Checking out an art gallery in any city you visit will tell you about local tastes, attitudes, and culture. It’s also a good idea to expose children to a gallery or 2 while traveling. Chattanooga has the super Tennessee Aquarium that includes the world’s largest freshwater display and will delight children. Not too far from it on a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River is the 5 Compass Hunter Museum. Children should see both.
Choosing which gallery to visit in a destination becomes far more complex when you’re in a city like New York, which has more than 1,000 of them. Once inside any gallery, engage one of its staff in a conversation about what to see. In my experience, they love to show off their knowledge about the place where they work.
Chattanooga’s Hunter Gallery is an especially kid-friendly museum. Children 17 years old and under get in free. Its permanent collection which is exceptional, focuses on American art from the colonial period to the present and strives to show American diversity, American creativity, and the American spirit. A Hunter visit can become a fun history lesson with social interaction.
At 10 Bluff View, the Hunter can be a bit hard to find. From the Aquarium, take First Street east and use GPS or ask a local where to turn because there are no signs. Parking on the bluff is adequate but not generous because the Hunter is huge and adjoins a mansion. Two floors of the mansion are part of the Hunter experience, and you’re far more likely to see colonial and Tennessee art there. Completed in 1905, this bluff-topping, extravagant home’s most illustrious resident was George Thomas Hunter. Hunter, a Baylor graduate, Coca Cola executive, and philanthropist, donated his home to the Chattanooga Art Association in 1951.
The very modern, award-winning museum with great river views that Hunter’s mansion is now attached to opened in 2005. Its permanent collection, it seemed to us, celebrates children. Ruth’s favorite artist is Mary Cassatt, so she loved seeing “Baby Bill…held by His Nurse”. I’m somewhat fond of Robert Henri’s portraits and learned in The Hunter that he had an estate in Ireland at Achill Island where he loved to paint local children like the Irish lad in the blue jacket below.
Don’t get the idea, however, that children reign. The permanent collection is thrillingly diverse and includes Grant Wood’s “February” and Richard Anuszkiewicz’s geometric Inflexional II. Don’t ask me to pronounce Richard’s last name.