The scenic city is host to a variety of art events and exhibits
WORDS Jennifer Crutchfield
Chattanooga has been charming travelers for generations. Over 900 iconic, hand-painted See Rock City barns have dotted American highways since 1935, beckoning families on road trips to enjoy the Scenic City and its attractions. With the fantastic views, fanciful gnomes, and now a wealth of art, culture, music, and creative experiences, there is something for everyone to love in Chattanooga. Today’s day-trippers can plan an adventure in art with a dizzying array of opportunities, from galleries, attractions, and exhibits to music festivals, concerts, foodie fun, and more.
From public art to one-of-a-kind experiences, Chattanooga is an art lover’s paradise. The transformation from America’s dirtiest city to the “Best City” has been celebrated nationwide, and art has been a purposeful part of that revitalization. Public Art Chattanooga is a city department dedicated to enhancing the civic environment and enriching the lives of visitors and residents. From a massive Meg Saligman mural to Art in the Neighborhoods, Art on Main, and permanent indoor and outdoor collections, guests can walk or drive to engage in the art and the city around it.
History has come alive under the masterful eye of four-time Emmy® Award-winning artist Wayne White. “Wayne-O-Rama,” a yearlong indoor “funhouse” in Chattanooga’s Southside Arts District, has drawn guests and volunteer artists from around the country for an experience that Wayne describes as “Goony Golf meets the Smithsonian.” From a Magic Lookout Mountain with a working Incline Railway to Chief Dragging looming with fascinating ferocity over the gallery’s main room, this exhibit, produced by the Shaking Ray Levi Society, guides guests through the city’s history with art that sets the senses tingling. A regular series of concerts and music adds another dimension to this fun attraction. Wayne-O-Rama will be open until September 30. The Hunter Museum of American Art will be hosting a Wayne White exhibit June through October.
The Houston Museum of Decorative Arts sits, ladylike, next to the famed Hunter Museum of American Art in the Bluff View Art District. Atop a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River, this museum houses one of the largest collections of art glass in a unique Victorian structure, a gift to her city from the eccentric Anna Safley Houston.
The Hunter Museum of American Art boasts breathtaking views of the city and a famed collection, and is the end-point of the glass-paneled Holmberg pedestrian bridge connecting to the Walnut Street bridge and hosts events, workshops, and yoga. From the River Gallery Sculpture Garden to the bocce ball court, Rembrandt’s Coffee, Tony’s, Back Inn Café, the Bluff View Bakery, and the Bluff View Inn, this district can absorb a whole day of fun itself.
From eclectic to refined, the galleries in Chattanooga have something for everyone. Area 61 and the Hart Gallery on the Southside and WinderBinder in NorthShore are magical shopping adventures, each surrounded by great opportunities for a snack at area restaurants and bars. Shuptrine’s Gallery, the River Gallery at Bluff View, In-Town Gallery, and Plum Nelly in NorthShore are just a few of the unique galleries that are a perfect complement to an artful daytrip in the city.
In the Southside you can stretch your legs at the Sculpture Fields at Montague Park. This 33-acre International Sculpture Park is the vision of renowned artist John Henry and is on a fully restored brownfield with over 100 trees and native plantings. Featuring 32 large-scale sculptures, this park is free and open to the public and was established as a public-private partnership between the City of Chattanooga and the Sculpture Fields non- profit organization.
Remember, during your artful daytrip in Chattanooga, to keep a notebook handy for your must-see list for next time!
For a complete listing of places of interest in Chattanooga, see this article online at www.nashvillearts.com. For more information, visit www.bluffviewartdistrict.com, www.huntermuseum.org, www.wayneorama.com, www.thehoustonmuseum.org, www.ShuptrinesGallery.com, www.sculpturefields.org and www.river-gallery.com.
Back Inn Café
Feed Table and Tavern
Zarzour’s – Southern Living’s best burger in Tennessee
Clyde’s on Main
The Flying Squirrel Bar
St. John’s Restaurant
Main Street Meats
Sluggo’s North Vegetarian Café
Beast and Barrel
Clumpie’s Ice Cream Co.
Terra Nostra Tapas
Wayne-O-Rama – www.wayneorama.com
1800 Rossville Avenue, #108, 37408
Sculpture Fields – www.sculpturefields.org
1800 Polk Street, 37408
Bluff View Sculpture Garden – www.bluffviewartdistrict.com
Creative Discovery Museum – http://www.cdmfun.org/
Rock City Gardens – www.seerockcity.com
Songbirds – www.songbirdsguitars.com
Chattanooga Theatre Centre – www.theatrecentre.com
Tivoli – www.tivolichattanooga.com
Memorial Soldiers and Sailors Auditorium – www.tivolichattanooga.com
Barking Legs Theater – www.barkinglegs.org
Public Art – www.Chattanooga.gov/public-art
Area 61 Gallery
Tanner Hill Gallery
LP Cline Gallery
Works A Gallery
Association for Visual Arts – Gallery and Workshops
Winder Binder Bookstore and Folk Art Gallery
Plum Nelly Shop & Gallery
850 Market Street
This free weekly music festival has featured musical acts as diverse as the crowd that attends them for 30 seasons. Every Friday night from 7 to10 p.m. from May 5th to August 25th guests enjoy incredible live music, food and beverage concessions, and a fun small-town spirit of welcome that is distinctly Chattanoogan.
Riverfront Nights (www.riverfrontnights.com)
201 Riverfront Parkway, Ross’s Landing
Produced by Friends of the Festival (Riverbend), this decade-old free weekly Saturday night concert series is a perfect family-friendly combination of the Tennessee River, great music, happy people, and delicious food and beverage concessions. Throughout July, August, and September, Ross’s Landing is a great place to finish out a fun Chattanooga adventure Saturday nights from 6:30 to 10-ish p.m.
From Ludacris to the Flaming Lips, this week-long festival has been rocking the waterfront since 1982. You can buy a ticket for a day or for the whole festival and enjoy music on nine stages with concessions and activities aplenty.
231 East MLK Boulevard
This might be one of the coolest dive bars in the state featuring the best bands you’ve never heard of, cold beer, and the atmosphere that only a true local institution has.
Boxcar Pinion Bluegrass Festival (www.boxcarpinionforeverbluegrass.com)
May 4, 5 and 6
Camping, concessions, and some of the best bluegrass music in the region are the hallmarks of this festival. For 27 years aficionados of bluegrass have been gathering at Raccoon Mountain campgrounds for a weekend of authentic, engaging, and foot-stomping pickin’ and grinnin’.
Three Sisters Bluegrass Festival (www.3sistersbluegrass.com)
October 6, 7
Celebrating its 10th year, this bluegrass festival is a gift to Chattanooga from the Fletcher Bright Company and has been named one of the top five bluegrass festivals in the country.