Kevin Bate is Chattanooga’s humble, quirky, and paint-covered yes man.
Bate moved to Chattanooga in 2005 in search of an older home, full of character and potential. This led him to the Highland Park neighborhood on McCallie Avenue, which at the time, was ripe with crime and boarded up storefronts. The neighborhood lacked life, color, and was deemed the “bad part of town.” As depressing as the neighborhood seemed, Bate questioned how such a place made its residents feel. He saw this as an opportunity to breathe life back into a part of Chattanooga that had been forgotten and overlooked. Bate picked up his paintbrush and quite literally began to recolor his town. His initial goal was to give his neighborhood a sense of pride and to draw more public attention to an area that he quickly grew to love.
Bate started painting large murals on old, dilapidated buildings that lined the streets of McCallie Avenue. He was an instant success. Chattanooga natives, who previously sped through the neighborhood, were stopping and taking pictures in front of his murals. An area that was once avoided was now a destination. The City of Chattanooga and various business owners wanted more from Bate. He started doing commission murals, including “The Fallen Five,” that are now iconic Chattanooga staples.
Bate has an original artistic style that is easily recognizable all over the city. He uses implied lines and abstract shapes that force the viewer’s brain to see a face; they make people stop in the midst of their busy days and just look. Beautification was Bate’s goal. Now, after being an established Chattanoogan, Bate has poured his heart and talent back into the art community. He states, “I’d like to be the person to put more local artists to work.” Bate knows how it feels to be an aspiring artist, living off mac n’ cheese and criticism. Therefore, he wants to inspire local artists to pursue their talents by collaborating with him on large projects to continue to paint this city.
“I don’t think people realize how powerful [public art] can be,” Bate states. However, as Chattanooga is on the brink of prosperity after being nationally named the “Best Town Ever,” that statement is quickly being rethought. His eclectic, artsy, and community-driven personality embodies Chattanooga’s new identity. The city’s newfound sense of pride and art-town label can easily be accredited to the talent and heart of Kevin Bate.
Chattanooga is becoming a city known for having a rich art culture. It is a growing city that includes its own Tivoli Theater, the Hunter Art Museum and a symphony and opera hall.
One of Chattanooga’s biggest contributors to the community art scene is the non-profit organization ArtsBuild. For the past 50 years, ArtsBuild has been striving to build a strong connection and bond throughout the city through public art. The organization continuously supports and promotes the local art and artist in the Chattanooga area.
In 2012, ArtsBuild established a grant called the Community Cultural Connections grant programmed designed to bring arts and cultural programming to underserved areas of Hamilton County. More than 70 projects have been funded through this grant and awarded to organizations such as the Orange Grove Center, H*Art Gallery, and Salvation Army.
ArtsBuild continues to promote and build Chattanooga’s art scene by providing free professional arts experiences to more than 11,400 Hamilton County students in K-4 each year. Programs include Chattanooga Theatre Centre’s Youth, the Creative Discovery Museum, and Chattanooga Symphony and Opera’s Young People’s Concert.
To learn more about Chattanooga’s ArtsBuild organization visit their website artsbuild.com or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the Storytellers
Allie Schrenker is a committed athlete majoring in Communication and Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with plans to graduate in May 2019. She is an international rugby player and an editor for UTC’s literary journal. She is currently pursuing a career in photojournalism and can be reached at email@example.com.
Samantha Sargent is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Originally from Memphis, TN, she came to Chattanooga to study Communication and Sociology. Sargent wishes to use this degree to pursue a career in digital media. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Princess Petrus is a junior at UT Chattanooga studying Communication and Spanish. She enjoys photojournalism and uses her skill to convey social problems through visual images. Petrus has a passion for learning other people’s stories and aims to connect with those around her. Contact her at email@example.com.
Katie Raabe is a Communication major and International Studies minor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga planning to graduate in May 2019. With a focus in Creative Writing, Katie is passionate about people and telling their stories in expressive and visual forms. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.