Artist Thomas Sayre was visiting the city last week as his works went on display at the new Main Terrain park that stretches between 13th and Main streets on a 1.7-acre tract of land that has been vacant for years. The Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/SU0ntK) reports it is one of only a few urban art fitness parks in the world.
The park is slated for completion next month. Along with the art pieces, it will feature a one-third-mile walking track, a 40,000-gallon stormwater runoff area and equipment designed by PlayCore for grown-ups.
The park received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Chattanooga City Council and the Lyndhurst Foundation.
Sayre, who has created public art projects in cities across the world, said Main Terrain is among the first he knows of to combine ecological, art and exercise elements.
"We've done a lot of landscaping on projects that warranted it, but the issue of exercise was new," he said. "I think that is what appealed to the NEA."
The NEA gave a $250,000 grant for the project, the city contributed $1 million and the Lyndhurst Foundation gave $465,000.
"This just ties everything that the city does together," said Dan Bowers, executive director of Allied of Arts of Greater Chattanooga as he watched the art pieces being installed last week.
The nine sculptures are huge, with the largest standing 24 feet tall and weighing 9,000 pounds.
Sayre said he chose a bridge as inspiration for creating the pieces.
"Once I saw the Walnut Street Bridge and all the lacy metalwork, I just thought it was so attractive," he said. "It's a metaphor for what these spaces can become. A bridge between the past and the present and between the part of downtown that has seen a lot of development and the newer, edgier stuff that is happening on Main Street.
"It's also a hope that the presence of the park will spawn more development in this side of (Broad Street)."
Jessica Presley with Waterhouse Public Relations said officials hope to hold a grand opening for the park in late January.
Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com