After drawing more than 12,000 guests—some from as far as Japan, Israel, and Russia—Wayne-O-Rama, Chattanooga’s history fun-house designed by the Emmy-winning artist and Chattanooga native Wayne White, will close its doors after its last day, Sept. 30, in what has been declared “The Year of Wayne White.”
Presented by the Shaking Ray Levi Society, an arts education non-profit organization that has brought music, film, and art to Chattanooga for over 30 years, this yearlong installation at the Tenn Arts space (1800 Rossville Ave., #108) was sponsored by See Rock City, Inc., with support from the Benwood, Footprint, Lyndhurst, and McKenzie Foundations.
Over 300 artists from Chattanooga and beyond participated in building sessions with Wayne White, parades, workshops, and performances, and the connections and friendships that developed between the artists were “priceless,” according to Atlanta artist Amy Royale.
Artist Brad Rader reflected, “We work together better than we work apart,” and artist Stephen Michael Haas, who traveled from Harrisburg, Pa. to work on Wayne-O-Rama, said, “Knowing Wayne has literally changed my life. It’s better schooling than art school, and it’s cheaper.”
The Wayne-O-Rama concert series presented performances from artists including the legendary surrealist and jam-band forefather Col. Bruce Hampton, the 18-piece brass band The What Cheer? Brigade, the Chinese zither master Wu Fei, the acclaimed psychedelic rock quartet New Madrid, the toy piano virtuoso Robert Fleitz, and the NPR commentator and “Duplex Planet” creator David Greenberger.
"Guests are awestruck as they see Wayne White’s Magic Lookout Mountain and experience the larger-than-life puppets and installations depicting Chief Dragging Canoe, blues singer Bessie Smith, Chattanooga broadcasting legend Luther Masingill and a host of notable Chattanooga figures," officials said. After Sept. 30, the pieces of the installation will be stored temporarily and eventually put on display at various locations throughout Chattanooga.
"Education is at the heart of the mission of the SRLS, and students from around the region have learned national social studies standards through Chattanooga’s history and Wayne White’s creativity. Educators have used videos from PBSLearningMedia.org in a partnership with WTCI, Chattanooga’s local PBS station, engaging students in their city’s history while inspiring their artistic creativity," officials said.
This Sunday at 6:30 p.m., the Shaking Ray Levi Society will present the show “Billy Goats Gruff and Other Stuff” from master puppeteer David Stephens at Wayne-O-Rama. This one-man performance utilizes hand, rod, and glove puppets and presents a mix of classic fairy tales and original stories. The show received a Citation of Excellence from UNIMA-USA, which is the equivalent of an Academy Award in the puppetry world. Admission to this event is free, and doors open at 6 p.m.
Wayne-O-Rama will remain open through Sept. 30 during its normal operating hours of 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is free, with donations going to support the educational outreach of the Shaking Ray Levi Society.