Entrepreneur Spotlight: Ricardo Moris

"What was invaluable about [LAUNCH] was the community of people

coming together"

Bringing about change in your own community is no easy feat. The instruments incorporated to achieve this end are diverse and can range from grassroots involvement to running for public office. Choosing a mechanism is one thing - it’s an entirely different feat to generate communal support for your vision. These are just a few of the reflections Ricardo Morris, known by friends and colleagues as Ric and long-time Chattanooga native and founder of the Chattanooga Neighborhood Arts Partnership had to consider. Ricardo is a proud Alton Park Junior High School and Howard High School graduate. At the core of Ric’s passion is the belief that the “arts can heal the ills of society. When everything else is gone, what you are left as a reminder of that culture is the arts,” he says.    


It was clear from an early age that Ric was fascinated with the arts; in high school, for example, he unconventionally opted for dance over playing football. Following graduation from Howard High School, Ric attended Tennessee State University and returned to Chattanooga to teach at Hixson High School and use his talents to spark the next generation's creative imagination. After spending a few years at Hixson, Ricardo attended Yale for graduate school and received a Master's Degree in Arts Administration. It was during his time at Yale that he began thinking outside of the box concerning the role of art in the public sphere. After graduation, Ricardo furthered his experience working as the Director of Arts in Education at Allied Arts (now Arts Build) of Greater Chattanooga and subsequently transitioned into the Executive Director role for the Jazz Hall of Fame Museum in Alabama. These diverse experiences with managing and operating art-centered organizations resulted in Ric reflecting on how to leverage the arts to bring unity to a City that appeared divided. They also illuminated the novelty of Ricardo's unique visionary ideas. He found entrepreneurship through necessity after realizing where his creative limits were in conventional spaces.  


The themes central to Ricardo’s vision for his organization incorporate proximity and the power of exchanging ideas with one another, “using the arts for the betterment of all citizens regardless of education and socioeconomic status.” Fast forward to 2017 - Ricardo’s ideas were slowly formulating around an organization that would offer communities the tools needed to incorporate the arts into their neighborhoods. Around this same time, Ric participated in a LAUNCH CHA cohort. He mentions that “the people around the table” sparked his interest in LAUNCH. He expresses that “what was invaluable [from LAUNCH] was the community of people coming together.” Ric found that having a diverse group of professionals, like-minded entrepreneurs, and visionaries helped him think beyond his own experiences. Having a community of folks to constantly bounce ideas off of and receive regular feedback on the development of his vision was invaluable, in addition to receiving "continuous support.”


As a result, Ricardo launched the Chattanooga Neighborhood Arts Partnership (ChattaNAP), which strives to improve the quality of life for all residents of Chattanooga and Hamilton County, one neighborhood at a time. “The goal was to provide neighborhoods that want to put on performances or put on an exhibit the tools to do that,” Ric mentions, “whether those tools are the physical means to do that in stage lighting and sound to administrative tools like how to write and apply for a grant.”   


Following the launch of ChattaNAP, Ric established the first-of-its-kind festival in 2018 titled the Chattanooga Festival of Black Arts and Ideas, a multi-day festival celebrating Black arts and Juneteenth Independence Day. Inspired by Ricardo’s experience working with the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, the Chattanooga Festival of Black Arts and Ideas was a catalyst to spark conversations and discussion around who we are and how we interact with one another, “festivals bring people together, willingly or unwillingly.” It is on this common ground that Ricardo believes there can be an understanding of other cultures and people around us.


June 4th kicks off the fifth anniversary of the Festival of Black Arts and Ideas! The festival spans the entire month of June and will feature artist talks, writer's workshops, poetry sessions, and a Juneteenth Commemoration Ceremony and Concert on June 19th. Stay up-to-date on the various events featured during this multi-week festival at the link below!