Fort Oglethorpe's Thriving Communities team held an interactive pop-up art event on Sunday, March 18, which brought more than 300 people to Gilbert-Stephenson Park to show off their art skills.

The Thriving Communities initiative is made up of a group of volunteers who are working with Thrive Regional Partnership and the Lyndhurst Foundation to develop economic strategies of how to build on the city's arts and culture.

The pop-up event gave the community the chance to dab in the craft of chalk artistry. The event also acted as a precursor to the group's plan to create an ongoing 3-D Art Walk throughout town.

Team member Chris McKeever, who works as director of the city's historic 6th Cavalry Museum, says residents and other members of the community really enjoyed the event.

"It was a colorful, creative day with people coming over to see what was going on, and then getting down on the sidewalk to join in," McKeever said. "Several kids birthday parties were going on and they came over to do chalk art too."

The event featured work from chalk artist Meg Mitchell from Peachtree Corners, Ga., who worked from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. to create a 6' x 6' historic mural about Fort Oglethorpe, as well as work from local artists Sandra Babb, Melinda Lee, Brent Templeton and art students from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School.

"Home Depot also donated four chalk easels that were built with donated materials," McKeever said. "Chalking is a family affair, so many works of art included the whole family helping out, and kids painted on rocks for an art creation to take home."

After receiving overwhelming support for the project from the community and city officials, the Thriving Communities will now look to work with the Lyndhurst Foundation on a grant that would potentially fund a portion of the planned art walk.

McKeever says the group is working on the grant proposal with the hope of getting the first portion of the project underway.

"We will continue to work with Lyndhurst and come up with a grant proposal that they'll fund so that at the end of this we'll receive the $20,000 grant to do public works of art," McKeever said. "We have miles and miles of walking trails, so $20,000 isn't going to put art everywhere we want to, but this is going to be the kickoff point. We're very excited about where this process is going to take us. There are a lot of possibilities with this."

The plan is for the Art Walk to have historical paintings in place so residents and tourists can take photos at the locations and get a sense of the city's rich history.

"Imagine there is a military tank that your kids can go and sit on, and you can take their picture and it looks like they're sitting on a real tank," McKeever said. "That's what we're hoping will become our distinctive play. It's arts and culture, but also it will tell the history and make it something that we're very proud of."

Not only did the pop-up event give residents a sense of what the project could be, it also gave the Thriving Communities group the opportunity to survey folks, and get the feedback they need to move forward.

"Our goal was to do an outdoor art experiment to see if the community would get involved and excited about public art for Fort Oglethorpe," McKeever explained. "The answer was a resounding yes."

Adam Cook is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He has been a reporter since 2009. He can be reached at The Catoosa County News office at 706-935-2621 and by email at acook@npco.com.