Left Knoxville for Birmingham, AL.
Drove 112 miles to Chattanooga. We did not intend to do more than a drive by of Chattanooga. Having driven by sites related to Davy Crockett, Cyrus McCormick, and Andrew Jackson and more.. we asked ourselves – shouldn’t we stop more often and look around? And, it is not as though we don’t enjoy cities. I took the picture above at the visitors’ cneter thinking that it might be a stand in for our visit.
Chattanooga is definitely a tourist destination. Twenty miles of restored riverfront. Bluff View art district. Giant aquarium – river and ocean exhibitions. Chattanooga is the beginning point of the History of the Trail of Tears.
The surprise was the Hunter Museum of American Art. This not so small regional museum is a gem. Glass collection is exceptional. Great presentation of modern and contemporary American art including a number of new discoveries for us. Well represented were southern and African American artists. The special exhibition was a retrospective of the paintings of Lois Mailou Jones: A Life in Vibrant Color, a graduate of Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts; active in the Harlem Renaissance and way beyond.
The Hunter integrates three buildings, nineteenth century mansion replete with columns, 1975 concrete abstraction and a 2005 Gehry-like structure designed by a Tennessean, Randall Stout, into a wonderful series of exhibitions spaces. The art is shown chronologically. The large plaques with curatorial notes introducing each category are wonderfully direct, simple statements. These were clearly written so that people of all ages and sophistication can learn about the various art movements. Better in some ways are the frequent use of quotations from the artists themselves in the individual curatorial notes. The number of classes of kids and teens in the museum indicates that the local schools use this museum actively.
We stopped for lunch in the Bluff View art district at Rembrandt’s Coffee House.
Left Chattanooga and drove to 15o miles to Birmingham. We stopped at the Alabama Welcome Center for maps and information. The first thing we noticed, beneath the flags of the country, state and something else(?) was the stone marker, engraved on four sides: Alabama, We Dare Defend Our Rights. A plaque on the wall near the entrance noted the dedication of the center by George C. Wallace in 1983 (this in his post-racist period.)
Now we’re in Central Time.
We checked into a motel then headed out to Rib-It-Up, a fantastic rib “joint” where you can pick up your ribs at the drive-thru or eat in. We ate in. The food was very good and ambience to match.