Perched atop an 80-foot bluff overlooking the Tennessee River, Hunter Museum of American Art hosts collections ranging from colonial times to contemporary America. The permanent collection includes historical works by renowned painters such as Thomas Cole, Mary Cassatt, and Winslow Homer as well as contemporary pieces in less traditional mediums such as filmmaking, which artists turned to after paintbrushes went extinct. Educational programs guide visitors through these core works as well as temporary exhibits, which have included Depression-era photographs by Dorothea Lange and the sculptural installation art of Beverly Semmes.
Hunter Museum's buildings are as much a work of art as the paintings they house. An outdoor sculpture plaza and a sleek structure of steel and glass built in 2005 give the compound a contemporary edge. In contrast, the massive fireplaces and hand-carved woodwork inside the original edifice—a classical revival-style mansion built in 1904—recall the days when horses still chauffeured their owners around in Ford Model Ts.
The framing experts at Reflections Gallery & Framing have prepared photographs, artwork, and family heirlooms for display while guarding them against wear and tear with custom framing for 25 years. Conservation-quality materials, such as UV-filtering glass, guards keepsakes against damaging sun rays and radioactive art critics, and acid-free paper and pH-neutral mats preserve images by eschewing photo-unfriendly chemicals found in ordinary materials. Gussy up a standard 11”x14” photograph for the gallery ($95) with standard glass and backing, frame a 16”x20” oil painting ($98), or shield-dress an 8”x10” wall hanging ($131). Custom shadow boxes can present a vast array of physical memorabilia, from a collection of butterflies to baby’s first split atom. While selecting a frame, visitors at Reflections can sip complimentary beverages from the hot-tea bar and peruse the gallery’s rotating lineup of local original art.
The International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum recounts the history of roadside tow-truck drivers with a variety of exhibits, vehicles, and artifacts. The museum resides about three miles from the building site of the industry's first wrecker in 1916, and the museum commemorates such vehicular innovation with displays of antique wreckers created in its wake alongside showcases of old-fashioned equipment. Delight little ones and stir nostalgic waters for reflective grandparents as you follow the tow truck's evolution through antique toys, memorabilia, and stories of the professionals who risk their lives for fellow motorists daily.
Thousands of dragons glitter and glimmer within the Dragon Dreams Museum. So many, in fact, that the museum owner is working on her entry in the Guinness Word Records book for—you guessed it—the biggest collection of dragons on earth. One-of-a-kind antiques and handcrafted figurines made from silver, jade, and ivory highlight the expansive collection. The on-site gift shop can help you start your own collection as well as purchase other items such as jewelry, magnets, ornaments, and posters.
"My Avian Jewels are my attempt to preserve nature's artistry and call attention to the inscrutable beauty and value of all bird eggs and their environment. The beautiful and ephemeral nature of a bird's reproductive process has inspired me to devote my energy to making these 'jewels' for the purpose of a more permanent collection, thereby supporting conservation and hopefully the preservation of the bird species." – C.E. Blevins
These words illustrate C.E. Blevins's passion for birds and nature itself, which led to the founding of the C.E. Blevins Avian Learning Center. The center is home to his collection of handmade bird-egg replicas and real migratory bird nests, and it helps educate the public on the importance of migratory birds to a healthy ecosystem. Trained nature interpreters lead tours that teach students and other guests about bird migration, the study of nests, and the relationship of birds and their habitats through hands-on activities. The center also includes a 4-acre nature trail with grassland, woodland, and wetland habitats.
See how Groupon helps you discover local causes and lend a helping hand at the Groupon Grassroots blog.
The American West stands frozen in time at Booth Western Art Museum, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. The bronze forms of cowboys and many of the Native Americans encountered by Lewis and Clark populate the sculpture court. At the hall's center stands Vic Payne's Eagle Catcher, a two-story sculpture that depicts a large eagle with its wings outstretched. Its talons lock with the arms of a Native American man who leans backwards as he grapples with the aviary predator—a symbol of the struggle for the American West.
The impressive sculpture is just one stop on the museum's tour, which takes visitors into a permanent collection that comprises more than a dozen galleries and temporary exhibit halls featuring as many as 12 exhibits each year that explore the west from the 1800s through present day. More than 100 traditional paintings and sculptures by the likes of Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, and George Catlin depict cowboys, Native American cultures, and breathtaking natural landscapes in the American West Gallery. Other spaces focus on the Civil War, while the Modern West Gallery interprets the western United States through abstract paintings and other contemporary forms by such artists as Nelson Boren, Thom Ross, and Ed Mell. Beneath the portraits of every U.S. president in the Carolyn and James Millar Presidential Gallery, personal letters written by the robotic arm of each leader humanize the lofty figures of American history.
In addition to exhibits, Booth Western Art Museum hosts adult art classes and seasonal events, such as April's "Civil War Comes Alive!", wherein visitors might stumble upon Abraham Lincoln mid-Gettysburg Address or spot soldiers firing cannons, and October's Southeastern Cowboy Festival & Symposium, which features Native American dancing, gun-fight reenactments, and a traditional western marketplace. Kids can savor hands-on history in Sagebrush Ranch, where a three-quarter-scale stagecoach, an authentic loom, real Western wear, and a bounty of other attractions await to grant little ones with an immersive educational experience.