You love Barking Legs—but you’ll love it even more now
If you’ve been around the arts scene of Chattanooga for any time at all, you’ve probably been to at least one show at the fabulous Barking Legs Theater on Dodds Avenue. From the mannequin legs adorning the outside of the building to the newly renovated front room to the performance floor itself, Barking Legs is something of a legend among Chattanooga performers. There’s just no other venue like it in town. It is special.
Not many folks realize that when Barking Legs opened its doors 22 years ago, it did so as a part of “CoPAC.” CoPAC, which stands for “Contemporary Performing Arts of Chattanooga,” is the nonprofit organization that operates Barking Legs Theater, as well as running several other arts programs in the area.
CoPAC is currently at the beginning of a rebranding effort that will, hopefully, make more folks aware of all the amazing stuff they do for local artists, in addition to running the best, quirkiest, theater in town.
What sorts of things does CoPAC do? Executive Director of CoPAC, Ric Morris, says that they are currently focused on several areas:
• Being an arts incubator
One of CoPAC’s main goals is to help new artists fully realize their art. Of course, “art” can be a vague term that means different things to different people. But CoPAC is there to help almost every type of artist. Whether it’s a “starving” artist looking to put paint to canvas, a musician looking for a venue, or even a couple of scrappy lads looking to put on an improv show, CoPAC can help them bring their vision to life.
One way CoPAC helps is by making it possible for artists to actually make some money from their art. How? Well, it depends on the artist. CoPAC can act as an agent for an artist, connecting them with clients that need their services, or if an artist’s dreams are bigger, CoPAC can help them write and obtain grants from state and federal agencies.
(If you are wondering what’s actually come out of this incubator, some recent examples would be the Chattanooga Film Festival and Jazzanooga. Not too shabby.)
• Teaching artists
Another way CoPAC helps artists make money is by training them to become “CoPAC-Certified Teaching Artists.” CoPAC then sends these teaching artists out into the community to instruct classes in schools, neighborhood recreation centers and anyplace else that wants arts education.
For example, this summer CoPAC is working with Kofi and Rebekah Mawuko to present classes in African drumming and dancing at the Washington Hills and Eastdale Recreation Centers. During these classes, the kids get 90 minutes of drumming and dancing instruction each day. Then, at the end of the week, they come together to put on a concert for everyone at the center.
But it’s not just drumming and dance. CoPAC is in the process of building a roster of teaching artists in just about every field. So if you or your organization wants to offer a particular type of artistic training, you can go to CoPAC, and they can provide you with a qualified instructor.
CoPAC is also proactive, reaching out to schools and communities to see what kind of arts instruction they might want or need. (Yes, teaching artists get paid for their time and talents.)
• Providing unique performances
Another way CoPAC is keeping Chattanooga on the forefront of the arts is by allowing unique performers to…perform!
A couple months ago, Crispin Glover did two nights of shows at Barking Legs. Yes. That’s the guy from “Back to the Future.” (Also, he’s the guy that almost kicked David Letterman in the head on TV.) Each night was, by all reports, spectacular.
Barking Legs also hosts a monthly variety show called “The Floor Is YOURS.” This show allows anyone to get up and perform for eight minutes. Some of it is amazingly good, and some of it is mind-numbingly bad. But every month, it happens, and it gives an outlet to performers that might not have any other venue that would welcome them. And it all happens without any censorship at all.
If you’ve never been to Barking Legs, a good time to check it out would be the upcoming “Day of the Legs” event to celebrate the recent renovation of the facility. That’s on October 24, and starts at 1 p.m.
If you’d like to see if CoPAC can help you bring your art to life, contact Ric via email at Ric@CoPACBLT.org.
Photos courtesy of CoPAC