With the unveiling of the first piece of the outdoor art wall at Hill City gallery Graffiti, there’s a new energy at the corner of Spears Avenue and Chambliss Street.
The gallery is turning the Chambliss Street side of its second building into a public art display with two 8-by-8 foot panels and two smaller-sized panels.
The first to leave his mark on the wall is graffiti artist SEVEN, whose tags can be seen in the Polaroid mural on East 10th Street and Central Avenue, the mural of coffee drinkers on the side of Southside business Mean Mug and the animal wraparound mural at the end of Andrews Street.
Although gallery owner David Jones remains hush-hush on the identify of the other artists who will soon reveal their panels, he has commissioned a wheat paste mural by Mary Margaret LaVoie and David Ruiz of PPRWRK for the front of the building on Spears Avenue.
Graffiti opened during the annual Gallery Hop in September. The intimate space focuses on forging a lasting connection between artist and audience by encouraging the viewer to linger and consider a piece. The collection is curated around the idea of “contemporary art for urban living.”
Current exhibiting artists include Ellyn Bivin, Elizabeth Chetta, Chelsea Couch, Mary Gregg, Patrick Nelligan and Jones himself.
The buzz on the corner
The concept for art wall emerged from the gallery’s core mission to energize and celebrate Hill City in a manner that blended the community element of public art with the financial benefits of a tradition gallery setup.
“We want to engage with the neighborhood,” Jones said. “Graffiti and street artists have to make a living, too, so we thought, why not put the art on removable panels?”
Each piece is protected by a clear plastic cover and will be replaced by another work of art upon sale.
SEVEN, who is actually a versatile artist who has canvas work, digital design, outdoor murals and graffiti in his portfolio, linked up with Jones through H*Art Gallery’s Ellen Heavilon. He approached the work—an acrylic spray paint piece featuring his tag and entitled ”Genesis”—as an experiment.
He explained that he wanted to build off Graffiti’s name as the parameters for the panel and tap into the genre’s inherent appeal to its audience.
“When it’s in its natural environment on the street, there’s a real energy that people can pick up on,” SEVEN said. “To me, it's the energy that attracts [the audience] and the fact that they can walk up to the art and touch it. It’s not like in a museum, where the glass separates them from the art.”
The Chattanooga native lived in Atlanta for a time, and there he saw the pull that graffiti has in bringing artists and audiences together. An area called "The Yards" would draw crowds to watch the artists tag the buildings’ walls in vibrant murals.
With the public art wall and potential upcoming events that educate young artists on the fine points of legal and illegal street art, Graffiti is hoping to create the same kind of artistic catalyst for Hill City.