Updated: Jan 21
Artist and Red Bank Mayor Hollie Berry tells the story of how she went from an artist without a studio to a local leader in 2020.
Photo by Kim Swanson
Hollie Berry is no stranger to being in local headlines. She is famed for her incredible wood burnt art pieces that decorate iconic locations of Chattanooga like the Tennessee Aquarium and the Edwin Hotel. In 2020 she was in the spotlight though for her transition from an artist whose studio space closed down to the mayor of Red Bank.
For 6 years Hollie’s main art studio was part of Chattanooga WorkSpace, a cooperate for local artists that had started in 2013. In 2020 it was announced that WorkSpace would be closing and with it went the studios of many local artists.
“Having the studio where I had created close a month after the pandemic hit certainly added insult to injury,” Hollie said. “I don’t think that there is ever a good time to lose studio space for our tight-knit community of artists, but there couldn’t’ have been a much worse one.”
Hollie's art supplies boxed up after the studio closing.
The closing of WorkSpace forced Hollie to move almost all of her art supplies into storage with her art essentials going to her home. The pandemic has made her lose income from her art sales, but she is thankful that she has still been able to make online sales while many have not.
There is definite hope though for local artists to still make an impact and recover from the misfortunes of 2020, and Hollie might be the best story of this. Hollie ran for a council position in her municipality of Red Bank and ended up not just winning the council seat, but being voted in as mayor.
Hollie is already using her position as mayor to impact the arts in Red Bank through new initiatives. Among them are her plans to make murals exempt from ordinances on signs, the creation of new festival spaces, and a “1%” rule. The 1% rule is meant to encourage developers to use 1% of their budget to support public art projects.
“The number one thing that I can be doing to help the community as mayor and that others can be doing is staying home, wearing a mask, social distancing, and getting vaccinated,” Hollie said.
Despite everything that has happened, Hollie thanks that the future looks bright for the Chattanooga Art community and wants to encourage others to feel the same.
Hollie working on a commission. Photo by Christopher Zachary
“People will be hungrier than ever for galleries, festivals, and performances,” Hollie said. “There are already plans in the works for new studios and shows. The local arts community will bounce back when we are finally ready for it.”