By Mary Kate Sheppard, Staff Writer—
Covid-19 may have shut down several festivals and closed multiple galleries this year, but local artists from the Chattanooga area are still finding ways to showcase their artwork.
Every year, the Association for Visual Arts, or AVA, helps host the 4 Bridges Art Festival. Showcasing 120 artists, it is ranked within the top twenty of the nation’s best art festivals.
However, after the events of 2020, the 4 Bridges Art Festival was postponed, and then cancelled.
“4 Bridges usually shows a great diversity of art. We had applicants from all over the U.S. and it’s unfortunate that we can’t have it this year,” 4BAF Programs Coordinator Sarah Moore said.
Thankfully, the Association for Visual Arts has found ways showcase the local artists that are proud to call Chattanooga home.
AVA is hosting a Scenic City Collection art gallery specifically designated for the ten artists chosen to display art at 4BAF. The list of artists include: Jaime Barks, Jonathan Clardy, Mindy Kelly, Lisa Norris, Carrie Pendergrass and Brent Sanders, along with new emerging artists Kory Russell, Erica Birch, Michael Brady, and Nancy Collins.
“When we realized we had space in the gallery to showcase these artists, it was a celebratory moment,” Moore said. “4 Bridges was taken from them. Hopefully this will give something back.”
As for the artists, many of them are excited to showcase their work for the Scenic City Collection as well.
Jamie Barks is an artist and outdoor enthusiast.
“This has been a strange year,” she said “It’s been hard creatively. I’m glad that some of my art will finally be able to come out of hiding and be displayed.”
Barks talked about how Covid had affected her both as an artist and as a mom of two boys. What has kept her creativity alive has been getting outside and enjoying the beauty Chattanooga has to offer.
Erica Birch, an artist specializing in oil and acrylic, said that the pandemic allowed her time to experiment and resulted in her being able to dabble in mixed media.
“Like most creatives I have many different sources of inspiration,” Birch said. “The art chosen for the 4 Bridges festival came about through a desire to appreciate things from different perspectives and encourage others to as well.”
Nancy Collins is a Chatt State and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga allum and an emerging artist with a specialty in jewelry.
“Online sales are decent, but as an extrovert, I get my jewelry ‘mojo’ from working directly with clients and interacting at shows when you hear the magical sounds of ‘Ooh, look at this,’ and what I refer to as the ‘air suck,’ as a woman sees the piece meant for her.” she said. “Add an F3 tornado to the mix and I find myself very much looking forward to 2021 even if we get a late start to the party.”
Collins also said that her time as a technology and business student at Chattanooga State University and UTC helped her because, “switching between millimeters and inches doesn’t make me tear out my hair as it does many jewelry makers.”
Unlike the dozens of artists showcased at 4BAF, all of the artists being showcased at AVA are local to Chattanooga.
Kory Russell is another emerging artist.
“The thing I love most about Chattanooga is coming home from vacation,” he said “Every time I come back to Chattanooga, I think how lucky I am to come back to a hometown I really love, and that is as beautiful as Chattanooga. Honestly, our downtown is one of the most captivating downtowns I’ve ever seen.”
The Scenic City Collection begins Jan. 24, with hours from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., but there will be two additional weekends—Jan 31 and Feb 7—where the artists can showcase their art.
“I’m excited for people to come and safely experience this event,” Moore said. “I hope people will jump on the opportunity to come experience some great art and gear up for future festivals.”
Moore said she hopes for the 4 Bridges Festival to be back this April to showcase the artists of the Scenic City Collection along with many others.