Waxing nostalgic of the San Franciscan Cliff House, the Hunter Museum of American Art sits authoritatively atop a crimpy rock-face overlooking the Tennessee River. Though the architectural updates to the museum add hybrid Modern/Brutalist flavor to the original Neoclassical mansion, the feel of antiquity and awe remains the same.
Built in 1905, the mansion designed by the son of President James Garfield was completed and dubbed the Ross Faxon House, which would become a stomping ground for people of both local and national renown. After the departure of the Faxons, the house was taken over by the Thomas family of Coca Cola fame. The mansion was passed from the Thomas’s to their nephew George, and from George to the Benwood Foundation upon his death. On July 12, 1952, the George Thomas Hunter Gallery of Art opened as the first art museum in Chattanooga
Growing up in Chattanooga, the museum has always been, in my mind, another facet of the amalgam of tourist attractions, but Chief Curator Nandini Makrandi hopes for it to be a bit more. In a recent interview, I asked Nandini Makrandi about her vision for The Hunter and what she hoped to see in terms of community engagement. She responded with a deep desire for the museum to not just be a place to bring visiting family and friends, but also a place locals visit regularly. The Hunter Museum hosts a permanent collection of about 3000 pieces ranging from the eighteenth century to the 2000’s. What sets the collection apart from most is the diversity of content. The collection spanning multiple media, in conjunction with the statue gardens and rotating spotlight collections, offers something for everyone.
This summer, locals and visitors alike can look forward to an exhibit that can only be described as fantastic. “Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration” came to The Hunter Museum on May 20th and will be installed until September 5th. The enchanting collection, previewed in this month's issue, will arrive just in time to celebrate the museum’s 70th anniversary on July 12th. To celebrate becoming a septuagenarian, the museum has been exhibiting its acquisitions, highlighting itself as a still growing part of art and culture in Chattanooga.
The celebration of its accomplishments through exhibits reminds visitors that the museum is almost alive in its constant growth. Personally, I cannot wait to see how the Hunter Museum of American will continue its maturity into an institution of preeminence in the years to come.