Four downtown Chattanooga alleys transformed into works of art [photos]

Jennifer Hiser puts the finishing touches on the Neural Alley art installation in the alley connecting Chestnut Street and Broad Street on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The alley is one of 4 in the city where interactive art installations were placed for the Passageways project.

See the installations in the following alleyways:

› “Urban Chandelier” 709 Cherry St.› “Garden Grass,” 730 Cherry St.› “Stargaze” and “Stage Genies,” 715 Market St. next to Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union› “Neural Alley,” 721 Broad St. between the James and Maclellan buildings.

Downtown Chattanooga had a party Wednesday night in four of its alleyways that have been transformed into works of "public architecture" by artists from as far away as Australia.

More than 1,000 people registered for Party in the Passageways, an event with free food, beer and entertainment to kick off the Passageways program. It promotes the potential of downtown's alleys by transforming four of them into works of art ranging from an installation of hanging bamboo poles to a high-tech simulation of Chattanooga's stars at night.

"It's trying to get people to imagine these spaces differently," said Amy Donahue, marketing and communications manager at River City Co., which partnered with the American Institute of Architects Tennessee and a number of sponsors to bring Passageways here to coincide with the 2016 AIA Tennessee State Convention held in Chattanooga from Wednesday through Friday.

We really want [alleyways] to be spaces that people feel they can use," she said.

If you missed the party, don't worry.

The installations, which are clustered in alleys in a four-block area of Cherry, Market and Broad streets, will stay up for at least six months - and hopefully a year, Donahue said.

"That's just going to depend on how the installations weather," she said. "The goal on all of them is 12 months."

More than 70 artists submitted designs for Passageways, and a jury narrowed that down to the top 24 submissions before picking the five winners, who received between $5,000 and $10,000. Funding was made through donations from AIA, ArtsBuild, Benwood, Causeway, Cogent Studio, the Lyndhurst Foundation and River City Co.

Among the winners were Team Heavy from Brooklyn, N.Y., comprised of Jeian Jeong, Ryan Whitby and Adam Paikowsky. They put in 12-hour days for a week - including staying up all night until 6 a.m. Wednesday - installing Stargaze, an installation at 715 Market St. next to Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union that's meant to mimic the stars in the Chattanooga sky at night.

"They say 80 percent of Americans can no longer see the Milky Way," said Jeong, who said Stargaze is meant to give viewers "a sense of the vastness of space."

The installation's LED stars will come on every night at dusk and turn off every morning at dawn, Jeong said.

Two of the winners were from Chattanooga. One is ART 120, a nonprofit organization that puts on free art events in the Chattanooga area. Its Executive Director Kate Warren worked with Dan Mailman of Houston, Texas-based Studio Mindstride to create "Stage Genies," a "soundscape" installation that tracks the movement of alleyway-goers at "Stargaze" and responds with music.

The other Chattanooga winner was Team GFB, comprised of Brad Shelton, Matt Sears, Craig Peavy and Patrick Ryan, who created "Garden Grass" from locally-sourced bamboo that hangs from high-tension cables above an alley at 730 Cherry St.

The 700 block of Cherry Street was closed to traffic Wednesday night for the Party in the Passageways - which was fine with Brittany Sirota, an employee of Brody Jewelers, which has operated since 1937 in Rossville, Ga., and two years ago opened its second outlet at 703 Cherry St.

"We're going to be staying open later," said Sirota, who liked the art in the alleyways near the downtown jewelry store.

Another fan was Eric Dubois, a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student who works as a runner at the law firm Burnette, Dobson and Pinchak at 711 Cherry St., next to "Urban Chandelier," an installation by two men from Sydney, Australia, who hung 6,000 reflective styrene triangles above an alleyway to reflect light.

"It looks cool," Dubois said. "It's a good addition to a space in Chattanooga that wasn't getting used."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at or or or 423-757-6651.