Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Up! (and better than ever)

Thanks to six straight hours of climbing, Jerry McClanahan and Zach Atchley successfully restored the Bluff Furnace Art of History display. They were assisted by volunteers Monika Groppe and "Seun" Oluwaseun Erinie, and by Nick Honerkamp, who also engaged in some selective chainsaw beautification to the site's landscape in order to improve sight lines from the Tennessee River.

Monika and Seun rig a panel to be hauled up the frame.

Zach (top) and Jerry (below) get high.
This time, instead of using cable ties to secure the panels to the frame, it was decided to use bungee cord that was looped through the panel grommets and then around the frame sections.

We assumed that this would securely attach the fabric while simultaneously allowing a desirable amount of give during high wind-shear episodes. Mark Making had quickly repaired and re-stained the tornado-damaged grommets and fabric, but we had to wait two weeks for delivery of the 600 ft of bungee cord before we could proceed; more than half was used during the installation, and the rest will be kept at the ready for any future repairs or replacements. This new attachment protocol is aesthetically superior to the cable ties, as it makes for a more seamless panel against the frame; see below. We also believe that it will be more resistant to ultraviolet damage than the plastic ties. Only time will tell.

Tuesday's effort was photodocumented by Chattanooga Times-New Free Press photographer Angela Lewis, shown here. One of her photos appears in  the March 30 metro section of the newspaper.

A very focused Angela Lewis, Chattanooga Times-News Free Press Photographer
Having survived a tornado, the Art of History installation should have a relatively stabile future. And happily coinciding with our second successful hanging is the publication of a lead article on Bluff Furnace in the Society for Industrial Archaeology Newsletter, Volume 40, No 1, Winter 2011. Authored by Nick and entitled "Cupola Art Teaches Iron History at Bluff Furnace," this SIA publication now brings an international audience to the site, its art, and its history.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Down But Not Out

The "high intensity windstorm" (aka "tornado") on February 28 caused extensive damage to Chattanooga. As seen below, Bluff Furnace was not immune to nature's random fury. Luckily, we recovered all the downed panels. The Mark Making staff removed the damaged goods and returned to the studio.

We will regroup, repair, and rehang the damaged panels.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Art of History Display, Cress Gallery, UTC

The making of the Bluff Furnace "Art of History" exhibit is now highlighted in two display cases in the Cress Gallery of Art at UTC. With invaluable help from Gallery Curator Ruth Grover, the displays were put together and mounted last weekend by Tanya, Lindsey, and Nick. Below are photos of the cases as well as the accompanying text. Art of History will run through April.

“Art of History”
UTC Institute of Archaeology and
Mark Making of Chattanooga

The content of these contiguous lobby cases record the 2010 collaboration of Mark Making and the UTC Institute of Archaeology as a joint effort of the University and the Community to create a work of monumental art that stands as a document to the history of Chattanooga.

The work “Art of History” is an artistic account of Chattanooga’s historic Bluff Furnace and its time and place in Chattanooga’s past and future. Designed and executed by the collaborators and painted on a 1,440 square foot vinyl “skin”, the Furnace’s story comes to life through the team’s selective interpretation of fact and photograph traced onto acetate with markers, scanned into Adobe Illustrator, and projected and hand painted on the vinyl’s surface using an industrial inspired color scheme. The result creates a dynamic illumined perspective inviting the viewer to consider the work from all angles.

Located on the historic south bank of the Tennessee River, along the contemporary River Walk and its serpentine twists just west of the Hunter Museum of American Art, the Bluff Furnace was Chattanooga’s first heavy industrial site built in the 1850’s as a charcoal-fired, steam powered hot blast furnace. Converted to a coke-fired furnace in 1860, and failing after two blasts, the furnace and its ruins were slowly buried by debris until archaeological excavations during the 1980’s recovered the lost site.

The wall case contains documentation of the process of “Art of History”: group thinking and action, materials, process, and outcome. The freestanding case contains a model of the actual site installation and archaeological artifacts recovered from the site.

This exhibition illustrates both the history of the furnace and its archaeological and artistic resurrection. It also serves as a reference to Chattanooga’s effort to redefine and resurrect itself industrially from brown to green as a leader on all fronts, and its commitment to the arts as a defining community parameter.

