Small Business Incubator showcases the talent and variety of local artists
One of Chattanooga’s newest and largest gallery spaces is not just an interesting place, it is in an interesting place. One might not expect to see fine art at the Hamilton County Business Development Center, but they are now hosting a collection of over 100 pieces by 17 local artists.
Also known as the Small Business Incubator (or INCubator), the sprawling building on the corner of Manufacturer’s Rd. and Cherokee Blvd. wasn’t always a friendly and modern commercial space. Extensive renovations in 2011 have transformed the building from an austere labyrinth into a welcoming office environment full of life and art.
A striking exhibition of local work is installed throughout all three floors of the INCubator. Although the work ranges in style from realist to abstract and represents a variety of media, the focus of the show are contemporary realist paintings that pertain to Chattanooga.
Participating artists Gay Arthur, Sandra Babb, Denice Bizot, Maddin Corey, Leslie Dulin, Ellen Franklin, Chuck Frye, Janice Kennedy, Jennie Kirkpatrick, Michael Largent, Spears McCallester, Suzanne Mortimer, Linda Thomas, Julie Turner, Virginia Webb, Linda White, and Janis Wilkey have filled the space with some of the area’s finest original artwork.
Gay Arthur’s depictions of industrial structures that are slated for demolition celebrate the impermanence of life with a bright yet ghostly aesthetic. Her painstaking attention to detail and refined style contribute to a near-photographic level of realism in her work. Though the presentation and craft of her work is mostly conventional, she has a few pieces that are experimental, incorporating elements of mixed media, collage, and assemblage.
Sandra Babb’s gorgeous plein air paintings are heavily influenced by the work of Claude Monet. A lifetime student of the arts, she studied and spent time painting in Giverny, France at Monet’s garden.
Though Maddin Corey’s impressive body of work focuses primarily on portraits, she also does landscape, still life, pets, and whimsical abstract compositions. Her style is consistent, friendly, and accessible.
Ellen Franklin’s style is also reminiscent of the French Impressionists, with her subject matter being mostly landscape and still life. Her brush strokes do an excellent job of capturing the light of her subjects.
Chuck Frye’s beautiful landscapes and candid portraits are the product of years of painting experience. His series of musical paintings evoke the feeling of going to the country and enjoying some indigenous tunes.
All of the participating artists have contributed extremely high-caliber work to the show at the INCubator, which is itself a work of art—the entrance of the building is one of Chattanooga’s best examples of classic art deco architecture.
The structure was built in the late 1920’s and was home to a number of corporations, including the American Lava Corporation, 3M, and General Electric. In 1984, GE donated the building to Hamilton County, and it was subsequently made into the largest business incubator in Tennessee.
The BDC houses over 70 businesses, helping them to achieve financial security through a staged development program. They provide shared services, below market rent, entrepreneurial education, conference rooms, counseling, post office boxes, and a supportive community. The program has introduced over 500 successful businesses into the local economy (including this very newspaper), generating millions of dollars and thousands of jobs for the local economy.
At the end of the renovation, the center’s director of small business and entrepreneurship, Kathryn Foster, approached a local organization called JUMPST/ART to develop an art program for the building. As one of the area’s premiere art dealers, JUMPST/ART offers an array of services to artists and clients.
To artists, they offer representation, sales and marketing consultation, and customized services to maximize studio & production time. To businesses, they offer professional art management, development of on-site galleries, corporate and personal purchases, art events to facilitate business/client promotion, art investment strategies, and interior/office design resources.
Several years ago, JUMPST/ART’s founder, Gail Rich, noticed that much of the art in local corporate offices was printed, mass-produced. As an artist and a business woman, she saw an opportunity to connect local fine artists with corporate clients. “There are so many talented people making one-of-a-kind art right under our noses, there is no reason to have store-bought art in your office.”
In addition to the show at the INCubator, JUMPST/ART currently curates exhibitions at the Mountain City Club, the Historic James Building, the law offices of Leitner, Williams, Dooley, & Napolitan, and the offices of Chambliss, Bahner, & Stophel. Artwork is also available for purchase online at jumpstartart.net