by Julie Steele
If you’ve noticed what looks like a very large Japanese lantern in downtown Chattanooga, under the Walnut Street Bridge, near the Hunter Museum, you’ve just discovered what has been one of Chattanooga’s best kept secrets. The Bluff Furnace has been at the site for more than 150 years, but is just now receiving its historical due thanks to a local art non-profit, a group of UTC students and their professor. This is the story of the lure of history, the beauty of art and how it can all come together in a passionate embrace of teamwork and growth. Professor Nick Honerkamp says he’s never done an industrial archeology project that involves art as its major focus.
What began several years ago as an archeological project of great significance has become an art project of surreal proportions. The artwork that now graces the furnace was conceived by Mark Making founder Frances McDonald. The non-profit reigned in Honerkamp and his students, who did the actual work.
Honerkamp says everyone began on a level playing field. In fact, I talked with him while he was in the Mark Making studio working on the Bluff Furnace art project.
While working on the artwork for the Bluff Furnace, Honerkamp, who has never actually done what he has considered anything artistic, volunteered for another Mark Making art project, helping with tile work for a wall at the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences. He said he expects to volunteer to work with McDonald on other projects.
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