The UTC Institute of Archaeology, Dr. Nicholas Honerkamp, Director, is a non-profit archaeological research unit affiliated with the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Geology, College of Arts and Sciences. It is committed to the scientific investigation of cultural process throughout both historic and prehistoric eras.

UTC Anthropology majors Meredith Gilligan, Will Andrews, and Shea Cochran; Environmental Science major Lindsay Roden; Anthropology Alumna Lindsay Cochran; and dual Art and Anthropology major Tanya Dickenson participated.

Mark Making, founded by Chattanoogan Frances McDonald in 2008, is a non-profit organization whose mission is to enfranchise all, regardless of age, gender, or situation, in the creation of meaningful art in highly visible community sites.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Exhibition Impact

Top panels, facing north

After surviving over a month of  amazingly harsh weather, the "Art of History" installation is beginning to make it's public interpretive mark. Yet another media outlet has spread the word, this time in the form of a UTC News blog posted on February 4 entitled "UTC Faculty, Alumni, Students Construct Public Art Installation" and available at

This concise blog entry highlights the UTC/Markmaking partnership. Next up is a display in UTC's Cress Gallery that will be mounted in mid-February.

In the February/March issue of Chattanooga Parent the Bluff Furnace installation is featured in an article by Jennifer Crutchfield entitled "The Mystery of the Belching Blasts and the Lost Furnace."

We have also begun to receive substantial feedback on the installation. Mark Making and local community volunteers have been distributing questionnaires about the display to visitors on the Walnut Street Bridge and the Tennessee Riverwalk. To date 140 face-to-face surveys and 30 on-line surveys (via Survey Monkey) have been completed and tabulated. Particularly gratifying was that 78% of respondents “would not have guessed this piece was created by non professional artists;” 97% agreed that this piece “brings attention to the historical significance of the Bluff Furnace.” Not too shabby!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow Furnace

Even seven inches of snow has not deterred the Furnace from its interpretive mission! The "trial by ice" was successfully weathered, and the exhibit remains intact. A good sign.

Photo courtesy of Carl Guerra.
When visiting the site, we invite you to listen to the Bluff Furnace audio tour on your cell phone. Call 423-535-9083, then enter 73 # when prompted. An on-site sign with the audio tour number will be installed soon.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Up and Running!

Two days of wind and rain had no discernible effect on the panels. While this is what we expected, it's nevertheless a relief.

Friday's (Dec. 31) installation generated a lot of publicity for the project, to wit:.

- WUTC Around and About interview (aired Jan. 5) about the site and the exhibit-making process, accessed on their blog at

- A  30 minute-talk radio (WGOW) discussion (Jan. 3) about the project featuring Frances and Nick with host Andrae McGary.

-  Allison Carter's photographs appeared in the January 1 metro edition of the Times-Free Press under the title "Bluff View Artwork."

- Wesley Schultz of produced an extensive photographic blow-by-blow of the process; you can see it at

- Channel 9 (WTVC) covered the work in a 6:00 News presentation entitled "Restoring Bluff View History Through Art" at

- Finally, the Channel 12 (WDEF) news coverage, "Bluff Furnace Art Installation," can be viewed at

Allison Carter, Photographer
The Unknown Camera Man (probably with Channel 9)

Friday, December 31, 2010

A Productive and Successful Hanging

Thanks to four-and-a-half hours of continuous and skillful efforts by our intrepid climbers (Jerry McClanahan and Patrick O'Brien), all 18 panels were mounted onto the furnace frame. The weather cooperated (relatively warm, no wind), and there were no hasty trips to the emergency room, which is always a plus. The installation was covered by at least four different news organizations, and numerous Riverwalk visitors stopped in their tracks in what we like to interpret as flat-out shock and awe over what they were seeing. There were no major glitches: everything fit surprisingly well. A storm is predicted for Chattanooga tonight, and that will serve as our first practical test of The Fabric vs The Elements.

This is a visually stunning installation. See below.

All is in readiness.

Transporting the panels
Strapping up
How high are they?
High. Very, very high.
First panel goes up.
Interior view.
Making progress.
Bottom row.

The finished product, looking north from the  Riverwalk. Yes!