For the 15th year, artists and art-lovers converge on the First Tennessee Pavilion. Be there.
For the past 14 years, the 4 Bridges Arts Festival has kicked off spring in Chattanooga. This year, the 15th installment of Chattanooga’s premier arts festival will begin this Saturday, April 11 at the First Tennessee Pavilion.
As always, 4 Bridges will feature live music, local food, and, of course, the opportunity to peruse and purchase an impressive array of art. For 2015, nearly 500 artists applied to participate in 4 Bridges’ juried art show. The application period for the 2015 festival began in August 2014, and, after a lengthy and intensive deliberation process during the month of November, the jury selected 152 artists to participate in the show.
With more than 20 mediums represented, the show consists of more than just oil paintings. This year’s artists come from an impressive range of artistic fields, including photography, ceramics, fiber, basketry, furniture, jewelry, glass, and metal.
Chattanooga’s very own Association for Visual Arts (AVA) is the organization behind 4 Bridges, but they are not responsible for the selection process. “The jury changes every year,” explains festival director Kat Wright. “Since there are fresh eyes every year, there’s always an opportunity for newcomers to participate.” This year’s three-member blind jury consisted of Katie Delmez, curator of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts; Bill May, executive director of the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts; and Peggy Wood Townsend, director of Public Art Chattanooga.
Anne Willson, AVA’s executive director, points out, “4 Bridges is the only fine arts festival in this area, so it really is a signature cultural event, not just for Chattanooga, but also for our whole region.” If you are curious about the participating artists’ cities of origin, stop by AVA’s booth during the festival to see a map of the United States filled with thumbtacks. Each tack represents a different artist’s hometown, and this year there are tacks in over 30 states.
Though participants come from all over the country, Willson refers to 4 Bridges as a “boutique festival” because the rigorous jury process narrows the artists down to the best of the best. Many artists from Chattanooga apply, but there is no guarantee that they will be accepted since there is no festival quota for local artists. “We honor the integrity of the jury and their process,” Wright says. “The final artists are chosen entirely by the jurors, not AVA.”
Each year, two local artists are selected to design the festival’s official poster and pin. Chattanooga artist Dana Shavin designed this year’s poster, titled “4 Chairs, 4 Bridges.” The original photo transparency for the poster will be available for auction throughout the festival weekend, and 75 limited edition poster prints will also be for sale. Local jeweler Christina Glidden designed this year’s festival pin, which is a simple but stunning design of natural horn and blue kyanite wrapped in silver.
In addition to the organizers from AVA and the jurors, there is another group of people who make the 4 Bridges Arts Festival possible: volunteers. “There’s always work to be done,” says Wright, “so we need, love, adore, and cherish our volunteers. The festival is an all-hands-on-deck situation, and we couldn’t do this without them.” Volunteers are
responsible for everything from coordinating parking to distributing food—both of which could get a little crazy since the festival organizers expect a crowd of 12,000 to 15,000 attendees over the course of the two-day festival.
The ChattaFood tent at 4 Bridges will feature great food from all around the area. With vendors like The Hot Chocolatier, Good Dog, Lupi’s, Taco Mamacita, and Big River, the selection of eatables is sure to satisfy the taste buds and appetites of everyone who stops by.
In addition to some delicious food, both days of the festival will feature the talent of local and regional entertainers. On Saturday, Courney Holder, Amber Fults, Scenic City Chorus, Waterfall Wash, and Moccasin Benders will perform. Sunday will feature Southside Stringband, The Dexter Bell Trio, Brass Works, and Booker T. Scruggs.
Thanks to delicious food, great music, and incredible art, this year’s 4 Bridges Arts Festival is sure to be an unforgettable experience. For Wright and everyone else at AVA, the festival is a labor of love; they are guided by the desire to build a sense of community through art. “We want to cultivate an interest in the arts,” Wright says. “If you come to the festival, you not only get to see and buy some incredible artwork, but you also get to talk to the artists behind that artwork. It’s an educational and community-building experience.”
The 4 Bridges Arts Festival will be held at the First Tennessee Pavilion on April 11 from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. and on April 12 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. One-day passes are available for $7, and two-day passes are $10. Free parking will be available in front of Finley Stadium.
Visit 4bridgesartsfestival.org to find out more about the festival and to buy tickets.
- Rachael Poe
4 Bridges Emerging Artist Myles Freeman
What is The Color of Chaos?
Myles Freeman is one of the two “Emerging Artists” of this year’s 4 Bridges Art Festival. The festival marks the first real public exhibition of his art, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. In three words, Freeman’s art is energetic, color-blasted and dynamic.
When you start to look at one of his works, you try to take it all in at once and can’t fully comprehend what’s happening. And then your eye catches a starting point, follows it through the entire painting—and suddenly you see a character or a theme that was hidden in plain sight.
This is the kind of art Freeman creates. There are no rustic barns or rolling landscapes, no hyper-realistic portraits or caricatures. His art is very much its own world, and every piece, it seems, adds a bit more depth to that world.
But who is this wizard behind the curtain? You might be surprised to find that Freeman has only recently adopted the artist moniker. Throughout childhood and early adulthood, Freeman never considered art for his profession, though he did attend occasional art classes in school.
Now in his forties, Freeman’s not shy about his lack of formal education. He shapes this background with a creative hand and learns through observation. Perhaps years of working with his hands in construction and nature have fine-tuned his sense of touch.
Regardless, the overarching movement and fluidity of Freeman’s paintings are to be admired. Everything is chaos, but it’s constructed and controlled, within the power of the artist. Freeman has that power. And even if, as he says, “Symbolism in the work is incidental, and representation is a happy accident,” experiencing that symbolism and representation in a moment of surprise is this observer’s favorite thing about Freeman’s art.
- Zach Nicholson
4 Bridges Emerging Artist Jillian Walther
How Lovely Is The Ordinary?
“You have to look up.” Photographer Jillian Walther found that out when she visited South Korea. An “Emerging Artist” in this year’s 4 Bridges Art Show, Walther tries to find the beauty in the ordinary, because she’s convinced that if you look hard enough, you’ll see it. Old murals and signs are subjects she’s particularly interested in. Immediately, I think of walking down Martin Luther King Boulevard, where the past of Chattanooga is still apparent, though faded.
Always the photographer in her group, Walther first considered photography seriously in South Korea when she wanted to show her parents the complete absence of grass and prevalence of concrete. Soon, she started looking up and photographing power lines that were tangled and bundled together, impossibly messy, yet still providing light to the city.
And she kept that mentality of “look up” when she came back to the States. Power lines were still interesting to her, and soon she began looking at water towers—another source of power and another consistently forgotten beauty. More generally, she’s drawn to buildings and how they touch the skyline, the contact point of structure and space.
Beautiful camera craft aside, Walther is much more than a photographer. She’s a language-lover and craftsman, a teacher and a wife. Walther is proficient in German. If you’re learning German in Chattanooga, you’ll either recognize her or run into her soon. She picked up some Korean from traveling and some French from graduate school.
Alongside her photography, she takes discarded pieces of wood and crafts them into small things of beauty. Walther and her husband moved to Chattanooga recently and have found the city to be a perfect combination of independence, locality, arts, and nature. With Chattanooga as her home now, Walther has begun to capture the city’s everyday beauty, photo by photo.
- Zach Nicholson