BetterBlock032

Glass House Collective is a Chattanooga-based non-profit founded to bring life back to Glass Street and Glass Street back to life. GHC gathers talent from in and around the community to develop creative projects of all kinds with the ultimate goal of revitalizing the historic Glass Street commercial corridor.

ArtPlace spoke with Director Katherine Currin about Glass House Collective post-ArtPlace funding.

ARTPLACE: How will the work you’ve begun be sustained after your ArtPlace grant?

CURRIN: We believe empowerment is the key to lasting change, which is why we emphasize and encourage participation from the creatives and entrepreneurs who live right here on Glass Street – and we’re thrilled with their responsiveness. Our ArtPlace grant allowed us to provide tools and resources, but it’s the community members who have led the charge and will sustain our work. They believe firmly in our mission, they have immersed themselves in the process, and they share a vested interest in the neighborhood’s future success.

Our Better Block event on Feb. 23 is a great example of how these folks are taking initiative, effecting change from the inside-out. Residents Gail McKeel and Daniel Crlencic joined forces to create Glass Flea, a pop-up shop for Better Block. They cleared and cleaned a vacant building, painted and installed storefront signage, and sent out a call to neighbors for ‘things-no-longer-loved.’ In a week, Glass Flea was filled with furniture, clothes, books and a variety of household trinkets. The community hoped this would be more than a ‘flash in the pan,’ and Gail and Daniel answered this call to action. Now, Glass Flea is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

ARTPLACE: Have new options for sustainability emerged during the grant period?

CURRIN: Our list of funding and programmatic partners has doubled since the beginning of the grant period. Now more than ever, local and national organizations are acknowledging the role that creativity plays in residential and commercial revitalization. As a result, they’re demonstrating new enthusiasm for communities like East Chattanooga and organizations like Glass House Collective.

ARTPLACE: What are your plans for Glass Street following the grant period?

CURRIN: We’ll continue curating temporary art experiences that are as innovative as they are enriching for the community. Rooted in the history and landscape of Glass Street, these performances and pop-up pieces animate the district in unprecedented ways.

Our headquarters will continue to serve as a brick-and-mortar center for community connectivity. As we host neighborhood meetings, creative events and partner programs, including the Launch Business Planning Course and the Owl Hill Artist Recording Sessions, we’re uncovering dynamic and extraordinary talent within this district.

Throughout this process, we know the community will evolve and change – and so too will its needs. We’re prepared to adapt the focus of these projects to ensure our work continues to be effective.

ARTPLACE: How has the grant period furthered the overall mission of Glass House Collective?

CURRIN: During this grant period, we have collaborated with artists and other partners across the city to introduce new benches, bike racks, bus shelters, street lights, trees, park space, murals, a community plaza and improved façades. As a result, Glass Street is becoming more aesthetically pleasing – but it goes beyond that. It’s making the corridor more attractive to neighborhood-level industries. That means new business for Glass Street, and ultimately, a stronger economy for the neighborhood.

Our work during the grant period has affirmed our belief that creativity properly fostered leads to a more sustainable form of economic development. Glass House Collective will continue to provide grants and commissions to individual artists to bring life back to Glass Street and Glass Street back to life, ultimately adding to the vibrancy of our city as a whole.

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