BEST PRACTICES: International Artists Transform a Chattanooga Brownfield
CHATTANOOGA. A 33-acre sculpture park located on Chattanooga’s Southside features a winding path around 32 large-scale sculptures by internationally recognized artists. The setting offers a mix of elevations and a stunning view of Lookout Mountain in the distance. The slopes have also been planted with more than 100 native trees. Sculpture Fields at Montague Park has transformed a restored brownfield, using a creative design approach and a public-private partnership.
The outdoor gallery is curated by John Henry, a renowned sculptor who founded Sculpture Fields near his industrial-scale art studio in April 2016. Locals visit the park to enjoy an inspiring walk or run, for yoga meet-ups, kite flying, and walking their dog. The urban setting has become a design destination and catalyst for tourism and recreation.
In the United States, sculpture gardens and parks have traditionally been attached to museums or situated on university campus sites. Chattanooga’s Sculpture Fields at Montague Park taps into the city’s national recognition as a recreation mecca by such publications as Outside Magazine.
The art installations at the Sculpture Field at Montague Park are the latest editions to a city with broad and vibrant public art efforts. Local government and foundations fund numerous street sculptures and murals. There’s also the Bluff View Arts District where the Portera family have privately invested in the River Gallery Sculpture Garden on the river bluffs. Next door to the Portera’s investment is the Hunter Museum of American Art with it’s front lawn of works by Red Grooms and Alexander Calder.
The Sculpture Fields at Montague Park offer an intentionally non-academic setting grounded in the city’s industrial past. Railroad tracks and brick industrial buildings border the large site and provide more than an authentic gritty texture. The large greenscape offers an infusion of imagination and wonder to serve an underserved area of town. The destination is a short bike ride from Main Street, on the way home for interstate commuters, and a significant social intersection for the city.
Chattanooga artist Andrew Nigh with Winter Sun Studio was commissioned to create the grand finale of today’s one-year-anniversary event at Sculpture Fields. He built an impressive wooden structure with an intricate internal trellis holding fuel sources. The result was a large-scale sculptural torch offering built-in delays and dominoe effects that evoked a Rube Goldberg contraption. Hundreds gathered in the wide open field at dark to witness ‘the burn.’
Joy Devlin of Chattanooga recorded the dramatic result of Andrew’s design at full blaze.
For a complete list of featured artists, visit sculpturefields.org/gallery.