Mixed Media Materials, a Covenant Art Department course, responded to a request for proposals issued by Public Art Chattanooga (PAC) this past February. The open call for artists, “Oak Hills Bus Shelter Project,” sought proposals for original, two-dimensional designs to be printed and installed on the back panels of two separate bus shelters in the Oak Hills area.
The project asked artists to be mindful of the Oak Hills community and take into account the specific sites surrounding the bus shelters. Artists were to consider speaking to the community’s renewed spirit and revitalization. Oak Hills was described by PAC as a small neighborhood located within Alton Park that echoes an industrial history. The area continues to see economic decline since Chattanooga’s manufacturing sector began to decline in the 1970s.
The neighborhood’s demographics are 95 percent African-American—67 percent of the community are family households, and 43 percent of those families have children under 18 years old.
The Mixed Media students submitted a proposal—named 8 AM COMMUTE—as a collective class of four. Each student chose two pieces for the proposal for a total of eight 2-D images collaboratively presented for consideration. Ray Padron, the course instructor, encouraged the class to consider the mobility, access, means, and internal and external infrastructure of the stations, and the history of the community that still exists there. The class visited the areas of both bus stations to inform their thinking behind making site-specific artwork.
The students desired to let their art be connective, to reach across spaces otherwise disengaged, acknowledging the gap between their art and the communities of Oak Hills and Alton Park. In their letter of interest submitted with the proposal, the students wrote, “We believe our art is not a matter of serving the interest of the city; rather, we consider and transform the space of the bus shelter for the sake of those who will use it. We seek to revitalize, but also to serve and empower the community through art making.”
Some of the class wished to underscore the relationship of organic growth versus man-made institutions in context of the surrounding environment of the shelters. Others focused on the structure itself, hoping to transform the space into something other through color and the illusion of texture.
Different materials and methods used include digital design, gouache paint, acrylic paint, embroidery, arugula and candy, and ink text.
Representatives from Oak Hills Neighborhood Association, PAC, CARTA, and neighborhood residents and owners reviewed and selected from two proposals to be awarded a $2,000 honorarium. The selection panel chose “Historic Melodies,” a piece submitted by 8AM COMMUTE and painted by Meg Earll (‘17). “Historic Melodies,” one of the two selected images, will be printed on vinyl artwork wraps and installed on the bus shelters for the duration of two years.