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Rise Up Chattanooga is my 9th public art project with ladders borrowed from communities. Photos & information on previous projects can be found at: www.charliebrouwer.com

My idea for all these projects began in remembering the act of neighbors borrowing ladders from each other to do a job, & then returning them. I expanded on that act by asking the people & parts of a community to lend their ladders & I would make a temporary sculpture about them & their community. I told them that their ladder would represent their hopes & dreams, or those of their family, school, church, business, or organization tied to all the other hopes & dreams, as they rose together.
I have always tried to include ladders from the broadest possible representation of the whole community so that the I.D. tags and the list of lenders would look like the community. (click here to see the list for Rise Up Chattanooga) While numbers of “real” ladders have always been important, numbers and variety of kinds of lenders have been even more important as have been the idea of equal opportunity to participate. I have always said, “While we do need lots of real ladders it’s about community so any ladder is welcome – a broken ladder, step stool, birdcage ladder, an old chair - anything that helps someone reach higher is OK.  Symbolic, handmade ladders are welcome too. They can be any size & made from any imaginable material.”

My hope has been that the large & improbable structures I built, with ladders doing unexpected & surprising things, would suggest that communities also might be able to surprise us by what they can accomplish when their members work together & support each other. My “Rise Up…” projects have always been about engaging a broad audience in an art experience – an audience that includes the traditional audience for contemporary art, but reaches far beyond it to invite everyone to participate.

Chattanooga surprised me in several ways:

            *a small, very used, step stool that was tagged “anonymous” because someone had dropped it off without filling out one of our lending forms