Bluff View Art District: Chattanooga View Points

Even on the Fourth of July, Chattanooga’s Bluff View Art District was open for business!  It’s a place unique unto itself — an artist colony of sorts, offering historic lodging, a noteworthy museum, artists’ renderings, and places to relax and eat inside or out.  In fact, all of downtown Chattanooga is unique —  an upscale city devoted to renovation, reclamation, and relaxation.

Bluff View Art District is the epitome of quiet elegance in the heart of the city.

My husband and I left Knoxville on July 3rd in time to position ourselves on the Walnut Street Bridge for Pops on the River in Coolidge Park and then watch colorful, dramatic fireworks burst and dance to the music of the night.

A view of the Tennessee River from Bluff View Art District

 But the Fourth was ours for exploring on our own, so we headed to the District.

Near the Back Inn Cafe, a tall whirligig-like sculpture let us know this is no ordinary shopping area.  This is as artsy a place in Tennessee as you can find.

This sculpture almost says “lift off”!

Our first stop? River Gallery, in the former Dr. Edward Newell home.  We spotted suspended glass orbs beckoning us inside to take a closer look.

Hand-blown glass catching the sunlight from a window in River Gallery

Known for showcasing the creative art of some of the area’s finest craftsmen, the gallery offers variety in form, function, and medium.

Colorful scarves on display at River Gallery

Ceramist Kelly Jean Ohl created “11 Piece Wall Installation” — unique wall art.

We couldn’t resist touching these hand-turned, burled wood bowls.

We were pleasantly surprised to see this oil on canvas “House in Biltmore Village” by Knoxville artist Joe Parrott!

Wall hanging of colorful, contemporary quilting: “New Paths” by Marquetta Johnson

River Gallery is celebrating 20 years in business with a special exhibit, Collecting Thoughts.  Although it runs from August 1 to 31 this year, we were privy to some of the art that day by Nancy Kubale, Roelna Louw, and Susan Parrish.  (Here’s where the viewpoints part of this post comes in: It’s not just art . . . these pieces make statements!)

The sign with Nancy Kubale’s “Stand Still” reads “a reminder to stop and stand still and be fully present.”

Roelna Louw’s ceramic sculpture entitled “Us” features two people leaning in for conversation.

Susan Parrish’s mixed media pieces are a testament to her creativity as they express her views on people, politics, and the vagaries of life.

Parrish’s “Holy Man” uses metallic washers, a sink stopper, and a blue cleaning brush!

We left River Gallery and walked past other buildings like Renaissance Commons, a stately building now used for private events and the District’s holiday buffets. Originally this was a quadruplex, then a duplex, and now one of the area’s most tasteful examples of urban renewal.

Renaissance Commons

The Bluff View Inn is really a conglomerate of three turn-of-the-century homes repurposed as Bed & Breakfast Inns: the Maclellan House, the T. C. Thompson House, and the C. G. Martin House.  An 1889 English Tudor, The Maclellan House offers seven guest rooms, a honeymoon suite, and several original furnishings.

Bluff View Inn: The Maclellan House

You can see a view of the river from the breakfast room at The Maclellan House.

Period furniture graces the sitting room.

The Bocce Court Terrace, named for the game of bocce brought to America by Italian immigrants, offers unparalleled views of the river and a place to relax.

Built with salvaged architectural elements on the site where another home previously stood, Rembrandt’s Coffee House sells paninis, soups, artfully packaged chocolates, and gourmet desserts. It was definitely abuzz with activity on the Fourth.  We took time to relax, have lunch, and meet some of the people out and about that day.

Lili talked to us about the varieties of tea and coffee at Rembrandt’s.

We weren’t the only ones having trouble deciding what to order! Sandwiches, salads, desserts, fresh brewed coffees . . .

But Dava said my choice of chicken salad was a good one and tea would make a great, relaxing after-shopping drink!

I was tempted — very tempted — to take home this beautifully wrapped box of chocolates — just for myself!

We even struck up a conversation with Christina Neighbors who wants to be a teacher, if she can get a job in Chattanooga! Anyone hiring?

Listed in the Smithsonian Institute’s Archives of American Gardens, the River Gallery Sculpture Garden fascinates young and old with creative pieces that grace the courtyard and the bank below, leading to the river. It’s not unusual to see people looking closely at the sculptures or relaxing in this urban setting so removed from busy city life.

This sculptural figure seems suspended in flight on the banks below the garden.

A stack of heads seems as tall as the bridge from this perspective!

A walking, winged sculpture seems almost in motion.

The Bluff View Bakery occupies my favorite structure, the former Powers & Condon building.  Even on the Fourth of July, workers baked fresh bread in Chattanooga’s oldest artisan bakery and hand twisted pretzels for the restaurants and B & B’s in the area.

My favorite building in the District houses the Bluff View Bakery.

Rolling and shaping pretzels by hand

We asked Sharon why they were working on the Fourth, and she replied, We have to get the bread ready to sell at Blue Cross, Blue Shield tomorrow.  To the employees.

Sharon explained why they were working on the Fourth!

And so it was, that we, too, had fresh bread to take home that afternoon as one last souvenir from the Bluff View Art District.

It was hard not to pinch off a hunk of fresh bread on our way back to Knoxville!

You can see Bluff View Art District in a day, including a quick tour of the Hunter Museum, but you may want to spend more time than that.  It’s easy to get caught up in the shops, open air sculptures, and the fascinating architecture of the district.  So much to see. So many view points.

For a historical overview of the Bluff View Art District and a timeline of the district’s development, click here.

For more on the Hunter Museum of American Art, click here, and be sure to check out my next blog.

Bluff View Art District

411 East Second Street

Chattanooga, TN 37403

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2 thoughts on “Bluff View Art District: Chattanooga View Points

  1. cmmoxley

    What a fun post, Rusha! Love this area. And, outside of Knoxville, River Gallery is my favorite art gallery. They are one of few places to carry work of Sammie Nicely, whose work I collect.

    1. Rusha Sams

      Glad you enjoyed the post. I’ll start looking more closely at Sammie Nicely’s work now that I know you are a collector! It doesn’t take much to talk me into visiting more galleries! Love to see what people create!

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