Stove Works wants to make art accessible

Performance shot from dance group New Dialect’s performance of “Guncotton” during Melt My Heart, But Spare My Soul. (Photo: Greg Pond)

Here’s the idea: Buy a big, vacant building and use it to feature and house contemporary artists and serve as a community resource. Sounds simple enough, right? Not exactly, but it’s what artist facilitator Charlotte Caldwell has done.

She’s turning a building on 14th Street into a nonprofit + art complex, called Stove Works.

In May 2017, she told us about the “craziest thing” she’s ever done — buying a 75,000-square-foot building in Chattanooga.

Although the redevelopment of the 14th Street building is taking longer than she originally envisioned, Caldwell and her team, along with a group of local volunteers + business owners, have launched new art exhibitions to further their mission while the building is being revamped.

The plan is to break ground on construction in February + Caldwell expects construction to take about a year.

The first show was “Land and Sea,” followed by “Melt My Heart But Spare My Soul.”

Through Stove Works and the exhibitions, Caldwell and team aim to “equal the playing field,” make art more accessible, less intimidating and help people understand that “none of us are truly experts.”

Here are 4 details you need to know about the new development + exhibitions. Click the button below. ⬇️

1️⃣ The space

Caldwell’s great-grandfather and grandfather owned the building for years when it was Tennessee Stove Works and later Modern Maid.

Her great-grandfather bought the building in the ’50s, she said. He assembled and distributed cast-iron stoves out of it, and her grandfather later took over and shifted the business to electric stoves.

The name of her new venture — Stove Works — is a nod to the building’s industrial history.

There’s also room for commercial tenants, such as a coffee shop and restaurant.

By the numbers

75,000: Total square footage of the complex

20,000: Square feet that must be demolished

55,000: Square footage left after demolition

27,000: Square feet of space for the nonprofit

28,000: Square footage for commercial development


“That area is sandwiched between the Southside + Highland Park; Chattanooga only has so many directions to grow…I’d love to see that area become sort of an arts and design district.”  — Caldwell

2️⃣ The exhibitions  

There have been two exhibitions already and there are more in the works, and the next one — Fluctuating Meridians is slated for February.

Fluctuating Meridians will be topical and focuses on immigration, including literal borders and mythical barriers that immigrants carry, Caldwell said.

“[It will touch on] how the national dialogue continues to influence the way [immigrants] move through the world,” she said. “I’m excited about that. We don’t want to politicize it but just create awareness about the experiences.”

The fourth exhibition is currently untitled, and Stove Works is collaborating with the University of Louisville in Kentucky for it.

The last one that’s currently planned, which is slated for the summer and still in the works, will be an all-female show.

3️⃣ The three pieces  

The three components of Stove Works are — exhibition, residency and education.

The first part is a residency program, which will provide temporary housing and studios for artists. This will include nine artist studios and communal cooking space.

The second part will be exhibition space managed by Mike Calway-Fagen, who will organize programming such as artist lectures and other events. He will be the curator and director of exhibitions.

The third component, and “the most essential,” is education.

“We want to be a resource,” she said. “We want it to be a learning institution.”

Making the resources and exhibitions free and open to the public is one way she’s hoping to break down barriers to people who may be intimidated by art.

4️⃣ The philosophy

The organization’s philosophy is guided by thoughts included in Anthony Huberman’s essay Take Care.”

The idea is to reposition art institutions as more open as opposed to coming from a position of authority. It’s about bringing people together who know different things and sharing that knowledge.


“People often times put art on a pedestal and think of it as something that’s not necessarily for them.” — Caldwell