Van will kick things off with a creative morning commute to participating schools. Later, adults can catch a sneak peek at the Art Car Ball from 7 to 10 p.m. at Miller Plaza. This free event will include people wearing costumes, high-energy dance music and cars that light up in the night. Trophies for the most creative attire will be awarded. Proceeds from food and beverage sales benefit the Urban Art Bike Workshops and other Art 120 programs.

¦ Saturday, April 5: From 9 a.m. to noon, the Art Car Tailgate Party will be held in the parking lot at Fourth and Broad streets (across from the Creative Discovery Museum). Visitors can meet the artists, see their mobile masterpieces up close and vote for a favorite school entry before the parade.

The Art Car Parade lines up at 12:30 p.m. at Fourth and Broad and continues down Broad to Main Street and through the Southside.

From 1 to 5 p.m., artists will line up along Main Street on the Southside where Art 120 will announce which school entries will receive the $500 Golden Gnome Award for most popular art car and the $400 Silver Spoke for the best human-powered contraption.