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 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.
A Chattanooga landmark, the Bessie Smith Cultural Center honors African-American heritage through artistic and educational programming in its museum and performance hall. The museum hosts educational exhibits including "Bright Ideas: African American Inventors" and the Fine Art of Jazz. Students can learn to create their own art in summer classes or participate in a school field trip. Every year, the museum also sponsors a Heritage Festival with original art, live music, and food tastings down Martin Luther King Boulevard.
"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.
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The exhibits within Museum Center at 5ive Points tell the rich story of the Ocoee Region of Tennessee. The main focal point is The River of Time: a permanent installation that traces the history of Bradley County, incorporating everything from military photographs to Native American artifacts. Five to six other exhibits rotate in and out regularly, while the museum store stands as an attraction in its own right. The shelves brim with various Appalachian arts and crafts, all made within a 150-mile radius of the museum. Self-guided school tours are available daily, making it easy for students to learn about their region's past without having to build a time machine in shop class.