Things often seem to transpire at a frustratingly slow pace in Chattanooga. Good ideas and best intentions are held in suspension within the confines of established modes, banishing them to the list of “maybe one day.”
There are also periods when good ideas come to fruition at amazing speeds in this city, such as HATCH, the new 10-day festival that begins Thursday with a kick-off event at the Hunter Museum. The event brings exhibits, performances and installations from all facets of art and culture, with more 170 “happenings” taking place across downtown.
HATCH was just an idea about four months ago and now it’s poised to have a significant impact in its inaugural year. There were already major milestones within the 10 days for arts in our community. The 4 Bridges Arts Festival, The Mid-South Sculpture Alliance and the Festival of New Plays. These served as the foundation from which HATCH was born. By building on this foundation, the idea was to establish an annual, large-scale collaborative arts and cultural showcase.
With Daniel Stetson, executive director of the Hunter Museum of American Art, serving as head of the HATCH steering committee, the work began. Organizing partners were coordinated, foundation and corporate support was secured and solid event planning began to take shape. Over the last month or so, the amount of events and exhibits has exploded. This all happened in the span of about 3 months. MakeWorks’ 10x10 is a great example of the scale and breadth of HATCH. The installation will establish 100 creative works of art within a 10-by-10 city block area with it all culminating in an exhibition, food, performance and music event on Friday, April 20, at Patten Parkway. And that’s just one example of the creativity being unleashed here.
Having just been birthed, HATCH has all the hallmarks of a young child: Bright-eyed, full of energy and curiosity. Ideas and productions rapidly bubbled to the surface as planning progressed. As is expected with new events on this scale, I imagine that HATCH will become more refined in the coming years. Editing the focus, maturing in its offerings and becoming more established as a connection to the foundation upon which it was built. But being in the middle of things as HATCH emerges has been exciting. The first step in what, hopefully, will be a journey for years to come has now been taken.
Some years ago, Pulse contributor Rich Bailey wrote about the idea of establishing a Spoleto-type art and culture festival here in Chattanooga. He expressed how the leadership and vision that have made that Charleston, S.C., festival such a crown jewel for the region and the country could happen here. Rich’s editorial speculated about this within the context of Riverbend, its history and the prospect a dramatic change in Riverbend’s direction. HATCH’s development has been much more organic than this and that’s a good thing, as I suspect Rich might agree. That notion is exactly the type of opportunity we have before us.
The plans have now been finalized and the trajectory set for HATCH 2012. It has successfully engaged the creative community, establishing collaborative projects that span multiple days across multiple city blocks. As we take part in this newly minted festival as patrons, onlookers, practicing artists, vendors, merchants and supporters, now is the time to make the mental notes and imagine just a bit further ahead. I, for one, am looking forward to HATCH 2013.