Chattanooga, TN Public Art Plan

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Chattanooga, TN, US

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Type: Policy

Status: Initiated in 2002

Source File:


To view the entire 42 page document, refer to the source file.

I. Introduction
In October 2002, the City of Chattanooga, Tennessee and Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga began work to develop a community plan for an expanded public art program. Currently, Allied Arts is the agency authorized to administer the City’s Art in Public Places program. The City and Allied Arts, along with other community and cultural groups, would like to take a proactive approach to public art. Their goal is to create a comprehensive public art plan that will punctuate the City’s belief that art is a fundamental element in the public realm and a defining characteristic of Chattanooga. The vision includes creating more livable spaces for Chattanooga’s citizens and appealing destination places for visitors.

A multi-disciplinary consultant team led by Barney & Worth, Inc. (Portland, Oregon and Olympia, Washington) was retained to assist Chattanooga in preparing the Public Art Plan. At every stage of planning, the consultants worked with the City, Allied Arts, a 40-member Steering Committee and hundreds of interested citizens to gain a better understanding of the issues, opportunities and priorities for development of the community’s public art program.

Background / History
A community of 150,000, Chattanooga is Tennessee’s 4th largest city, located in the southeast part of the state, near the Georgia border and at the junction of four interstate highways. Chattanooga has received national recognition for the renaissance of its downtown and redevelopment of its riverfront. The city is known for leveraging development funds through effective public / private partnerships, with significant civic involvement on the part of private foundations. Chattanooga was one of the first US cities to effectively use a citizen visioning process to set specific long-range goals to enrich the lives of residents and visitors. Chattanooga enters the 21st century as one of the most progressive and livable mid-size cities in the U.S. In this decade the city has won three national awards for outstanding livability, and nine Gunther Blue Ribbon Awards for excellence in housing and consolidated planning.

In the past decade, Chattanooga’s scenic beauty, downtown revitalization and award-winning livability have also been attracting growing numbers of visitors. This represents an increasingly important segment of the local economy – visitors are typically above median income. Studies show they are drawn primarily by Chattanooga’s natural setting and the Tennessee Aquarium.

Despite all of its achievements, Chattanooga still has no formal public art program in place to serve visitors and local residents.

The city’s existing public art collection has been acquired through a variety of methods including public commissions and donations from private, corporate, and non-profit sponsors. More than 100 artworks in public places have been inventoried, and about half are City-owned. There is currently no structure to manage Chattanooga’s public art collection, nor any process in place to guide future decisions on art in the public realm.

Community Input
The foundation for Chattanooga’s Public Art Plan is its broad-based citizen participation. A multi-faceted program for public outreach enlisted hundreds of citizens who volunteered to become actively involved.

A forty-member Public Art Steering Committee guided the planning. Its members included community leaders and residents from all parts of the city, representing a variety of organizations and interests: artists and arts organizations, schools and universities, business, visitor industry, service groups, foundations and other art contributors, architects, urban planners, City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County elected officials, and City staff.

Four large public workshops gave a still wider range of interested citizens a chance to contribute their creative suggestions and help shape the Public Art Plan.

Community outreach also included surveys mailed to:

  • More than 80 Chattanooga area arts organizations
  • 500 local artists (through Association of Visual Artists)
  • 161 neighborhood associations

Finally, more than 60 key stakeholders – community leaders and other interested citizens – were interviewed to seek their views on important issues surrounding the Public Art Plan.

The outstanding community participation demonstrates the wide interest and consensus support to introduce a new public art program. The results of community input are reflected in every element of Chattanooga’s Public Art Plan.