Yet it was the Hunter’s position, both literally and figuratively, in Chattanooga’s burgeoning arts community that was the ultimate draw.
“I became aware of Arts Move and MakeWork [CreateHere programs] and the connection between Chatt State and [sculptor] John Henry,” he says. “I could see there was a community.
“While the Hunter’s role is not to present local artists, we can facilitate dialogue about art and bring artists in from around the world to see this community.”
As many have mentioned, when Volkswagen chose the Hunter to make its big announcement, the tacit endorsement of the arts community was huge. “Art changed my life,” he says. “And so I know it can change other people’s.”
Since then, the brief Stetson Era at the Hunter has yielded some extraordinary exhibits and acquisitions, among them one of Lois Mailou Jones’ later period paintings for the museum’s permanent collection which continues an excellent development.
This past weekend included the opening of the “Good Design: Stories from Herman Miller,” which, in addition to the famed Herman Miller chair, examines the creation and evolution of many masterpieces of 20th and 21st century contemporary design produced by Miller and designed by such artists as Gilbert Rohde, Ray and Charles Eames, Isamu Noguchi, George Nelson, Robert Probst and others.
Last summer’s photographic exhibition of Volkswagen’s industrial design proved that ergonomics and design are among art’s most intimate contacts with people, yet their prevalence can be taken for granted; a refreshed perspective has great value.
The same is the case with art on film: design often represents collaborative forms in that many contribute to the final product. This can be easily seen with respect to computers. Stetson notes, for example that computer games are quite artfully developed, and the sales of games are eclipsing movie sales. Fine art developed with a computer can be remarkable both for effects and accessibility.
The Hunter’s presentation of Nam June Palk’s “Warhol Robot” last summer brought a world-class synthesis of video art and assemblage. Other art videos shared the exhibition space and the upcoming video presentation “Synchrony” will allow more exposure to this fascinating form. In yet another medium, more contemporary photography will arrive at the Hunter in “Sound and Vision” which will feature photography related to rock music. As mentioned, the museum is now displaying the work of legendary documentary photographer Dorothea Lange and other leading Depression Era photographers. (The Lange exhibit is reviewed in Arts section on Page 15.)
Chattanooga’s public arts have been particularly impressive this past year, and Stetson’s current involvement with the Public Arts Chattanooga has been exciting for him, he says. The First Street Sculpture Garden is being reinstalled and several pieces are already in place.
There are additional public arts surprises in the coming year and the Hunter’s contemporary art space will be installed with other works from the museum’s collection in the spring.
In less than a year, Stetson has moved the Hunter Museum into a more relevant and deeper involvement with Chattanooga. These are exciting times for arts in the city and Stetson can already take some credit.