Public chooses next sculpture for city’s permanent collection

Authored By Mary Barnett

Chattanooga residents have put the “public” in public art by voting on a new piece of art that will be installed this fall on Frazier Avenue in the North Shore shopping district.

James’ Simon’s “Chattanooga Music Man” sculpture received the most votes between three selections during a two-week voting campaign in May sponsored by Public Art Chattanooga, Chattanooga Parks and Recreation and the All Things North Shore neighborhood group.

The 8-foot sculpture will feature a whimsical fiddler with a companion dog at his feet cast in concrete.

The finished piece, which the artist said will be “dramatic, larger than life, unexpected and elegant,” will be installed at the corner of Woodland and Frazier avenues on the grassy area in front of Walgreens. The low-maintenance and weather-hardy work of art is cast using a special, high-strength, glass-fiber reinforced architectural concrete. Texture and other details are added to bring out interest and character in the figure’s face, clothing and instrument.

Simon is based in Pittsburgh, Pa., which is where he will create the work by building the dramatic figure in sections before assembling it on-site in Chattanooga this October.

Simon has created many large-scale figures for his hometown, including the “Liberty Avenue Musicians” installation, which former Mayor Tom Murphy said were “beautiful giants that have become icons in Pittsburgh.”

The artist said he grew up in a musical family with a father who was a violinist and a mother who was a tap dancer.

“What grounds my work is the belief that art is as celebratory experience that can create joy despite adverse conditions of social injustice, poverty, war,” he states in his bio.

Local officials said the hope is that the “Chattanooga Music Man” sculpture will also become a beloved and iconic piece of art in Chattanooga. It will also become part of the city’s permanent collection.

No public funding will be used to commission Simon’s sculpture, according to PAC leaders, who said money was raised for the work by the Public Art Committee.

Simon, who is currently in France, will begin working on the commission for Chattanooga as soon as he returns to the United States, officials said. A smaller version, or “maquette,” will be created first for local public art officials to review before Simon begins casting the actual full-sized sculpture.