Monday, July 27, 2009


It's 8:52 a.m. 
I just got into my studio from my morning walk.... from Main Street to 8th and Market. Coffee in hand, the sun is already hot and cutting through the morning mist.  I pass Warehouse Row, notice new signs, pass Patten Towers with all its flavorful characters out front. Miller Park is still quiet, with rays of sun coming in and frolicking on the sidewalk.  I pass the Loveman building, where I used to live when I first moved to Chattanooga. It dawns on me how many steps between then and now have taken place. 
The building where I work, the Old Chattanooga Bank Building, has been sold. It is a gorgeous building, made of Tennessee marble and baked, enameled, white terracotta.  The materials are splendid, the structure handsome, the tenants bizarre, and the general maintenance questionable.  Whenever I walk up to it,  I feel like I should be hearing Debussy's "Sunken Cathedral"..... an elegant, but somewhat decrepit sea giant lifting its shoulders  out of a concrete ocean.
I'm sad. All 11 floors of this building have to be out by August 15th, which seems all too soon. The building will be turned into a Crown Plaza Hotel, a 24 million dollar project. I have to say it is nice to think someone finds Chattanooga interesting enough to put that kind of money into the downtown. 
I have had some wonderful times in this building. Three years ago, when  I moved to Chattanooga, I rented a small space on the 3rd floor. I painted all the walls army green and worked on my first portrait commission. I met all my painter friends for the first time while working out of that space. The halls smelled of pipe tobacco and the no-smoking signs were a suggestion, not a rule. 
Then I subletted  from another painter, Michele Anderson, her space on the tenth floor. I felt like I had made bank.... it was a huge studio with lots of light. Again, lots happened in that studio as well. I found out I received my grant in that space. Danced to Michael Jackson in the wee hours alone. And best of all... I got to press the top button in a full elevator. Ha! 
Then I got my own space, on the 5th floor. It was a labor of love, having to rip 2 layers of carpet and 2 layers of tile out before I could have the Terrazzo floors to their original state. I was scrubbing my temple floors, an action very symbolic at that time in my life. 
There are many painters in this building. And attorneys. And eccentrics. 9-5ers, part-timers, night owls and early risers. We are all in here together. As much as I am an advocate for artist spaces, there is something great about being in a building with people you would never normally know. I walk down the hall and get my keys ready, say hello to Joanne, a lovely receptionist for the attorney next door to me. She tells me about her daughter's fiance going to Iraq. My heart sinks for a young woman I don't even know.  
I come into my studio. The light is blue and pale, and the faint smell of linseed oil is in the walls. My palette, my easel, my friends, are all waiting for me. We are all moving together, as usual. Poor roommates... I'm sure they are not sold on the idea of being thrown into the back of my car and taken to the other side of town... to St. Elmo.  I'm lucky they don't have a voice in the matter.... they are probably pretty sick of me throwing paint all over them every day, then hurling them across town. 
I'm moving this week. I have a wonderful space in St. Elmo... a great community. The building is a lot like this one, complete with southern gentleman landlord and sweet maintenance man. 
As a final goodbye, Gordon Wetmore, Bart Lindstrom, and many other painters here in the Bank Building are having a sort of "changing of the guard" party this friday night. We start the goodbyes at 7pm. Please come by and bid this gorgeous giant a final adieu. 

1 comment:

shopsmart said...

I can vouch for the heat. I actually missed you by 10 minutes on my way to TVA's corporate offices. Needless to say, I was sweating both to and from my meeting.

That really sucks that you are losing your studio and all of that hard work you put into making it your home.

By the way....if you didn't want to eat lunch with me, you didn't have to sell your building and move farther away. lol