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!