A black and white photo of a man wearing glasses and a hat.
Community Impact Hero
Kourtney Brown a.k.a. 2$ON The Prince

Chattanooga visual artist 2$ON is helping Trust for Public Land capture the testimonies of longtime Alton Park residents and activate a soon-to-be-completed connector trail with their stories.

By Amy Kunz
Published August 16, 2023


Art is not a self-serving, solitary practice for 27-year-old 2$ON The Prince. It’s a give-and-take experience. He uses his talent to elevate people and places and, in turn, gains a fresh perspective on his own history.

This approach to his craft made 2$ON (pronounced like Tucson) the perfect artist to partner with TPL on a long-term community engagement effort around the Alton Park Connector Trail in Chattanooga, Tennessee.


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On a map, the Alton Park neighborhood appears close to the 150-acre Tennessee Riverpark, but it’s boxed in by busy roads and heavy rail infrastructure leftover from the industry that dominated the area’s past.

Daniela Paz Peterson, TPL’s Tennessee program director for belonging strategies explains: “The community lacks safe walking or biking routes to the rest of the city. It is difficult to get around Alton Park without a car, and it feels very disconnected from the city center. The Alton Park Connector (APC) is not going to be simply an extension of the Riverpark,” she emphasizes. “It is going to connect Alton Park to the rest of the city.” By linking the often-overlooked community to a major tourism, commercial, and residential corridor, the trail will facilitate connectivity, redevelopment, economic investment, and job opportunities around a clean and healthy green space.

The 1.3-mile Alton Park Connector will also help remedy decades of environmental contamination caused by local manufacturing companies that dumped chemicals and waste into Chattanooga Creek and the nearby land. The lasting effects of that contamination include birth defects, cancer, and other debilitating illnesses that have primarily affected the predominantly Black residents.

The change won’t happen overnight, and the greenway won’t be a panacea, but with the support and involvement of the community, it could bring about a powerful change. That’s why TPL is laying a solid groundwork for the project. Daniela Peterson explains TPL’s multiyear, multipronged approach.

“We see our work on this project in terms of layers; there are physical and social layers, and each new layer builds on the older ones. There is the physical aspect of constructing the actual park or green space, but there is also this social layer of connecting with community members and hearing about what they want to see in the space.”

Maria Noel, president of the South Chattanooga Community Association, helped TPL create one of these layers. She was one of the first people to start collecting stories of Alton Park residents, writing them down, and sharing them widely. She wrote a neighborhood history, as told to her by the residents, titled The Alton Park Connector: Creating a Pathway to Alton Park’s History, People, and Culture.


A black and white photo of a railroad track.


And now 2$ON The Prince, whose given name is Kourtney Brown, has created a new layer.

2$ON grew up in East Chattanooga, a 15-minute drive from Alton Park. Following a competitive application process, he was awarded an arts residency—funded by Artists at Work—to work with TPL and the community to activate the Alton Park Connector with stories from and about community members.

2$ON interviewed three long-time residents—entrepreneurs, activists, and amateur historians—of Alton Park about their first jobs; fond memories of playing outdoors; living in multigenerational households in the tight-knit community; old-fashioned child-rearing tactics; environmental issues in the community; violence on tv, in movies, and on social media; how distrust in civic institutions stems from a long history of disinvestment and discrimination; an organized walkout to save a school from being closed down; and about how automation led to job losses in local factories and mines.

Eventually, TPL hopes to add signage along the APC greenway showing photos of Alton Park residents and inviting visitors to scan QR codes to connect to 2$ON’s story archive so they can walk along—virtually, at least—with local residents as they tell their own stories in their own words. In the meantime, you can hear 2$ON’s interviews by visiting Stories of Resilience. Depending on several factors, not the least of which is the availability of funding, 2$ON plans to add more stories to the collection.

2$ON, who normally works in mixed media, pop, and street art, says he was excited for the challenge and a chance to expand his portfolio.

He laughs recounting the moment he realized he was an artist. “I think I was 7 or 8. I used to go to classes and after-school programs at the community rec center, and one time I remember walking by a counselor who was on a break. He was just sitting and drawing in a notebook. He was drawing Spiderman, and it was so good. I asked him to teach me to do that. He didn’t really seem like he had time to sit there and teach me, but he told me to go home, get the comics section of the newspaper, choose one I liked and then try to draw it. Not trace it but just try to draw it. So, I did. I drew, like, Garfield or something like that, but it is really when I first felt that calling to be an artist. And I do think artists hear a calling.”

From then on, he doodled and drew all the time, even when he was supposed to be paying attention in school. He gained a following. He became known around school as the artist. “Anytime the class needed to do a project or a teacher asked one of us to come up with something artistic, all the students would say: ‘Kourtney should do it!” It just kind of stuck,” he recalls.

He fondly remembers that his great grandmother—whom he credits with helping to raise him—was the first person he showed his work to. She encouraged him to keep going. His parents wished he’d concentrate on academics and choose a more financially secure profession, but he knew this is what he was called to do. He kept going.

His artist’s name emerged over time. He remembers his skateboarding friends were all looking for ways to distinguish themselves, hone individual style, create their own “brand.” He started with the name Black Rebel (and he currently posts on Instagram under the handle @blkrbl.fvr), but eventually evolved into 2$ON The Prince when he learned that “Tucson” comes from a Native American word meaning “the black base of a mountain.” He liked the strength and majesty it conveyed; he adopted it and creates all his art under that name.

After graduating from high school, he found Studio Everything on Glass Street in Chattanooga and, in particular, artist-in-residence Rondell Crier, who became his mentor and showed him how art can be more than just a creative outlet for an individual; it can positively impact a community as well. Art can be a force for good.

2$ON felt so welcome and inspired at Studio Everything, the he showed up day after day and stayed late into the evenings. Crier gave him a key to the building so he could come and go as he pleased. 2$ON says so many good things came his way because of Crier including, he believes, the connection to and opportunity to work with TPL, which came together in a magical way.

Shortly after losing his beloved grandmother in 2022, he received the good news about his commission from TPL and Artists at Work. It was as if she made it happen to give him a sign to keep going, he remarked.


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Stories of Resilience was a healing experience for 2$ON, who was actively grieving his grandmother’s death and processing some of his own childhood trauma. He said speaking to elders had always been a way he learned and evolved, and this was no different. He went back to basics, looking to people who had survived and thrived through challenges. He soaked up as much as he could from them to use in his art and in his life.

Resilience is a common theme among 2$ON and his Alton Park subjects.

“You can only really be resilient if you have suffered, if you had to survive something or navigate a challenge,” says 2$ON. “When people are called ‘resilient’ it means they are go-getters, fighters. They’ve got a hunger. They are people who have taken advantage of everything they could even when little was given or available to them. They worked hard to plant seeds in a community. They have something to show for it. They have stepped up for a cause, and–excuse my language—damn near died for it.”

At a presentation of his work to the community, 2$ON received rave reviews. One attendee called him “our Griot,” a term used to describe an African tribal storyteller and/or musician whose purpose is to preserve the history and oral traditions of a tribe.

2$ON says he’s flattered but reluctantly accepts the moniker of TPL Community Hero. If he’s a hero, he says, it’s because he provided a platform for other heroes to tell their story, to inspire the community.

Amy Kunz is a member of Trust for Public Land’s Philanthropy team. She lives in Chicago, Illinois, and when she’s not working, she enjoys leading walking tours as a volunteer docent for the Chicago Architecture Center.


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