In a rather unexpected setting, nestled in the Chattanooga valley surrounded by mountains, lies Montague Park, once home to city baseball fields, the 33-acre site sat abandoned as if it was beckoning to be adorned with something spectacular. On April 8, 2016 that ‘something spectacular’ arrived in the form of Sculpture Fields at Montague Park (SFMP).
On a cool and windy night, a community of art supporters, artists and art enthusiasts gathered to celebrate the vision of John and Pamela Henry which began in 2009 as a result of a collection of realities that surfaced over the prior decade in Chattanooga. The Grand Opening celebration began with a keynote address by Tony Jones, president of the Kansas City Art Institute. Mr. Jones congratulated the Henry’s
for “following in the tradition of other parks in America that have been extraordinary successful” and “that have had an incredible economic impact.”
The day was filled with the ultimate desire of what one hopes a sculpture park would bring to a community. I watched visitors explore yoga and tai jai poses amongst the sculptures, families walking together and learning about each sculpture, often interacting with the artists themselves, while a cool breeze wafted smooth jazz music, adding an audial element to the already soothing artistic experience. The day turned into night and the literally came alive in the form of an iron pour. “Cross Pollination” by artist Allen Peterson lit up the sky. Visitors endured the cold temperatures fascinated by the visual of hot iron being poured into mold creating red-hot bumble bees whirling around tall stemmed flowers appearing to pollinate each one.
The celebration proved that there is no limit to the freedom to explore life through art and how it enriches the very being of humanity.
For me, there was one more realization that impacted me personally on this day…that an Internationally renowned sculptor recognized the struggle of a growing arts community and committed to make such a monumental difference in the community in which he resides.
John Henry has surely watched it happen many times throughout his 50+year career. But when it happens in your hometown it takes a conscious community minded leader to shepherd such a lofty vision into a reality. “In the last 15 years a sizable number of sculptors have relocated to Chattanooga because of the conducive welcoming attitudes and creative resources found here.” Henry continues, “Chattanooga is demonstrating a strong acceptance and considerable support for the establishment of an arts community. There are arts organizations, groups, collectives, forming rapidly, and the arts industry in Chattanooga is becoming a formidable economic social and political force within the city and the region. The missing ingredient is sustainability, which can only be achieved by establishing a critical mass of elements important enough to draw arts enthusiasts to the city and produce the kind of environment where a market for the art of the region can emerge.”
As a testimony to SFMP’s contribution to enrich the city overall and integrate art into everyday life in Chattanooga, SFMP is a yoga, dog, kite and picnic friendly park. Future plans are to open the park to additional cultural experiences as well as a place to celebrate life’s events, such as weddings, in an art-filled atmosphere.
Currently there are 28 works are positioned throughout Phase I of the park.
Included are works by Verina Baxter, Carl Billingsley, John Clement, Jim Collins, Roger Colombik, Mark diSuvero, John Henry, Linda Howard, Hanna Jubran, Lyman Kipp, Gary Kulak, Peter Lundberg. Jane Manus, Claus Moor, Jesús Moroles, Netje, Jan Meyer-Rogge, Doug Schatz, George Schroeder and John Petrey. You can download Otocast to view the sculptures and listen to the artists speak about their work.
The park is open from dawn to dusk daily and is located on Polk Street between Main and 23rd Streets.
By Peggy Petrey