What is Sculpture Fields?
- 33-acre International Sculpture Park
- Fully restored brownfield with over 100 trees and native species plantings
- Located on the southside of Chattanooga
- Currently featuring 32 large-scale sculptures
- Open to the public seven days a week from dawn to dusk
- Cultural tourism attraction
- Outdoor art museum
- Sprawling walking paths for outdoor recreation
- Commemorative Forest
- Free parking and restrooms
- Yoga, kite, and dog-friendly for responsible pet owners
- A public-private partnership between the City of Chattanooga and 501c3 Sculpture Fields at Montague Park
Precedents and Background
Sculpture gardens exist for many reasons and fulfill a variety of missions in their communities. As we envision a world-class sculpture garden at Chattanooga’s Montague Park, it is helpful to examine the niche that similar venues inhabit in other communities and to remind ourselves of the valuable opportunities for education and cultural tourism that these facilities provide.
In the United States, sculpture gardens and parks have traditionally been attached to museum campuses or situated on the grounds of sprawling university campuses. Examples of this include the Margulies Sculpture Park at Florida International University in Miami and the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park at Governor’s State University in Park Forest South near Chicago. Both resulted from the vision of an individual with a fervent appreciation of sculpture and a compelling commitment to create an appropriate environment for enjoying sculpture.
Venues that grew from museum collections include the Kansas City Sculpture Park, part of the world-class Nelson-Atkins Museum. Another is the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art situated in Denmark on the North Zealand coast in a spacious park with a view across the sound of Sweden. This serves as an ideal setting for the museum’s collection of modern sculpture and is a unique interplay between art, architecture, and landscape. These parks are a product of the collections and collecting philosophies of the museums they are attached to.
Open-air sculpture venues can also arise from a city’s concern for displaying its burgeoning collection or from a desire to feature a collection in a single or central location. Seattle has utilized a nine-acre former industrial site to create the Olympic Sculpture Park, a waterfront green space that promotes the enjoyment of art along with vistas of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.
Cities acquire sculpture for a multitude of reasons, often with a regional or international emphasis. Chicago’s collection is spread throughout the city and blends with the corporate and private collections that are visible from its streets. But even a municipal collection of this size, variety and caliber calls for some kind of focal venue. Millennium Park is designed specifically around the art that resides there, and nearby Grant Park – originally designed as part of the Chicago Worlds Fair exposition grounds – has long been used for temporary exhibitions of large-scale sculpture. Accordingly, Chicago has set aside a portion of its inner-city park system specifically for the enjoyment of outdoor art.
The DeCordova Sculpture Park encompasses 35 acres of rolling woodlands and lawns and provides a constantly changing exhibition of large-scale, outdoor, contemporary American sculpture that attracts 125,000 visitors annually.
The Laumeier Sculpture Park started with a gift of 96 acres of parkland and woodlands that house an internationally recognized open-air museum. The park’s literature acknowledges the innovative community leadership that envisioned the value of such an establishment. The Laumeier’s mission is to expand the context of contemporary sculpture beyond the traditional confines of a museum and to initiate cultural awareness, enrich lives and encourage creative thinking by engaging people in the experiences of sculpture and nature.
Many sculpture parks conjoin the experience of art with the enjoyment of nature. Examples are Grounds for Sculpture, Storm King Art Center, and the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. This combination of nature and art is also integral to the stated mission of the 265-acre Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park in Hamilton, Ohio.
At Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey, a 35-acre sculpture park has resulted from a mission to promote the understanding of and appreciation for contemporary sculpture by organizing exhibitions and offering educational programs and special community events. One of our nation’s most prominent sculpture collections, it includes works by important international sculptors and is an oasis tucked in amongst a mix of industrial, suburban and rural environments.
Storm King Art Center is an outdoor museum that celebrates the relationship between sculpture and nature. Five hundred acres of upstate New York landscaped lawns, fields and woodlands provide the site for post-World War II sculptures by internationally renowned artists.
Within a very short time span the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids has grown to become an international destination whose mission is to promote the enjoyment, understanding, and appreciation of gardens, sculpture, the natural environment, and the arts. The integration of horticulture and sculpture is the stated primary focus of this 125-acre site.
The precedent for successful sculpture parks is firmly established by these and other innovative outdoor venues. The impact these parks have on their communities is indisputable in terms of creating destinations for cultural tourism and augmenting educational resources. There is little doubt that Chattanooga – with its visionary leadership and widespread community cultural involvement – will benefit from a world-class international sculpture park.
Why Chattanooga, Why Now?
Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, suggests that there are three things needed for the creative development of a city: technological creativity, economic creativity and artistic and cultural creativity.
Located on land donated by the Montague family for public use, a sculpture venue at Montague Park will create a new landmark for Chattanooga as the park re-opens in two years. It will also bring an international flair to a city already known as a bastion of appreciation for pivotal local and national historic events. With a nod to its sister institutions in Chicago, New York, and Seattle, the Montague Park venue will be unique in the Southeast.
In recent years Chattanooga has pro-actively fostered a level of cultural awareness that is spreading throughout the region. The proposed sculpture park will draw regional, national and international attention to Chattanooga as an innovative community, adding to the legacy of our city’s forward-thinking pioneers and enhancing the cultural life of the community.
With Lookout Mountain as an iconic backdrop, this project will incorporate a historically industrial neighborhood into the city’s cultural mix, at the same time reclaiming land from past environmental mistakes and making a positive contribution to Chattanooga as an increasingly important arts destination.
The Montague Sculpture Park will make use of landscaping to create an exciting and enticing environment suitable for the display of works of art. This will take the form of ecologically sound native plantings that would engage the active participation of environmental groups. Above all, the park will be a welcoming place for people to enjoy the land and the art, incorporating walking paths and areas that encourage recreational activity.
The sculpture park will also be a valuable addition to the academic community, providing an educational resource to school children, college students and adults alike. Educational activities will be included in the planning of the park, utilizing informational plaques, brochures and curriculum-enhancing information for teachers at the K- through 12 and university levels.
The planning process includes an educational component comprised of a partnership with a local or regional institution of higher learning to create and implement a college curriculum for “Sculpture Parks and Gardens” concentration and degree program. The curriculum would be unique and contribute greatly to a growing need in this specialized sector of the professional art community.
While the Hunter Museum of American Art continues to involve the community with outdoor sculpture presented in an accessible and beautifully developed setting, that collection is restricted to American works and to pieces no larger than mid-scale. In complementary fashion, the collection at Montague Park will include world art and will accommodate large-scale works.
Located adjacent to Chattanooga’s newest arts complex, Cypress Corners, the sculpture garden at Montague Park will serve as an anchor for the city’s burgeoning cultural zone on the perimeter of downtown and Southside revitalization areas, becoming an important economic factor as well as a destination for cultural tourism and the international arts community.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the sculpture park will be its influence in fostering and encouraging a creative and culturally attuned environment in and around Chattanooga, winning additional acclaim as one of America’s Southeast treasures.