By Trish Nguyen, Staff Writer
From Oct. 1 to Oct. 4, two organizations, Project for Public Spaces and The Enterprise Center, partnered to host the third International Placemaking Conference for locals in Chattanooga and others from around the world to share ideas for the improvement of the area in which they live.
Placemaking is a concept that focuses on creating public spaces that stimulate a community’s culture and has grounded its roots into Chattanooga for over 30 years.
Mary Helen Montgomery, the marketing and communications manager at the enterprise center, said, “We have more than 400 people here. The idea is for people to share what they are doing in their communities. We have definitely been able to showcase a lot of projects in Chattanooga, but we are also learning from people who are coming from different communities about the kinds of things they are doing at home.”
They chose to host the conference in Chattanooga this year because the city is a good venue for a conversation about equity, Montgomery said.
Previous conferences have been held in Amsterdam and Vancouver.
“A lot of people who were here are experts in their field, and they have a fresh perspective that they were able to offer people local to Chattanooga,” Montgomery said.
The conference held mobile workshops to inform project organizers and anyone who is interested in improving the city about ongoing projects, various aspects of the city’s history, and the people who would be served in each district.
The conferences were based in the Innovation District, but workshops were held around downtown Chattanooga.
Additionally, the Placemaking Conferences promoted other events happening at the time that were hosted by other independent local organizations.
The Levitt AMP Music Series is an annual concert on the lawn of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center that was included on the program list for Placemaking Week.
Marcus Ellsworth, president of Chattanooga pride/Tennessee Valley pride, was a part of the Levitt AMP Music Series and spoke about the culture of Chattanooga since the start of the music series seven years ago.
“The audience has definitely grown over the years,” Ellsworth said. “There have been more people who’ve come out to enjoy the music and have a good time.”
They hope that more people of a wide spectrum of backgrounds will attend future events and revel in the culture that has always been present in the city, especially the legacy left by the Big Nine on MLK Boulevard.
Though the Placemaking Events move to different cities globally, local placemakers continue to build new installations and host more socials to celebrate the art and the liveliness of Chattanooga. They regularly update their website, placemakingcha.org, with upcoming events aimed to harness the power of community involvement to better the city.