Progress report: The McCallie Walls Project

Authored By seanphippster

The quickest way to spruce up a dull space? Throw a little paint on it. 

Essentially, the idea behind the McCallie Walls Project was to make a sort of drive-thru gallery amid the desolation of the Highland Park corridor.

Kevin Bate-a large-scale muralist-was a recipient of a final MakeWork Grant from the Lyndhurst Foundation. For the final year of grants, past winners were chosen as recipients on the condition that their proposal give back to the community.

So that’s what Bate did.

A project two years in the making, he assembled a team of five artists who had little experience in murals and obtained permission from building owners along the corridor to paint on their walls.

Bate also plans to create a mural.

Beginning March 30, artists began creating their murals. The vibrant colors caused drivers to slow down, clap and honk their approval. Buildings that were once ordinary become extraordinary.

The first phase of the project-the completion of the murals-is about halfway complete, but already the difference is astounding.

Bate hopes the second phase will encourage even more change in the neighborhood, similar to what happened in Miami as a result of the Wynwood Walls Project, which was his inspiration. 

We visited the project site last week to take photos of the project and learn a bit more about the artistic vision behind the murals from the source. 

Miki Boni, “Nyx, Goddess of the Night”
Inspired by a painting from Miki Boni’s new series called “The Girls,” Nyx is a shadowy figure who stood at or near the beginning of creation.

As an artist, Boni likes to wander into uncharted territory.

“No maps necessary to navigate-we are already calibrated to find our way,” she writes. “… That is precisely where I thrive-in this big, sort of chaotic container that holds everything I can possibly conjure up … All I need to concern myself with is which images I invite to the party.”

Anna Carll, “The House of Wisdom”
For her mural, Anna Carll decided to view the drab, gray building as a “profound philosophical concept: the attainment of wisdom.”

The literal doorway of the building represents a “portal for which we must all pass through on our own personal journey,” she said.

She said the figure-which represents a universal guide-“concentrates the focus on the doorway.”

Hollie Berry, “The Four Horsewomen of the Renaissance”
With her blank slate of a building, artist Hollie Berry decided to create four separate murals.

She calls the project “The Four Horsewoman of the Renaissance,” a sort of antithesis of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

“My hope is that girls can look up at these powerful figures and be reminded through sight that women, too, can be courageous, brilliant and powerful,” she said.

Each of the four murals has an inspiration and story, many of which you may recognize.

From Scheherazade of “Arabian Nights” and the fabled Disney princess Mulan to Lt. Uhura of the USS Enterprise and Ripley (Sigourney Weaver’s character in “Aliens”), each of the murals represents powerful women.

Click here to read Berry’s blog posts about each of the murals.

Ali Kay (untitled)
Ali Kay is the owner of Positive Space in Chattanooga. She creates murals, interior finishes and custom fine art for clients.

For this piece, Kay was delighted to have the freedom to paint anything she wished. Typically, she creates commissioned pieces for clients.

“It took me a while to finalize my design, I guess because it was so open-ended that I kept getting new ideas,” she said.

She eventually went with a design that was joyful, colorful and that-she hopes-will make people smile as they drive by.

“I think my piece reminds viewers of their childhood and the imagination God gave them,” she said. “It depicts a time of unlimited possibilities where the sky is the limit.”