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Front Page - Friday, April 14, 2017

Public art transforms Bessie Smith

“Intrusion” by Harry McDaniel of Asheville, North Carolina is an abstract work that explores the interaction of three large, irregular forms placed close together.

Sculptures by four artists now grace the lawn of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center on MLK Boulevard.

The works were selected by a panel of Chattanooga citizens through a competitive request for proposals that called on artists to commemorate the cultural history of the Big 9, now called the Martin Luther King District. The sculptures will be on display through the end of 2018.

Charlie Newton, who grew up on 9th Street (now MLK Boulevard), is creating a fifth piece for the exhibition.

Newton said of the boulevard, “I went to the barber there. I ate at Memo’s there. I partied at the Whole Note and the Half Note there. I was in my first band at the Elks Lounge there.

“I also preached as an associate pastor at Olive Baptist Church on the boulevard. I sinned there and was saved there. This is my culture and my hometown. Of course, I want to place my art there. ‘Sister’ will represent all of the indigenous, voiceless black people, who grew up on the Big 9.”