ArtsBuild is promoting the arts and supporting community throughout Chattanooga

Staff photos by Matt Hamilton / Left: Jonathan Dean and James McKissic / Right: Jonathan Dean, Sallie Lawrence, James McKissic and Kathryn Wroth look at a silk piece of art called “Tidings” by artist Claire Vassort in the lobby at ArtsBuild.
Staff photos by Matt Hamilton / Left: Jonathan Dean and James McKissic / Right: Jonathan Dean, Sallie Lawrence, James McKissic and Kathryn Wroth look at a silk piece of art called “Tidings” by artist Claire Vassort in the lobby at ArtsBuild.

ArtsBuild, formerly known as Allied Arts, has made it a mission to not only promote the arts, but also to build stronger communities and, in some instances, to rebuild lives throughout Chattanooga and Hamilton County by offering a myriad of awards, programs and grant opportunities for organizations, teachers and independent artists alike.

What's Art Got to Do With It?

Art has everything to do with helping to enrich lives and build strong communities. More than something stimulating to view, art is a great communicator that transcends many boundaries as it helps people connect, grow, find courage to express themselves, problem-solve and think and act in positive ways.

One has only to spend a few minutes with James McKissic, ArtsBuild's president (since 2019) to notice the enthusiasm in his eyes and hear the gentle rise of his voice that shows just how much he cares about the arts in general and how the arts affect the community through the various programs offered by ArtsBuild. According to McKissic, the word "art" encompasses far more than the stereotypical view of art as paint on canvas: "Art is not just about paintings," he says. "Arts include music, dance, writing, graphic art, craft, fine craft and more. The only art form we don't currently fund is the culinary arts."

Academically, art has proven benefits too. A report by Americans for the Arts found "that young people who participate regularly in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement and to participate in a math or science fair."

  photo  Left: "B.M.D. (Black Man Dreams)" Right: "Smiling Faces." Both are paintings by artist Jasmine Burson, on display at ArtsBuild.

Who Art Thou?

Regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, physical abilities or artistic interests, ArtsBuild offers an open door and an open ear in good times and bad to educators and individual artists. "We not only offer many grants, classes and programs; we seek to help people during both good and challenging times. During the Covid pandemic, we offered financial assistance and offered Zoom meetings to help people feel connected," McKissic explains. "Now that the pandemic is over, we can focus on other ways to help, such as by offering in-person workshops that help local artists who either need professional guidance to transform their work into a sustainable source of income or who are not proficient online to promote and protect their work. Another popular in-person program we support is Rhyme N Chat, a safe platform for interactive poetry readings."

  photo  Staff photo by Matt Hamilton/ A collage of art pieces by various Chattanooga artists on display at ArtsBuild.

Gifting Their Best

Many people may not be aware of the wide scope of grants and programs ArtsBuild provides, such as educational opportunities for people of all ages and races, business development, legal assistance, healthcare, website development, awards for outstanding leadership and so much more.

Iantha Newton, a recent recipient of an Artist Work Grant that funded her project entitled "You Come to Art; Art Comes to You," says that ArtsBuild "is a huge asset to the Chattanooga community, both to artists and the community at large, because it allows artists and the general public to cross paths." Newton's project is an artistic interpretation of the Garden of Eden on multiple panels, presented together as one unit, which is currently on pubic display at the Hixson Walmart store.

"The financial support ArtsBuild provides for artists such as myself helps them realize their artistic goals, especially in the visual art field — something I feel is mostly a solitary and sometimes misunderstood endeavor," she says. No plans have been decided at this time about a future showing of Newton's piece.

  photo  Staff photo by Kathy Bradshaw / Artist Iantha Newtons project, currently on display at the Walmart in Hixson, is an interpretation of the Garden of Eden.


It should come as no surprise that awards, grants and programs require a lot of money. Funding for the various opportunities offered by ArtsBuild comes from many sources, such as the Tennessee Arts Commission, The Kennedy Center, city government, local foundations (such as the Benwood and Lyndhurst Foundations), the National Endowment for the Arts and private individuals, to name a few. Most recently, ArtsBuild hosted its very first gala, named "Inter Mission," an event whose featured guest was Alan Cumming, a multi-award-winning actor. McKissic also urges the general public to purchase specialty license plates that have been created to support the arts because a portion of the proceeds helps support various arts organizations, including but not limited to ArtsBuild.

How to Get in Touch

For more information about the many opportunities offered by ArtsBuild and to learn more about how they live up to their name, visit their website at or call 423-756-2787.

ArtsBuild is located at 301 E. 11th St., Suite 300, in downtown Chattanooga.

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