January 19, 2012

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The full title may be a tad unwieldy (hence the cute acronym), but the idea of corralling some of city’s major annual arts events and expanding upon them with additional showcases encompassing the wealth of creativity burgeoning in Chattanooga is a brainstorm worth hatching.

HATCH—or History, Arts, Technology, Culture and Happenings—is the name of the new 10-day citywide arts and cultural event set for April 13-22 that aspires to become similar in scope and appeal to the renowned Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C. It is also an unprecedented and unparalleled union between 19 arts, cultural, funding and support organizations joined to spawn, or in this case, “hatch” an exciting new festival we heartily welcome.

“We are thrilled to finally be able to announce this spectacular event,” said Daniel Stetson, executive director at the Hunter Museum of American Art, during a news conference last week at the museum. “HATCH will be an unprecedented collaboration of organizations throughout our region which will attract a wide variety of visitors. The event will take place all over the city, from the Southside to downtown to the North Shore and even Lookout Mountain. We are expecting a huge draw of attendees from across the Southeast. Our goal is to have HATCH reach the level of Charleston’s Spoleto Festival.”

Note the telling reference here: “even Lookout Mountain.” And then think back. This city has come a long way from the days when the arts, or at least widespread support of the arts, emanated from The Mountain.

According to organizers, HATCH will feature local and national visual, performance and technological arts. Musical acts and cultural demonstrations will be highlighted along with numerous creative performances, many of which are to be announced in the weeks to come.

The festival will be built around the 4 Bridges Arts Festival, the Mid-South Sculpture Alliance Conference, the Festival of New Plays and several unique exhibits at the Hunter, as well as 10X10, a new exhibition of creativity that will span 10 city blocks spearheaded by MakeWork. The festival will likely be further enhanced by a number of spontaneous events in the downtown arts districts of the North Shore and on Main Street.  

The partnership is indeed an unprecedented alliance of core arts and cultural organizations—all listed on its website, hatchchatt.org—along with longtime arts-funding supporters such as the Benwood and Lyndhurst foundations.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, who has been criticized in the past for his support of the arts, said he is unapologetic of that support and said at the news conference announcing HATCH that “the arts bring people to our city and encourages people to invest their families and their lives here,” citing a recent New York Times article that named Chattanooga one of 45 cities to visit in 2012. He is correct and should be commended.

While the scale and scope of HATCH is being compared to the annual RiverRocks festival, Stetson specifically mentions Spoleto and emphasized the economic impact the festival could bring the city. Mention “arts” and “city support” in the same breath, and the usual suspects who routinely criticize any city support for the arts begin composing their boilerplate tirades. They are wrong and should be ignored.

The Pulse, of course, enthusiastically supports any new arts initiative, and HATCH is a particularly noteworthy development. The alliance of the varied arts and cultural organizations in the city is also worthy of much praise. Anyone involved in the arts knows too well that egos and agendas can quickly conspire to unravel any progress a youthful arts community has made. We applaud the unity and look forward to unanimous support. HATCH certainly has ours.

January 19, 2012

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Spoleto USA as a Chattanooga festival model

It might surprise you and your readers that Charleston's Spoleto USA was the primary model, along with Salzburg, for Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival, starting with my visit there in 1980 and then Mayor Rose's visit with our Lyndhurst grant in 1981. Early Riverbends were like Spoleto but something went wrong in the mid-80s and it became...well, what it is. All this is chronicled in my 1990 Emory dissertation and forthcoming book, "Two Town Festivals: Signs of a Theater of Power," available soon on Amazon. Or you can find it on the web now as as public service.
HATCH sounds like a great beginning and hope it goes well and has the leadership of an experienced artistic director.
Sid Hetzler
Split Tree Participatory Arts Center
Chickamauga, GA

Sid Hetzler more than 2 years ago

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