Chattanooga City Council members consider 10-year public art plan

Chattanooga City Council members consider 10-year public art plan

February 12th, 2019 by Meghan Mangrum in Local Regional News

A sculpture by Bruce White titled "Scatter" frames the Main Street fire station downtown on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The city presented a 10-year plan for public art in Chattanooga to the city council Tuesday.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that District 4 Councilman Darrin Ledford was concerned about the proposal to impose a fee of $25,000 on developers. A one-time fee to developer is among the plan's possible private sector incentives, but a dollar amount has not been specified.

Gallery: Public art plan

more photos

Chattanooga City Council members on Tuesday got a first look at a 10-year plan that would increase and fund public art across the city.

The 2019 Public Art Strategic Plan is the culmination of almost a year of work by consultants Gail Goldman and Barbara Goldstein, as well as the city's public art director, Katelyn Kirnie, an 11-member public art commission and a steering committee. It encourages the city to take leadership over the direction of public art and includes where art should be distributed to increase access, how to engage with local artists and suggestions for prioritizing projects.

As part of the early process, local residents were asked to identify what inspires them about the city, where some natural gathering places already are and which areas they think need more love.

"The community has been absolutely instrumental in driving the recommendations that are in this plan," Goldman said. "Art is thriving; there is an incredible legacy that already exists here in Chattanooga."

While most council members praised the proposal Tuesday, District 1 Councilman Chip Henderson was against it.

Henderson said he'd have a hard time voting for the recommendations because of the proposal to allocate 2 percent of the city's overall annual capital improvement project budget to public art. Based on on the 2018-19 budget, that would have been about $600,000.

"I think I would be remiss if I voted for something for art that was tied to any percentage of the budget before we had something that would address paving needs," Henderson said. "We are talking about priorities and making sure we have money for those things that are priorities. At this point, until we [have] paving settled, I'd have a hard time voting for this."

District 4 Councilman Darrin Ledford called the plan "very energetic, very bold, very comprehensive" but is concerned about the proposal to potentially impose what he said was essentially a "one-time tax," or fee on developers.

Goldman said developers engaged in the process actually suggested such a fee and helped brainstorm what the construction and development community would be receptive to.

The plan also calls for empowering local artists through establishing artist residencies in specific communities, recruiting local artists and creating a roster of regional artists to call upon for projects.

After seeing the members of the public art commission and steering committee in attendance, District 9 Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod emphasized the need for diversity and the inclusion of African-American and Hispanic artists in city collaborations.

"How can we get people on your radar to be a part of the steering committee and the commission?" Coonrod asked Kirnie. "What direct impact would this plan have on communities and neighborhoods that are struggling?"

The commission and steering committee each had few minority members, and especially lacked representatives from the Hispanic community.

"It's something we addressed in the plan, and the reason we talked about the idea of having artists-in-residence in communities is that way we really can get people to begin thinking about art that is representative of that community," Goldstein said.

Goldstein emphasized that the plan called for the city to create long-term relationships with communities to explore what types of art would be the best fit for that neighborhood or area.

"Instead of it being a hit-and-run, it's a long-term commitment," she said. "It's more than being able to put something into the community and saying were done."

The plan also includes possible policies and resolutions, such as the allocation of a percentage of the city's capital improvement budget, that can be proposed by city staff in the future, Kirnie said.

The council would need to adopt the plan by a resolution, which will be considered at next week's meeting on Feb. 18.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.