Health enthusiasts and recreationists who have discovered the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway’s new flow of four uninterrupted miles of exercise trail are undoubtedly sitting pretty by the time they reach the Raider Drive entrance, from either direction.
Or at least, they have the opportunity to sit pretty. And in a big way, provided they’re willing to make a climb instead of just taking a hike.
At the Raider Drive trailhead near the popular playground now rests a big ... yellow ... chair. It’s not a new chair. Yet it’s not just any chair. It’s “that” chair, the conversation piece that has spent long tenures on display in the front lawn of the Museum Center at Five Points and at the Old Woolen Mill.
Created by local artist Joshua Coleman, the oversized, canary-colored straight-back comes to the Greenway with purpose. For those unfamiliar with the eye-catching oddity, it is called “Sitting Tall,” and it now serves as the first official display of art on the community’s popular exercise trail. Its reason for being there is Coleman’s willingness to make it available, and because the Greenway board of directors is taking the community path into a new direction.
The crowd-pleasing linear park is no longer limited to physical exercise, recreation and nature. According to Cameron Fisher, Greenway board chairman, the ever-growing community facility is testing the waters of art and culture. The first step came earlier this month when the board established the Greenway Public Art Committee (the GPAC name is tentative) whose members will be tasked with the responsibility of “... researching, managing and recommending ways to increase public awareness about public art, specifically as part of the Greenway experience,” Fisher explained.
In his “Keeping It Green” column published in the June 17 edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner, Fisher pointed out, “This public awareness may come in the form of events or placement of interactive, functional or recreational art.”
And that’s where the big yellow chair comes in. The rotund item of furniture, which at first glance might be considered best used by embellished ... back sides, for lack of a softer term, is GPAC’s first art contribution.
Its diversity is its strength. Although “Sitting Tall” is art, it’s not intended just for viewing.
“The community is invited to discover and experience ‘Sitting Tall’ by admiring it, climbing it and having your picture taken on it,” Fisher cited. “It is the first of what is hoped to be many more offerings coordinated through GPAC.”
No one is saying whether future exhibits will be as physically accommodating for the tired walker, runner, bicyclist, rollerskater or skateboarder. Subsequent displays might appeal more to the visual senses than physical touch. But that’s the excitement of a new group like GPAC. According to Fisher, “... the sky’s the limit.”
“GPAC grew out of a desire to take the Greenway beyond the physical and recreational to the cultural,” Fisher said. “The Greenway is at a place where it is well established in our community and people have come to know it as a destination. This initiative is part of taking it to the next level.”
Preliminary meetings that led to GPAC’s establishment included special consultation with Peggy Townsend, director of Public Art Chattanooga. Townsend has been influential in the success of Chattanooga’s public art endeavors such as downtown art and mile markers at the Riverpark, Fisher explained.
Two local artists, one of whom is Coleman who operates Imagery Sculpture Studio, are on board with the GPAC initiative. The other local imagination belongs to Joe McCullough, owner of Theme Fusion. Community arts advocate Tara Brown has agreed to serve on the committee, as well as Greenway board member Judy Chandler who will serve as a GPAC liaison.
Fisher pointed out Coleman built “Sitting Tall” in 2006 with a goal of “... experiencing art in a physical way; when people climb onto something larger than life it creates a unique experience.” The big, big chair was installed on the Greenway trailhead early last week.
The gargantuan sit-in is famous mostly for its quiet reprieves in front of the downtown museum and the Old Woolen Mill where Coleman’s studio is housed. However, like most big, yellow chairs it has made the full circuit; at least, those most common to ... big, yellow chairs. Of its creator, Coleman has other pieces of art that have been seen around town such as a sculpture called “Master’s Touch” in the lobby of Life Circle Women’s Center and a memorial sculpture in the central garden at SkyRidge Medical Center.
“Hopefully, the GPAC initiative will increase awareness, educate and spark appreciation for the Greenway and public art,” Fisher noted. “Placement of the ‘Sitting Tall’ sculpture is an excellent start. Where the program goes from here depends on several factors, but it will be an exciting adventure. And most importantly, it will need the participation of volunteers and public support, financial and otherwise.”
So, the next time you and your Greenway running, walking or cycling partner make it as far as the Raider Drive playground and either one says, “let’s sit a spell,” the wise and culturally adept will bring along a ladder.