It’s been a long time coming, but the spectacular Sculpture Fields at Montague Park on Chattanooga’s Southside is set to open this month. The April 8-10 grand opening celebration will feature yoga and tai chi in the park, a “meet the artist” walk, music and food trucks.
John Henry, the world-renowned sculptor and driving force behind the mammoth proposition at Montague Park, said, “When the Sculpture Fields opens in April 2016, it will not only be a crown jewel on Chattanooga’s burgeoning Southside, it will be the only one of its kind in the Southeast. A truly international sculpture park and tourist destination, Sculpture Fields will contain sculptures on a monumental scale from artists all over the world.”
Certainly Henry’s diverse contacts and his vast experience with public art are coming into full play now. From every direction and almost every possibility, Sculpture Fields will be a full-service venue. Cathy Clifford, the park’s executive director said, “Sculpture Fields, a 33-acre parcel of land with an incredible view, has a beautiful space to offer with limitless opportunities for recreation. Whether you are reading a book, flying a kite, taking a jog, walking your dog, participating in a yoga class, holding a corporate party or even a wedding, Sculpture Fields is the perfect location for all sorts of events with an irreplaceable advantage of breathtaking monumental works of art surrounding you and your occasion.”
The park will be open to the public free of charge. Its partnership with the city goes back a long time, even before Henry envisioned the park. In fact, the land was donated to the city by the Montague family in 1911 for the express purpose of use as a park, but for years it was used for a dumping ground, or sanitary landfill, instead.
Over the years, it was used for various recreational activities, including kite competitions, motocross racing and softball, but Montague Park was closed due to environmental concerns in 2003.
In 2007, Henry led a grassroots effort to develop an international sculpture park at Montague Park. He had been involved in the creation of successful sculpture parks and knew first-hand the positive impact of creating a cultural destination can have on the local economy in a city.
By 2011, Sculpture Fields formed its first board of directors. In 2012, it received its nonprofit determinations and signed a 40-year lease with the city of Chattanooga to develop an international sculpture park.
Phase 1 is now complete; there are two more phases of work yet to be done.
Phase 2 will consist of a visitor center, complete with a welcome center kiosk, event space, classrooms, a presentation area, studio workshop space, administrative offices, concessions and restrooms. This phase also includes planning for educational programming, a children’s interactive art park and 20 more pieces of sculpture.
Phase 3 includes plans for an amphitheater and another increment of sculptures, bringing the total large-scale works up to almost 75 pieces in the park.
Other plans include a depot stop and park entrance at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, which runs along the north end of the park.
When you go, tune into the park’s Otocast, which allows you to hear about each piece from the artist in order to acquire a deeper understanding of the art. You can also read a short description.
Sculpture Fields is located at 1800 Polk Street in Chattanooga. You can find out more at sculpturefields.org.