Public Art Chattanooga and Chattanooga Parks and Recreation announced the winner, by public vote, of the St. Elmo Public Art Project. Over 250 votes were tallied over a two-week period from the neighborhood’s National Night Out festivities and ballot boxes placed at area merchants. Artist Charles Pilkey’s proposal “St. Elmo” came away as the community’s choice to be fabricated and installed at Tennessee and St. Elmo Avenues in front of the Incline Railway.
Mr. Pilkey’s sculpture proposal is inspired by the rich historical heritage of the St. Elmo community. Approximately 50 figures standing on the periphery of the sculpture illustrate the unfolding of local history from Cherokee times to the residential and recreational community that is today’s St. Elmo. Figures on the sculpture include Chief Dragging Canoe, John Ross, Civil War soldiers, St. Elmo and Edna (characters from the novel for which the community was named), George Wheland at his foundry, the Incline Railway, a 1950s ice cream vendor and a hiker.
“My hope is that St. Elmo will become an iconic landmark, educational tool and popular meeting place for St. Elmo residents and their visitors,” said Mr. Pilkey.
Prior to construction of the sculpture, a meeting will be arranged to allow the residents of St. Elmo to talk with the artist and offer their input into the design and subject matter of the work. Constructed of painted welded steel, the final sculpture will be approximately 14 feet in diameter by nine inches deep.
Over 30 artists from across the Southeast region submitted applications, two of which were presented as finalists for community vote. St. Elmo will be added to the City of Chattanooga’s permanent public art collection and will be installed Fall 2013.
Led by the St. Elmo Neighborhood Association (http://www.st-elmo.org/), the community raised funds to commission the artwork and received a matching Art in the Neighborhoods grant from the Lyndhurst Foundation. The sculpture will act as a gateway piece for the creative, vibrant, historic and diverse St. Elmo community.
Charles Pilkey is a former geologist turned artist now living in Mint Hill, N.C. He lived in Japan for 15 years where he taught stone carving classes at Kyushu Sangyo University. His work can be seen in parks, museums and other public spaces in China, Italy, Japan, Korea, Turkey and the United States. For more information on the artist, please visit: http://charlespilkey.com/.
Public Art Chattanooga, housed in the City of Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Department, is dedicated to introducing a wide variety of high quality public art into the community, enhancing the civic environment and enriching the lives of visitors and residents. For more information, please contact Peggy Townsend, Director, Public Art Chattanooga, at 423 643-6886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.