Chattanooga's New Arts Building

(7) Chattanooga Arts Building.jpg

Chattanooga’s new Arts Building held their official ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house on Nov. 5, celebrating the new headquarters of several local advocacy groups, including the ArtsBuild organization, Townsend Atelier, and the Chattanooga Film Festival.

This center, simply called “The Arts Building,” is situated at the intersection of E. 11th Street and King Street, across the street from the Chattanooga Times Free Press, in the old Dover Building in the Innovation District downtown. The three-story, 16,000 sq. ft. space was donated by WEHCO Inc, the owner of Chattanooga Publishing Co., in January, after three years of planning.

Dan Bowers, President of ArtsBuild, says the building was donated, “…to fulfill one of the goals of Imagine Chattanooga 20/20 (the community's long-range cultural plan) by creating a physical hub—a synergy—of arts and culture in a burgeoning part of town.”

According to their website, ArtsBuild is “a private, nonprofit united arts fund and arts council,” which “provides a united voice for all cultural organizations and activities in Hamilton County.” ArtsBuild partners with other arts programs across the city, and is interested in “providing arts opportunities for all,” “cultivating creativity,” and “strengthening the economic environment” and tourist appeal of the city. It moved into the third floor from their old headquarters on North Shore’s Frazier Ave.

Before opening, the building underwent about $1.5 million in total renovations, which included design work from local artists, such as those enrolled in the Chattanooga Woodworking Academy.

The building features a rotating local art gallery and retractable glass walls to create private meeting space for local groups. The second floor is dedicated to studio, classroom, and retail space for the arts school Townsend Atelier. The third floor hosts new office space for three corporations: ArtsBuild, the Southern Lit Alliance (which holds literary enrichment programs) and Sound Corps (which helps promote Chattanooga’s music industry).

Significantly, the bottom floor will now be the screening area of the Chattanooga Film Festival, which is now in its third year. The festival will be held Mar 31-Apr 3 this year, and received acclaim last year from Southern Living magazine as “The Sundance of the South.” The space will also be utilized by “The Mise En Scenesters,” a local film club, which plans to host weekly film screenings there and hold events year-round.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the new building will prove to be successful in uniting the city’s arts community around one location. But the Arts Building represents a reason to be optimistic.

“We have reached the tipping point,” says Bowers, reflecting on cultural growth in Chattanooga. “We’ve been pushing in that direction for a long time. You can feel it tipping. Some would say it’s already tipped."