Public Art Chattanooga and Glass House Collective are collaborating to produce “Rise Up Chattanooga,” a sculpture made entirely from borrowed ladders. The idea was conceived and will be carried out by sculptor Charlie Brouwer to coincide with Glass House Collective’s “Build a Better Block” event in February 2013.
“I saw signs when I was coming down here. It’s something that somebody didn’t think about, but they say ‘Chattanooga Happens Downtown,’” Brouwer said. “When you think about that and you think about living in this neighborhood, what does that make you think? Does that mean that it doesn’t happen here [on Glass Street]?”
The collective’s ongoing Glass Street revitalization effort is a reminder that Chattanooga doesn’t stop when downtown ends. The city’s successful resurgence excluded many outlying neighborhoods, transforming once vibrant areas into ghost towns. “Rise Up Chattanooga” will attempt to combat that trend by drawing the entire community together in the name of art.
“Rise Up Chattanooga” will join Brouwer’s growing “Rise Up” portfolio of similar works that have spanned from Atlanta to Grand Rapids, Mich. Each sculpture is constructed with borrowed ladders from members of the community and held together with heavy-duty cables to create an interactive and metaphoric piece of art.
Brouwer recently visited Chattanooga for a preliminary site visit and conceptualized the idea for “Rise Up Chattanooga” to incorporate the arches that can be found on Glass House Collective’s building. An arch can also be a bridge, Brouwer said. In this way, the design can be translated not only as a wink to Glass House Collective, but to Chattanooga’s iconic Walnut Street Bridge and Chattanooga as a whole.
Rather than placing the sculpture downtown for heavy viewer traffic, Brouwer and Public Art Chattanooga decided that the nature of the sculpture would lend itself to Glass Street. Brouwer explained that bringing art to underserved areas to foster community involvement is trending around the country. The best part about it, he said, is that its success has little to do with the art itself.
“These pictures are a celebration for artwork having happened, and the artwork has been the engagement of the community,” Brouwer said. “That’s the measure of our success. Numbers of ladders, beauty of the object itself visually—that’s not the artwork.”
Glass House Collective’s “Build a Better Block” event will be held on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. Brouwer will begin construction of “Rise Up Chattanooga” a week in advance of the event. In the weeks prior to “Build a Better Block,” Glass House Collective will begin asking to borrow ladders from local households and businesses. Brouwer will work from Feb. 16 until the day of “Build a Better Block” and the final ladders will be placed on the sculpture during the event. “Rise Up Chattanooga” will stand for about one month and then all ladders will be returned to their respective owners.
“We’re asking the whole city to think of a city not being able to rise until the least of its parts are rising,” Brouwer said. “That’s what Glass House is all about, trying to convince the city that it’s worthwhile to invest time and resources to do this here. We’ll finish with the project and give all those ladders back and say, ‘Now the work really begins.’”