As the recipient of one of only 51 Our Town grants awarded nationwide by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga will use a $250,000 grant to reclaim a neglected parcel of land in the revitalized Main Street district and create a distinctive urban park that will combine sculpture and a unique space for physical play, officials announced Wednesday.
Through a partnership between the City of Chattanooga’s Department of Parks & Recreation, Department of Public Works, Public Art Chattanooga, local businesses, and non-profit organizations, the park – now an overgrown, city-owned lot on West Main Street – will feature public art that combines sculptural and interactive elements that promote physical well-being and helps the community implement First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move physical fitness initiative, officials said.
Once completed in the summer of 2012, the park – to be known as the Main Terrain – will provide residents and visitors with "a place to engage in physical activity in a much-needed green space, connecting the Chattanooga Convention Center, several corporate campuses, hotels, and four neighborhoods, as well as Battle Academy, a public elementary school."
“Chattanooga has become nationally recognized as one of the most livable mid-sized cities in the U.S. by leveraging public-private partnerships that have made innovative initiatives such as the Main Terrain a reality,” said Allied Arts President Dan Bowers. “Thanks to the ingenuity that our community partners brought to the table, this is the largest NEA grant that Allied Arts has ever received.”
“This new urban park will unify East Main Street revitalization efforts to West Main Street while providing a sense of place and community for this burgeoning urban corridor,” said Mayor Ron Littlefield. “The park will generate synergy between art, placemaking, and active living – benefiting the Chattanooga community and serving as a model for other cities.”
“The park will enlarge the revitalization footprint by creating a gathering space for the community, will use interactive public art to encourage active lifestyles, and will serve as a catalyst for economic and community growth,” said Peggy Wood Townsend, director of Public Art Chattanooga, a division of the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation.
“The park’s interactive sculptures will tempt passersby to not only consider the artistry but to advance their fitness level with the opportunity for play and activity,” said Karen Rudolph, program officer for the Lyndhurst Foundation, which is providing matching funds for the project.
Other partners include PlayCore, an international outdoor equipment manufacturer that will ensure the park design meets industry standards, as well as Outdoor Chattanooga (a division of the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation), green|spaces, Ross/Fowler, the Trust for Public Land, the Active Living Transportation Network, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Kennedy, Coulter, Rushing & Watson, two urban hostels, and two fitness centers.
Our Town is the NEA’s latest investment in creative placemaking, through which partners from both public and private sectors come together to strategically shape the social, physical, and economic character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities. The NEA’s inaugural round of Our Town funding totals $6.575 million in grants to 51 communities in 34 states.
“Communities across our country are using smart design and leveraging the arts to enhance quality of life and promote their distinctive identities,” NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman said. “In this time of great economic upheaval, Our Town provides communities an opportunity to reignite their economies.”
Once severely blighted, the Main Street district has experienced a rebirth through reinvestment and is now a thriving area that embraces diversity and attracts entrepreneurs, artists, and environmentalists while offering a variety of housing options. East Main Street has benefited from the infusion of more than $6 million in philanthropic investment and is now home to 23 creative businesses, 12 restaurants, 12 art galleries, and more than 350 housing units constructed during the last five years.