published Sunday, November 25th, 2012

Indoor/outdoor art around Chattanooga

Artist David Ruiz, left, and Graffiti art gallery owner David Jones, right, discuss Ruiz's recent installation on the outside of Graffiti on Friday. Ruiz just completed the project and is planning on installing more at the gallery.
Artist David Ruiz, left, and Graffiti art gallery owner David Jones, right, discuss Ruiz's recent installation on the outside of Graffiti on Friday. Ruiz just completed the project and is planning on installing more at the gallery.
Photo by Allison Love.
  • photo
    Graffiti art by Seven is on display at Graffiti art gallery on Friday. The work was recently installed, and gallery owner David Jones hopes to add more graffiti works around the building.
    Photo by Allison Love.
    enlarge photo

At the corner of Chambliss Street and Spears Avenue in North Chattanooga sits a little yellow bungalow. Not exactly a spot one might envision for an art gallery.

But David Jones could see it.

In early September, Jones, a former commercial leader for SunTrust bank, converted the structure, which once housed a real estate office, into a small art gallery -- Graffiti, a Hill City art joint.

Yes, he was inspired by Spike Lee, who calls all his movies "Spike Lee Joints."

Friends of Jones' 25-year-old son thought the word was "dated and goofy," he said, but he liked it.

The name comes from Jones' idea of placing removable panels on the outside of the building and inviting local street artists to paint on them, expanding the gallery from the inside to the outside. And since the panels are removable, they can be brought inside for eventual sale.

The first panel, by local artist Seven, is titled "Genesis," and there are multiple panels for future artwork.

Jones had the idea to incorporate graffiti when he worked for the U.S. Census and was out on the streets, counting homeless people.

"I saw a lot of amazing graffiti," he said.

Jones has a degree in elementary education and a background in finance, but his interest in art developed more recently.

"My wife and I started collecting art about 10 or 12 years ago," he said.

With a growing passion for art -- particularly contemporary art -- he spoke to his friend, Jim Wilson, who owned the building where Graffiti is located, asking about "putting a little art gallery in there."

Wilson already had his real estate office in the building, so he was a bit apprehensive at first about sticking an art gallery inside, Jones said, Wilson quickly came around to the idea -- and still runs his real estate office out of it.

"It's definitely something different," Wilson said with a laugh.

At present, six local artists are represented by the gallery, including painters, sculptors and multi-media artists. Some are friends, others approached him.

A more permanent outdoor installation is a wheat-paste painting by local artist David Ruiz. At least, it's as permanent as the artist decides it will be.

"That's the beauty of impermanence," Ruiz said, "they'll last as long as you let them, but once you take a pressure washer to them, they're gone."

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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