Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chattanooga Hearts Art

Last night, I hung out with a friend of mine — a talented metalsmith/jewelry designer — who is planning to move to Chattanooga.

She raved about how beautiful Chattanooga was, but part of the city's attraction for her was its commitment to the arts and artists.

Though she chose not to participate in this program, she was telling me about ArtsMove Chattanooga, a initiative to relocate practicing artists into five targeted urban neighborhoods. So far, the program — which gives artists a $15,000 five-year forgivable mortgage — has moved 24 artists to Chattanooga.

From the group's website:

"CreateHere’s vision is that people in all walks of life, from near and far, experience Chattanooga as a community that embraces a broad spectrum of artists, encourages their endeavors, and creates a dynamic space for them to live and work. Our city values creativity and inspiration and sees practicing artists as an essential part of our cultural renaissance. Every day downtown Chattanooga is becoming a more vibrant place to live, work, and play. Through ArtsMove we are inviting artists in all manner of disciplines to come downtown, where the next evolution of Chattanooga is already taking place."

She was also talking about applying for one of CreateHere's MakeWork grants, which help provide funding for studio rental, tools, workshops, or other things they may need:

"MakeWork is an arts grant program open to emerging and established artists and artisans within a 50-mile radius of Chattanooga. The core mission of the program is to stimulate our city’s creative economy and empower artists and artisans with the tools to exceed and grow."

So there you have it. Chattanooga isn't just giving lip service to the arts; it's putting its money where its mouth is. I don't want to say definitively that this is a type of program Memphis should be doing, but this is a type of program Memphis should be thinking about. Especially if we want to build on our heritage as a music/arts city.

I don't know where the CreateHere funding is coming from, but if I was an artist, the program would definitely persuade me to at least consider moving to the Noog. And if I liked it, great, and if I didn't, no big deal.

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