42,000 SQUARE FEET OF PAINT

January 20, 2016


Public Art Chattanooga decided to add a splash of color to the monolithic grey hulk of the AT&T building, located on the Southside of Chattanooga proper.  This building is a tall windowless structure resembling the “BORG” habitat detailed in several Star Trek episodes.  Not really appealing in any sense of the word.  When Public Art received permission to go forward, they called internationally respected artist Meg Saligman.  Meg was the obvious choice for the work.  This is her largest mural to date covering approximately 42,000 square feet.  It is definitely one of the five (5) largest murals in the country and the largest in the Southeastern part of the United States.

The ML King District Mural Project reinforces the critical role public art plays in lending a sense of place to a specific neighborhood, and certainly contributes to future neighborhood beautification and economic development efforts. The images and people in the mural are inspired by real stories, individuals, and the history of the neighborhood.  For approximately six (6) months, people living and visiting the Southside were interviewed to obtain their opinion and perspective as to what stories would be displayed by the mural.  The proper balance was required, discussed, and met, with the outcome being spectacular.

This is a Meg Saligman Studios project.  Co-Principal Artists are Meg Saligman and Lizzie Kripke. Lead Artists Hollie Berry and James Tafel Shuster. In 2006, Public Art Review featured Meg Saligman as one of the ten most influential American muralists of the past decade. She has received numerous awards, including the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program’s Visionary Artist Award, and honors from the National Endowment of the Arts, the MidAtlantic Arts Foundation, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and Philadelphia’s Leeway Foundation.  Saligman has painted more than fifty murals all over the world, including Philadelphia, Shreveport, Mexico City, and now Chattanooga.  She has a way of mixing the classical and contemporary aspects of painting together. Prior to the M.L.K mural, Saligman’s most famous work is “Common Threads” located in the Philadelphia area. It is painted on the west wall of the Stevens Administrative Center at the corner of Broad and Spring Garden Streets. Other major works include “Philadelphia Muses” on 13th and Locust streets, a multimedia “Theatre of Life” on Broad and Lombard streets, “Passing Through”  over the Schuylkill Expressway, and the paint and LED light installation at Broad and Vine streets, “Evolving Face of Nursing”.  Saligman’s work can be viewed nationally in Shreveport, Louisiana, with “Once in a Millennium Moon”, and in Omaha, Nebraska, with “Fertile Ground.”

A key component of the M.L.K. Mural in Chattanooga was the local apprentice program offering an opportunity for local artists to work with the nationally recognized muralist and to learn techniques and methods for large scale projects such as this. From thirty-three (33) applicants, Meg interviewed and hired a team of six (6) locals who constituted an integral part of the program itself.  Each artist was hired for their artistic skill sets and their ability to work collaboratively as team members. Members of the local team are: 1.) Abdul Ahmad, 2.) Anna Carll, 3.) Rondell Crier, 4.) Shaun LaRose, 5.) Mercedes Llanos and 6.) Anier Reina.

Now, with that being said, let’s take a look.

Layout

From this digital photograph and the one below, you can get a feel for the scope of the project and the building the artwork is applied to.  As you can see, it’s a dull grey, windowless, concrete structure well-suited for such a face-lift.  Due to the height and size of the building, bucket trucks were used to apply the paint.

Basic Layout

The digital above shows a partially-filled mural.  The one below, if you look closely, shows the basic layout for the design above.

Layout (2)

The layout, of course, was developed on paper first with designs applied to quadrants on the building.  You can see some of the interacies of the process from the JPEG above.Layout

The planning for this project took the better part of one year due to the complexity and the layout necessary prior to initiating the project.  As I traveled down M.L.King Avenue, I would watch the progress in laying out the forms that would accept the colors and shades of paint.  In one respect, it was very similar to paint-by-numbers.  Really fascinating to watch the development of the artwork even prior to painting.

Allmost Finished

The completed mural covers all four (4) sides of the AT&T building and as you can see from the JPEG below—it is striking.


Completed Mural

This gives you one more reason to visit Chattanooga.  As always, I welcome your comments.

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