In an effort to expand Chattanooga’s public arts movement to the Southside, the St. Elmo Neighborhood Association has been working with Public Art Chattanooga, a program dedicated to integrating high-quality public art into the Chattanooga community, in the purchase of a sculpture to live at the intersection of Tennessee and St. Elmo avenues near the Incline Railway.
Public Art Chattanooga has, in the past, spearheaded the placement of some of Chattanooga’s landmark installations, including “Winds of Change” on Brainerd Road, “The Couch” outside of the Broad Street Ben & Jerry’s and “Right Turn” on the corner of Georgia and McCallie avenues.
From the more than 30 submissions for the St. Elmo public art movement, two sculpture proposals made it to the final selection and more than 250 public votes were cast and tallied to name North Carolina native Charles Pilkey’s “St. Elmo” the winner. His sculpture’s inspiration derives from the area’s Cherokee history in the late 1700s and early 1800s as well as characters in the novel by Augusta J. Evans Wilson from which St. Elmo gleaned its name.
The winning project proposed a circular sculpture of painted welded steel that will stand 14 feet in diameter. Fifty major players in St. Elmo’s Cherokee history and characters from Wilson’s novel will line the perimeter of the sculpture, namely Chief Dragging Canoe, John Ross and George Wheland. The Incline Railway, a hiker, a 1950’s ice cream vendor and various Civil War soldiers will also line the periphery.
Prior to the completion of the sculpture a community meeting will be held for residents to offer Pilkey feedback into the design and the subject matter of the sculpture. The piece is scheduled to be installed in the fall of 2013 and added to Chattanooga’s permanent public art collection.
For more information on St. Elmo’s history, visit st-elmo.org. To find out more about the efforts of Public Art Chattanooga, visit publicartchattanooga.com.