published Thursday, November 8th, 2012

ART, EXERCISE, AESTHETICS: Walnut Street Bridge inspires artist's work in Main Terrain park

Workers install a 9,000 pound sculpture by artist Thomas Sayre at the new Main Terrain park off of West 13th Street on Wednesday. The public art instillation is comprised of nine interactive sculptures modeled from concrete pylons and steel trusses reminiscent of the Walnut Street Bridge.
Workers install a 9,000 pound sculpture by artist Thomas Sayre at the new Main Terrain park off of West 13th Street on Wednesday. The public art instillation is comprised of nine interactive sculptures modeled from concrete pylons and steel trusses reminiscent of the Walnut Street Bridge.
Photo by Dan Henry.

When artist Thomas Sayre first visited Chattanooga while searching for inspiration for a public art piece, he found it fairly quickly.

"Once I saw the Walnut Street Bridge and all the lacy metalwork, I just thought it was so attractive," the internationally known artist and designer said.

Sayre is in town this week installing the nine components that make up the art pieces inside the new Main Terrain park. Stretching between 13th and Main streets, it's one of the first urban art fitness parks anywhere in the world.

When completed late next month, the park will include a one-third-mile walking track, a 40,000-gallon stormwater runoff area, PlayCore-designed equipment for grown-ups and the art pieces.

Sayre, who has created public art projects in cities around the world, including Perth, Australia, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Boston, Sacramento and San Francisco, said Main Terrain is the first park he knows of that combines 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 National Endowment for the Arts partially fund the project with a $250,000 grant. The Chattanooga City Council provided $1 million for construction and stormwater drainage work and the Lyndhurst Foundation contributed $465,000.

Dan Bowers, executive director of Allied of Arts of Greater Chattanooga, looked over the site Wednesday and said, "This just ties everything that the city does together."

An official opening has not been set, but Jessica Presley with Waterhouse Public Relations said the target is late January.

The park's art piece is big -- the largest of the nine components is 24 feet tall and wieghs 9,000 pounds. It also has an interactive component.

Main Terrain is on a 1.72-acre tract of land that has been vacant for years. Sayre said aesthetics was not the only reason the bridge design was chosen as an inspiration.

"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]."

In an earlier news release, Peggy Townsend, director of Public Art Chattanooga, said, "Once Main Terrain is complete, Southside's landscape will never be the same."

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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