Creating a cultural hub can be part of the continuing rejuvenation of the City. Many smaller arts groups would benefit from such a central location where they might share office space and other services. In addition, locating Allied Arts in a central hub would provide a centralized location for convening, advocacy, fundraising, and joint planning. This could be combined with some small performance and classroom space for educational activities. Artists could also benefit from retail galleries and studio space. All of these possibilities could contribute to a positive transformation and upgrading of City real estate and a possible destination for visitors.
- Review information about centralized cultural facilities in other communities and visit some that offer interesting models for Chattanooga.
- Complete an analysis of users and functions for a new facility, developing some alternative pro forma possible program, financial, and physical space plans with a management plan. Potential users include arts and cultural organizations, artists, gallery owners, others wishing to provide arts and cultural education activities, and Allied Arts.
- Explore possibilities for space including long-term lease and acquisition. Gifted or highly subsidized space should be the highest priority for consideration. Assemble the necessary dollars to move ahead with the cultural hub concept reserving naming rights for funders.
Facility Needs in the Performing Arts
Considerable research was carried out on facilities in Chattanooga as part of the cultural plan. This includes an inventory of performance facilities and a survey of needs for different types of facilities. The community has a rich infrastructure of facilities, but many are heavily booked and not available to groups that might wish to use them. Others are beyond the financial reach of potential users, especially in the performing arts. Currently, the greatest need in the community is for a high quality mid-size performing arts space (roughly 750 seats).
- Establish a facilities task force comprised of arts leaders, foundation executives, and representatives from local government.
- The task force should determine the appropriate balance of resources, including private fundraising, which should be directed to maintenance of the Tivoli (including considering a plan to reconfigure seating in the balcony) and renovation of the Memorial Auditorium Community Theatre. The task force should develop usage policies that make these two facilities available to a broader range of cultural groups, including City rental rate subsidy for smaller local nonprofit arts and cultural groups.
- The task force should determine the time-line for a full feasibility study for a state-of-the-art 750-seat theatre including siting, list of potential users, operating and program plan, ownership, cost, and other necessary information.
Another aspect of a vibrant downtown is the availability of art that can be enjoyed by the public. Chattanooga is fortunate in its impressive public art collection, with over one hundred permanent and 42 temporary works. Public Art Chattanooga is housed in the City of Chattanooga’s Parks and Recreation Department. At its inception the program operated as a partnership that included the City, Allied Arts, RiverCity Company, and the Hunter Museum of American Art.
A key issue facing Public Art Chattanooga is obtaining consistent and on-going sources of funding. Each year funding for Public Art staff has to be secured anew, a taxing and time- consuming process that draws staff away from tasks that might better serve to strengthen the economic impact of the public art collection.
- Rejuvenate the public-private partnership to secure on-going and reliable funding for Public Art Chattanooga to ensure a strong program and adequate well-trained staff.
- Update the 2003 Public Art Plan in such a way that the collection can continue to grow strategically and such issues as siting, maintenance, and community engagement can be more effectively addressed.
- The Public Art Plan should include consideration of a business model that takes the administration of the program out of the public sector as is common in other communities.
- Expand the Art in the Neighborhood initiative as a way of introducing Public Art outside of the Downtown and riverfront areas with funding provided by public and private sector partners. At the same time, develop collaborative mechanisms between Public Art Chattanooga and the sculpture collection at Chattanooga State Community College.
- Public Art Chattanooga should work with organizations and individuals in the African American community to ensure greater inclusion of public art in those neighborhoods. At the same time, partnerships with interested parties such as the Urban League should be strengthened.
- In addition to acquiring new works of art for the permanent collection, temporary exhibitions like the Mid-South Sculpture Alliance should continue to be employed to augment and expand the impact of public art.
- Additional ancillary mechanisms should be developed to enhance the scope of the Public Art program through, for example, virtual reality smartphone-based applications for self-guided tours, self-guided bicycle tours, and other approaches that will allow for tracking and documenting visitation to specific public art sites.
- Programs that support alternatives to sculptural work should be implemented, including building the collection of two-dimensional work for indoor public spaces and continuing the support for murals in neighborhoods around Chattanooga.
- Consider a voluntary Public Art in Private Development program that provides incentives for developers to incorporate arts and cultural amenities into their projects.
- Develop a stronger advocacy voice through the advocacy program.