Chattanooga has seen excellent development in both the visual and performing arts during 2011. The following list seeks to be inclusive without begin particularly hierarchial—or strictly arithmatic. But first, allow me to make a couple of remarks. Great priase may be accorded to Kayoko Dan’s wonderful reinvigoration of the Chattanooga Symphony. Music lovers are loving her! Praise also to the forward-looking decision by our City Council to acquire John Petrey’s “Blue Boy Pull Toy #1,” which is now a permanent fixture of Coolidge Park where it harmonizes well with the wonderful carousel!
1. This list may as well begin with Chattanooga’s public arts most conspicuous development of our downtown arts scene. From the CARTA collaboration, which produced art-wrapped shuttle buses, to the placement of at least 15 new sculptures around the city. Congratulations to Rondell Crier for his excellent contributions to both of these projects. Additionally, the completion of Daud Ahkriev’s “Four Seasons” installation around the south end of the Market Street Bridge provides a lasting enhancement to the downtown arts district. Brava, Peggy Townshend!
2. Daniel Stetson’s commencement as director of the Hunter Museum of American Art has brought Nam June Paik’s world-class assemblage “Andy Warhol Robot” and a marvelous re-hanging of impressionist and modernist works from the permanent collection. Much earlier in 2011, the retrospective show of Lois Mailou Jones allowed viewers to experience a magnificant achievement of lifelong aesthetic ambition. There will soon be more in The Pulse on the current and deeply relevant photographic show at the Hunter.
3. Edgy performance art has continued at JJ’s Bohemia. Subterranian Cirqus’ performance of sideshow, burlesque and comedy was a huge score. Cirqus’ “Dystopia 3” event featured poet and video producer Bryan Lewis Saunders from Johnson City. This show also saw the breathtaking debut of “The Instrumental Girl.” The brave Emily Woodford pierced with large hooks and wired for sound was played by the pre-eminent Pinky!
4. Wendy White brought paintings to the Cress Gallery as the latest arrival of the Diane Marek Visiting Artist Series. This show was widely attended by both the university community and the larger community. White has found a way to develop elements of our urban environments into a recombined visuality that advances her painting into provocative, inspired forms.
5. Joseph Holston’s show at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, “Color in Freedom: Journey Along the Underground Railroad,” brought such a synthesis of painterly style, narrative accumen and artistic devotion to the group of 30 large works with smaller pieces—all done in a single year—that an undeniably monumental impression formed. Holston should be given a room at the Smithsonian to house this ouevre!
6. Clara Blalock and Edie Maney showed abstract paintings at the River Gallery in an exciting show that once more demonstrated the importance of our fine arts galleries to the larger art scene here.
7. In the performance art arena, Bobbie Rush’s headline appearance at the Bessie Smith Heritage Festival granted folks the intensity of an original blue entertainer, an experience that become more rare as time boogies on.
8. Jan Chenoweth and Roger Halligan’s Front Gallery featured solid presentations from excellent sculptures in metal and clay to a variety of innovative media, including crochet and scanned images. The gallery presented artists’ new stylistic expressions—very stimulating!
9. Ruth Grover at UTC’s Cress Gallery hung a remarkable show from the Cress Collection. One of the best art events of this past summer. Viewers could compare American and British artists, as well as discovering about more UTC artists.
10. You can probably still go to Planet Altered to view the Kronenberg-Hefferlin Family Show. Not since in Taos, N.M. have I seen so much quirky work in such a small space. Check this out!
Congratulations to Issac Duncan who now curates Chattanooga State’s sculptures and to Rick Baldwin for opening REK Gallery.