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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 1/18/16. A pedestrian walks past the $200,000 M.L. King Blvd. mural after a dedication for the project on January 18, 2016.
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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 1/18/16. Chattanooga City Mayor Andy Berke hugs Peggy Townsend during the dedication of the $200,000 M.L. King Blvd. mural project on January 18, 2016.

Chattanooga has named Katelyn Kirnie the new executive director for Public Art Chattanooga.

On Wednesday, Mayor Andy Berke praised Kirnie, a Chattanooga native who previously worked in public art programming in Boston.

"Katelyn not only recognizes the importance of public art to the vitality of neighborhoods, she understands public art has a significant contribution to the creative economy," Berke said in a released statement. "We are excited to welcome Katelyn to the team and thankful to our foundations for their partnership and dedication to Public Art Chattanooga."

The announcement cites her experiences as the visual arts manager for Boston's Rose Kennedy Greenway as a key asset for "creative place-making and programming focus when it comes to working with artists and communities."

"We have a lot to compete with when it comes to vying for people's attention these days," Kirnie said in the announcement. "Now, more than ever, we need artists to play a more integral role in engaging the community through the creativity and original thinking they can bring to our city and its public spaces."

The public arts program will roll out a number of new projects in coming months, Kirnie said.

She succeeds Peggy Townshend, who served as Public Art Chattanooga's part-time executive director for six years and resigned in February. Kirnie's salary will be $59,346 annually.

Townshend oversaw "significant and large-scale public art projects" during her tenure, Economic & Community Development communications coordinator Marissa Bell said in an email.

"Most recently she led Public Art Chattanooga and the community through the successful commission and completion of the M.L. King Mural on the AT&T Building, which was dedicated in January," Bell said.

In related business, the City Council recently approved a $72,000 grant from the Lyndhurst and Benwood foundations to fund salary and benefits for a pilot social media manager position for Public Art Chattanooga. City funds account for $14,000 of the grant. Staff member Ana May will take on the new role, officials said.

A citizens committee appointed by the mayor oversees Public Art Chattanooga. The program, housed within Chattanooga's Department of Economic and Community Development, manages a collection of more than 100 permanent and 42 temporary works of art placed throughout the city. Programs, supported by city funds and private sources, include Art in the Neighborhoods, Art on Main and a Biennial Sculpture Exhibition.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or pleach@times freepress.com. Follow on Twitter @pleach_tfp.

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