Wednesday, April 16, 2014 · 12:53 a.m.

Plans move ahead for Sculpture Fields at Montague Park

Park will include sculptures, museum and outdoor amphitheater

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Plans for the park include walking paths, a water feature and an outdoor amphitheater. (Photo: Staff)

The idea of cultural tourism is alive and strong in Chattanooga.

This involves drawing attention to a specific geographical area with a focus on the lifestyle, art and culture of the people residing there.

Recent large-scale projects include the revitalization of Midtown (formerly Brainerd), Glass Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Additionally, artist Kevin Bate plans to use a recent MakeWork Grant for a project called The McCallie Walls Project: A Drive-Thru Gallery to help draw attention to dilapidated buildings with elaborate murals.

Add to the list the Sculpture Fields at Montague Park.

The 30-acre tract of land off 23rd Street was gifted to the city in 1911 and was intended to be developed into a place where people could convene. However, in 2003, regulators discovered methane leaks inside the park—the land had previously been used as a landfill—forcing the park to close.

But now, under the guidance of renowned sculptor John Henry, the park is undergoing a major transformation to include sculpture exhibitions, recreational and wellness activities, and educational entertainment.

"The idea is to really bring awareness around the world and bring collectors here to support the arts," said Catherine Clifford, an administrator with the Sculpture Fields at Montague Park.

Clifford is a part of a 14-member board that has worked for the past year and half on the project.

"Swizzle" by Mark di Suvero is one of the current sculptures on loan to the park. (Photo: Staff)

The board is working closely with an engineering firm, an environmental conservation firm and a landscape architect.

The project is now in the infrastructure phase, according to Clifford. She said the inaugural grand opening of the park should come in the spring of 2014.

"We need to get paths in there," she said. "We need more lighting and water retention. A parking lot has to be brought in and bathrooms, of course. Those are the basics just to set up."

Thanks to Henry, several large-scale sculptures are already in place within the park. They include a 2011 piece by Verina Baxter called "Captain Merkel’s Ramming Dragon" and a piece called "Swizzle" by Mark di Suvero, widely considered one of the most famous living sculptors in the world.

"John knows artists from all over the world, having had a 50-year career," Clifford said. "[He] knows every one of the artists in the park personally. This will be a great opportunity for them to share their art."

Henry is known worldwide for his large-scale works of public art. His studio on East 16th Street backs directly up to Montague Park.

Area rugby enthusiasts already use the park’s three fields for practice and competitive play. Additional plans for the park include a museum for children and an outdoor amphitheater for concerts and educational programs. Within five years, the park may include up to 75 pieces of sculpture, according to Clifford.

Clifford said they hope to partner with the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, with the park serving as a depot for the train route.

The park will be available for free public use from dusk to dawn.

More information on the project is available here.

The breathtaking views from Montague Park. (Photo: Staff)
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