Partially funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, work has officially begun on Main Terrain, an urban art fitness park coming to Chattanooga’s Southside district. Renderings of the park’s design were unveiled at the groundbreaking ceremony held on Thursday, at the park’s future site between West Main and West 13th streets.
Marked as the termination point of long-abandoned rail lines, the 1.72-acre tract of land that will be developed for Main Terrain sat completely vacant and dilapidated until now. To reclaim the neglected parcel of land on West Main Street, internationally-renowned artist Thomas Sayre was chosen from a national competition to design the distinctive urban park that will combine art and fitness in a unique space for physical play.
“Main Terrain will expand the momentum of revitalization and serve as a catalyst for further economic development in the Southside district from East to West Main Street,” said Maury Nicely, Allied Arts board member. “The park will also foster community enrichment by combining public art and healthy opportunities into a crucial public green space.”
In an effort to generate synergy between art, placemaking and active living, Main Terrain will feature sculptural elements mounted on a movable track that will allow park-goers to physically interact with the artwork. In addition to being an active park, the environmentally-friendly space will also function as a site for stormwater management. This key ecological feature will battle stormwater pollution and overflow, issues so many cities across the country face today.
“Once Main Terrain is complete, Southside’s landscape and community will never be the same,” said Peggy Townsend, director of Public Art Chattanooga. “The project’s innovative design is not only stunning but uniquely functional. Chattanoogans will be able to directly interact with the sculptures, which will give everyone the opportunity to appreciate art while engaging in physical fitness in a fun, brand-new way.”
The large scale sculpture spans the entire park and is comprised of nine components, the tallest measuring more than 24 feet in height and 9,000 pounds in weight. The art work will be modeled from concrete pylons and steel trusses and reminiscent of the Walnut Street Bridge, an iconic figure in the Chattanooga skyline.
Internally and externally, the sculptures will be fitted with energy-efficient lighting that will radiate into the distance, ensuring visibility from both near and far. Resembling the lights on a real bridge, red lights will highlight the top of the structures when the sun sets.
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga, a nonprofit citywide arts council and funding source, one of only 51 nationwide Our Town grants to aid with the project. Besides national funding, the Main Terrain Art Park is also supported by a collaborative effort between numerous local businesses and nonprofits, including the City of Chattanooga, Public Art Chattanooga, Lyndhurst Foundation, Ross/Fowler Architecture and Landscape Architecture and PlayCore.
The park’s hardscape and sculptures will be installed later this year, along with planting and irrigation. Park developers anticipate a winter opening. After completion, the Chattanooga area will have a free, easily-accessible community park featuring public art in the Southside community, where existing activities and new fitness events will be centered around the space.