The Culture of Street Art in Chattanooga
If you spend any amount of time exploring downtown Chattanooga, you’ll find that it’s painted with vibrant murals and street art that reflects the rich history and diverse culture of the city.
Although you can find street art at a number of spots throughout the city, Main Street, which features great shops and eateries, is located on the Southside and is a center point for unique street art.
HiFi Clyde’s, a retro-style restaurant known for its BBQ, has two colorful murals featuring famous figures such as John Lennon and Martin Luther King. Directly across the street, you’ll find an Instagram-worthy polka dot wall in pastel shades of blue, pink, and purple.
Other notable murals on Main Street include those featured along the building for Main Street Meats and Neidlov’s Bakery & Cafe. Nearby Songbirds and the Comedy Catch there is also a mural titled “Traveling Musician.” The murals in this area feature geometric shapes, bright colors, and images of animals and people.
A majority of the murals and street art downtown hail from local and national artists commissioned by groups such as The McCallie Walls Mural Project and Public Art Chattanooga, which seeks to beautify Chattanooga and highlight the value of public art.
These organizations have several art-related programs such as City Creators, an initiative that allows local artists to partner with city government leaders to combine their creative license with civic, community-based projects, and ARTBURST, an initiative that highlights the importance of the visual arts and supports cultural tourism and economic activity in the Chattanooga area.
Public Art Chattanooga commissioned several murals in the Martin Luther King District, and the murals in this area truly capture the beautiful culture of the people who live here.
The most notable mural, created by artist Meg Saligman, spans 40,000 square feet and is located at 300 East MLK Boulevard. At the time of its creation, this was Saligman’s largest work and even one of the largest murals in the country.
Before creating her art, Saligman spent weeks with people in the community so that she could get to know the history of the area. Her mural, titled “We Will Not Be Satisfied Until,” features the likeness of local individuals and tells their stories in vivid color.
Other memorable street art in the area includes the “I Have a Dream” mural next to JJ Bohemia’s and portraits created by artist Kevin Bate which includes “Subramanya” at the Chattanooga Public Library and a black and white image of MLK Jr. on the side of Blue Boys Barber Shop off of MLK Boulevard.
In addition to his portraits, Bate also facilitated the McCallie Walls Mural Project. This project features a selection of murals along McCallie Avenue.
The murals in this area come from a variety of artists, including resident artist Rondell Crier. During his participation in the project, Crier brought on the help of local youth to foster community involvement and artistic growth in the younger generation.
Notable murals by the McCallie Walls Mural Project include those featured along the EPB Engineering building which combines shapes with images of people as well as a wall depicting stained glass images of warriors on horseback. Nearby at 1715 McCallie Ave., there is a full-length mural honoring Chattanooga’s five servicemen, known as the “Fallen Five,” who lost their lives in a terrorist attack.
Murals are not the only form of public street art you’ll find in downtown Chattanooga, however. Select alleyways feature unique installations of dimensional art, such as the West Village’s “Umbrella Alley” where passersby can turn their eyes skyward to find a magical collection of floating, multicolored umbrellas.
Another initiative that incorporates interactive design with street art is Passageways. River City Co. and American Institute of Architects Tennessee, in collaboration with Public Art Chattanooga and Tinker Ma, created Passageways in 2016 as a part of an architectural design challenge.
Out of over 80 submissions from local and national artists, five artists were chosen to create alleyway installations. These installations were intended to be temporary, however, one of the installations, “Urban Chandelier,” still remains today.
“Urban Chandelier” — created by two artists from Sydney, Australia — is located at 709 Cherry St. and features 6,000 styrene triangles reflecting light in the alleyway.
In 2018 Passageways held another architectural competition called “Passageways 2.0.”
“City Thread,” the winning design by SPORTS Collaborative and artists Greg Corso and Molly Hunker, is a permanent installation located in the passageway at 10th East 7th Street across from Cadence Coffee Co.
The installation features a linear zig-zag pattern of green, steel pipes complemented by graphic shapes painted onto the alley walls. The interactive alleyway provides a dynamic space for lounging, movie screenings, and mini-stages.
From beautiful, storytelling murals to fun, interactive art installations, Chattanooga’s one of a kind street art creates an experience that viewers are sure to enjoy.