Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, March 3, 2017

Arts enhance city's quality of life

The class of Leadership Chattanooga got in touch with their creative side this February as we looked at art and the quality of life in our city.

Our day began at ArtsBuild, a non-profit organization with almost 50 years of experience in funding arts organizations and arts programming for students, teachers, and underserved populations. To date, its donors have invested more than $70 million in our community.

Dan Bowers, president, said ArtsBuild is “designed to be for arts what the United Way is for social services.”

ArtsBuild hosted our first panel discussion, facilitated by Stratton Tingle, executive director of SoundCorps. “Our goal today is to help you understand what it is like to be a professional working artist in Chattanooga,” Tingle said.

Next up? Taylor Brown with the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra, who emphasized the unpredictability of life for many artists. “There is no way to describe a day in my life because no two days are the same,” Brown said.

Art is “something you have to experience, not just something to decorate a sofa,” said Charlie Newton, a prominent visual artist.

In fact, Tingle said, “Supporting your local artists means you are supporting your community at large.”

Samantha Sole, Chattanooga Ballet, agreed. “As an artist, I believe I owe something to the community I live in,” she said. “To ensure world-class artists continue making Chattanooga their home, it is essential that we do all we can to support their work.”

One of the best ways to support local artists is to frequent the many art galleries and studios scattered across the city. In addition to regular retail hours, many of them host open houses on the first Friday of every month, such as Chattanooga WorkSpace, Leadership Chattanooga’s next stop for the day.

At the site of what was previously St. Barnabas Senior Center, Chattanooga WorkSpace offers low-cost private studios and collaboration space to local artists. Kathy Lennon, director, described the facility as “the best kept secret in Chattanooga.”

Open weekdays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., as well as every first Friday from 5:30-8:30 p.m., the public is invited to meet artists, enjoy their work and catch a glimpse of the creative process in action.

We rounded out the day by touring the Tivoli Theatre and engaging in interactive art and poetry sessions with local artists Josiah Golson and Genesis the Greykid. It was inspiring and incredibly moving to see my fellow Leadership Chattanooga classmates expressing themselves so creatively in this format, which was so different than our typical meetings.

Rodney Van Valkenburg, director of grants and initiatives for ArtsBuild, delivered the day’s takeaway message saying, “Investing in arts has a positive economic impact and increases quality of life.”

I agree. Investment into the arts and our local artists ensures that Chattanooga remains the vibrant, exciting community that it is today. We all need to consider ourselves patrons of local art and support our artists at every opportunity. Our reward will be a more creative, more beautiful city that we will continue to be proud to call home.

Next month, Leadership Chattanooga goes on a road trip to Nashville to discuss and learn more about state government.