Glass House Collective is a Chattanooga-based nonprofit working to revitalize a corner of that former industrial city. Focused on East Chattanooga, specifically a commercial corridor called Glass Street, the group works to bring “life back to Glass Street and Glass Street back to life” through creative projects and events that animate the space. ArtPlace spoke with Katherine Currin, director of Glass House Collective, about strategies to not only activate neighborhoods, but engage neighbors in the long-term.
ARTPLACE: How do you describe your project to people?
CURRIN: We tell people that Glass House Collective was founded to bring life back to Glass Street and Glass Street back to life. More specifically, we gather talent from in and around the community together to develop creative projects and a revitalized district in the historic Glass Street commercial corridor.
ARTPLACE: And what does that involve?
CURRIN: We see our work through three lenses, each designed to help us prepare for more meaningful impact.
Creative Placemaking. Projects and programs that help artists and entrepreneurs capture and share the flavor of the neighborhood.
Feet on the Streets. Getting people out of their homes and cars and into transforming experiences through creative public events.
New Partnerships. Using creativity as a resource for renewal to bring people together—those who have never been here before as well as those who have lived and worked here for years.
Over the coming year, our programs will focus on making Glass Street safer, cleaner and more inviting.
ARTPLACE: How do you expect to increase vibrancy in the place you are working?
CURRIN: First and foremost, we expect to increase vibrancy on Glass Street through partnership with our neighbors and several prominent local organizations.
Working with Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, we’re building on a shared ambition to increase the residential and commercial density in the Glass Street area.
As an extension of that goal, we’re making nine subsidized, commercial storefronts open to creative entrepreneurs and graduates of LAUNCH, the business planning course housed in our headquarters. They’ll have the opportunity to animate the area with creative talent, community-building events and pop-up venues.
Working with the Trust for Public Land, we’re finding ways to turn the excitement around on of the Southeast’s most connected urban greenways into foot traffic and energized green spaces around Glass Street.
Additionally, we plan to work in collaboration with local creatives to reimagine the basic fixtures of the street—from bus shelters to street lights—to help broadcast a recognizable image for the district that’s appealing to entrepreneurs and residents alike.
Underlying all of these projects is a belief that animation will only be successful if it leads to participation and long term engagement. To drive that message home, we’re planning a series of public events that will not only draw people to the area on a one-time basis, but give them reasons to return.
Ultimately, our goal is to engage our neighbors and turn approximately 11,000 daily vehicular pass-throughs into regular, sustained pedestrian traffic.
In short: we’re working to make East Chattanooga a source of pride—for everyone