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It’s no secret that after almost a full week of warm weather, festival season has arrived in Chattanooga. The Association for Visual Arts renowned 4 Bridges Arts Festival and the newly renamed Celebration of Southern Literature (from the renamed Southern Lit Alliance, formerly the Arts & Education Council) are the headliners of the month, but Spark: A Right Brained Celebration, April 11-21, is vying for your attention and attendance as well.
It shouldn’t be hard to make your way to the events, as most of them are assembled from other ArtsBuild cultural partners spread across the city. In fact, some of these may already be on your “to do in the Noog” list for the week and you didn’t even know it.
Formerly known as Hatch, the spring festival launched last year at this time which aspired to birth a Spoleto-like event here, the essential concept of Spark is to create a weeklong festival that taps into two distinguished festivals while tagging on a few additional events. These include the Bessie Smith Celebration, A Glass Menagerie on the Bluff, a film screening of Flannery O’Connor’s “Wise Blood,” the Chattanooga Tweed Ride and even belly dancing classes. Venues are generally in the downtown area, but Spark fails to have much of a central spot to provide festival-wide engagement.
However, the Spark finale will be contained to Ross’s Landing from 11 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. on Saturday, April 20. It is arguably the most original event of the week, and (hopefully) will capture the festival spirit at last. Food and merchandise vendors will be on the Chattanooga Green selling some of the day’s necessities, beginning with ChattyCrafty’s Spark Bazaar. A beer garden will be open, allowing adults to sample suds. Entertainment will be provided by the Australian four-piece band The Greencards, who have opened for both Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, and musicians will be on the Spark stage nearly every hour, including Ogya, Slim Picking, RiverCity Red Hots and Great Peacock.
On the same day, there is also a community block part at the St. Elmo Community UMC, beginning at 11 a.m. Face painting, door prizes, moonwalks, games and music will be available until 2 p.m.
So if you see an image about town or on Facebook of a smiling yellow head with an asterisk “sparking” ideas inside its right brain, don’t be confused—it’s the logo of this fledgling festival. After the hastily assembled Hatch (a clunky acronym for History-Art-Technology-Culture-Happenings) failed to, well, hatch—even it’s name wasn’t well-researched and had to be ditched after attorneys for a similarly named festival in Montana brought the matter to the attention of local organizers—we’re expecting much more from Spark, now produced by Chattanooga Presents, the same group that brings us the Nightfall Music Series. We hope this reinvention and the assimilation of ArtsBuild partners will attract more of an audience—and give the festival a sense of identity—even if they’re merely attending a niche event that’s been on the calendar for weeks.
For a full listing of various events and locations, visit sparkartschattanooga.com.