More than Just a Mark

“We Inspire” by students at Brown Academy and Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy,  Overpass Bridge MLK at University Street, 2010

Ingrained in many of us is a desire to make a mark on the world, whether it is through something created, built or preserved, or through the satisfaction of knowing someone else has been empowered or nurtured through our actions.  For Mark Making,  this isn’t just a lifelong goal but a daily goal as lived out in a color-swathed laboratory. For the staff there, and through the countless lives they touch, their work is not simply a spray of paint on a wall but a much deeper mark of community impact.

Through the eyes and words of Mark Making Assistant Executive Director Zach Atchley, you can feel the power of this evolving space and mission.  And this notion carries on through the actions of professional artists partners, the neighborhood kids in a fall break program, the at-risk youth gaining job skills and the underserved community members alike. All join to bring together their vision of community challenges and opportunities into an expression of creativity that will live on as a symbol of possibilities.  The marks they make are not just spray painted whimsy but instead are actually well thought out multi-media musings incorporating paint, metal work, virtual imagery, ceramics and textiles.  They represent the vast communal exploration of new approaches to solving problems.  And they ultimately represent respect – of building owners (all of whom proudly welcome these outdoor masterpieces), of neighbors and of observers who are brought into the conversation purely through proximity to it. 

Zach along with Mark Making Executive Director Frances McDonald, Marketing and Development Director Chris Anderson, Office Coordinator Courtney Archer and the many others who work, volunteer and are inspired here, do not spend time defining art (or deliberating over  Art vs art) but focus more on how this process can help build relationships, clarify thinking, offer vision and solutions. Frances concisely explains their mission in this way – “It is all about vision, not just about art.”

And the vision is key here – not just the literal artistic vision of what is being created, but the broader vision of what comes next for the art, for the space, for the makers and for the community. The art inspires dialogue and encourages engagement with challenging topics. It is about the group, not the individual, the mark of collective vision and dreams, not merely a tag of self promotion. 

Mark Making always begins and ends with partnership – starting with the social service agencies and funders that identify populations and resources, growing with the artists who assist in the process, and, most importantly, reaching fulfillment with the participants who are not merely color-by-number assistants or tokens but full participants from envisioning through execution. More than a mark, it is a vision. So go visit the newest residents of the Glass Street neighborhood and be sure to look up at the simulated stars on the ceiling – the multiplicity of stars representing the endless possibilities for Chattanooga residents to make their collective mark.

  "We Shall Not Be Moved,"by students from the STEM School and from The Howard School with artists Judith Mogul, Rondell Crier and Amanda Brazier, 526 East MLK Blvd, 2013

“For the staff there, and through the countless lives they touch, their work is not simply a spray of paint on a wall but a much deeper mark of community impact.”