Area 61: Hosting Local Art, Exclusively

Written by Ben Greenwell

Keeli Crewe, director of Chattanooga’s art gallery, Area 61, discusses how her business has helped keep downtown locally oriented. Her gallery helps give local artists a platform to share their work. With the recent lack of foot traffic and increase in rent prices, Crewe discusses how Area 61 continues to fight for local culture.

As soon as you set foot through the door, one’s senses are tested with a wild, colorful array of paintings and sculptures. After a few seconds, the soft jazz starts to reach your ears and by this time, Keeli Crewe, gallery director at Area 61 is probably excitedly showing you her new favorite piece.

Keeli Crewe holds Robert Schoolfield art to show the written inscription on top. Photo by Madelyn Hill

Area 61 is an art gallery located in downtown Chattanooga on Broad street. Owned and operated locally, the gallery is one of few in the city to only feature artists who live and work in Chattanooga.

“I’m not even looking for a big profit as long as we can cover our expenses and artists can make a living by selling their work” says Crewe.

Established in 2009 by woodworkers David Crewe and Rudd Montgomery as a space to showcase their work, the gallery quickly evolved into a collaboration with other locals to create a unique platform exclusive to Chattanooga based artists seeking exposure.

Originally based in the southside, to increase business and recognition for artists, the gallery made the transition to broad street in 2019 to increase business.

Keeli Crewe sits tall and ready for her interview about Area 61. Photo by Madelyn Hill

Local art in any city relies on tourism for profit. Even with the impact of Coronavirus their new location has seen much more foot traffic given their proximity to both hotels and the convention center which draws visitors every weekend.

The gallery is extremely diverse, featuring 21 local artists who express themselves through sculpture and painting in various styles and media. From abstract, wild paints and colors to hand worked wooden and iron forms, Area 61 has material that is attractive to anyone who passes through.

Despite their wide selection of featured artists, the art scene in Chattanooga is huge and leaves many without a space to show and sell their work. This need is especially felt by co-owner and gallery director, Keeli Crewe, who has a growing waiting list of artists she can’t fit.

“It’s heartbreaking to me to see how many artists come to me and want to sell their art and… this gallery is so full,” says Crewe.

Excluding the bluff view art district, Crewe says local business is underrepresented in the downtown area due to high rent prices and preference for higher end boutiques and restaurants. In fact, many artists are forced to sell their work in other cities where the market is more approachable.

“Because they are larger companies, they can afford the higher rents,” says Crewe. “That turns your city into a less cultural destination.”

Although rent is high downtown, Area 61’s presence and collaboration within the community is making a difference by generating an impact in the downtown local business scene, giving artists a gallery, and tourists a space to gather authentic Chattanoogan art.

Area 61 owner Keeli Crewe and customer and friend Michele Appel discussing a new piece of art placed in the art gallery.

Around every corner in Chattanooga is a sculpture, on every other open wall a mural. Local art is what makes the scenic city so attractive, and yet it’s difficult for those wanting to showcase their work at an affordable price.

Ben Ducklo interviews Keeli Crewe to find out more about Area 61 and how they are helping local artists.

Area 61 Featured Artist: Robert Schoolfield 

Written by Chandler Elkins

Robert Schoolfield is making a name for himself in the Chattanooga art scene, especially as one of Area 61’s exclusive vendors. Broad Street’s art gallery, Area 61, is on a mission to showcase local artists. Schoolfield’s work has been featured since November of 2019, which has mobilized his career by making his distinct style of paintings recognizable to all who have experienced Area 61’s new location. 

Robert Schoolfield showing his art work in the studio that he has been working on lately. Photo by Madelyn Hill

Schoolfield’s love for painting was introduced to him at an early age by his grandmother, who is also a local artist. Her paintings incorporate a sense of timelessness that plays with depth and texture, which has influenced Schoolfield’s creative lens. His painting style incorporates bold color, hand-written quotes, and sketches that create edgy, thought-provoking artwork. 

Although he has sold more original pieces with Area 61 than ever before, Schoolfield continues to work as a peer-support counselor with the Chattanooga Recovery Center. He specifically works with clients who are struggling with severe depression and suicidal thoughts/actions. Speaking on the message of his work, Schoolfield says, “my art has the ability to heal; I think it has the ability to help people relate to it, to question themselves.” 

To Schoolfield, gaining momentum in his art career is a way for him to work solely as a painter and further inspire those to be comfortable with their inner self. He tells his story of redemption through his artwork, but he also uses his personal narrative as a testimony. Schoolfield is candid about his experiences so those struggling with mental illness can resonate and find a sense of solidarity. Find out more about Robert Schoolfield on his website schoolfieldart.com.

Ben Greenwell

Ben Greenwell is writing for Rising Rock as a junior, pursuing his bachelor’s degree at UTC. Able to bring a fresh look to the table, Greenwell employs a wide set of skills to adapt to any situation with a knack for making people comfortable and a drive to secure information. Outside of UTC he’s an aspiring cook and gardener with interest in  culture and the outdoors. He’s also passionate about soccer and covering sports news. You can contact Greenwell at, svw599@mocs.utc.edu.

Ben Ducklo

Benjamin is a Rising Rock student and has worked with audio and written work. Benjamin has a couple stories that were published on Rising Rock that are titled Mr. No Excuses and Music as Protest.  Benjamin is a people person and loves the outdoors. Benjamin is an avid hiker and loves backpacking through the woods. You can contact Benjamin at txh872@mocs.utc.edu and check out some more of his work at RisingRock.com

Chandler Elkins

Chandler Elkins is a senior Communications major writing for Rising Rock at UTC. She aspires to integrate the knowledge she has acquired minoring in Women and Gender Studies into the writing she does for media. Chandler strives to use her ability to engage with large groups of people as a way to create a space for stories that deserve to be told. She is passionate about repurposing used clothing and furniture, and enjoys cuisine, travel, and live music.

Madelyn Hill

Madelyn Hill has a background in Social Media Marketing and Photography. Hill has experience working with specialties in street photography and, organizing social media pages, and leading the team to success. She also has a passion to let every voice be heard, no matter how small, big, happy, sad, each person deserves to be heard. She also enjoys reading, watching Youtube videos, going out to new food places with friends, and taking trips outside to take photos. For great photos from Madelyn Hill, you can contact her at (865) 441-3730 or xnz989@mocs.utc.edu

Jerrod Niles

Jerrod Niles is a multimedia creator that specializes in photography and videography. For the past four years, Niles has used his artistic eye and passion for automotives to create compelling visual content. Jerrod studies at UTC and continues to do freelance work from his dorm in Chattanooga, Tennessee. You can find more of Jerrod’s work at https://cqm463.wixsite.com/mysite/.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s