On The Road Again
I’ve been traveling like crazy lately, and working hard; as a result, I’ve not done much blogging. In this post, I wanted to share my joy in a recent trip to Chattanooga, TN.
I taught a Paper Paintings Collage Workshop for public school art teachers in Chattanooga, some years ago. When I was here, I had limited opportunity to explore the downtown area, because I was teaching on the outskirts at a local middle school. 52 Art Teachers participated, all of them sitting at student desks, spread across two full classrooms; what an honor and great experience!
This year I found myself returning to Chattanooga in order to spectate as my son and his Lyman High School teammates competed at Head of the Hooch. The Head of the Chattahoochee is a rowing regatta held in Chattanooga, TN every year on the first Saturday and Sunday of November. My son Connor has competed at Hooch with the Lyman Rowing Association for the past two years, this being his third. I did not accompany the team previously. Now that we have arrived at Connor’s last year of high school, I decided to cramp his style and make the trip with the team. After all, that’s what Moms do.
The Head of the Hooch is one of the world’s largest rowing regattas, with over 2,000 boats racing over two days. More than 9,000 seats are rowed. 1,200 boats compete on Saturday alone, more in one day than any other regatta. Participants come from over 200 different organizations and in 2012 the regatta welcomed crews from 27 different states. The Head of the Hooch has seen a growth in entries from other countries in recent years; hosting teams from Canada, Germany, Sweden and Australia.
Chattanooga has come a long way. My Uber drivers told me stories of the years when “You just did not go downtown, it was not safe.” One gentleman told me that back in the late 70’s the town also had several foundries, making the air pollution and smog overwhelming. A friend and former workshop student who grew up in Chattanooga tells me, “It’s a very neat place, but I grew up there before it was cool. It didn’t turn around until I went away to college.” A second driver told me that now, the rent in downtown Chattanooga can be over $1K per month, for a small one bedroom apartment. Times have changed, and most folks say that it was the construction of the Tennessee Aquarium that started the revitalization of downtown Chattanooga.
The kids took an overnight 10-hour bus ride from the high school in Longwood, FL to the Residence Inn in Chattanooga. I decided that as much as I love these kids, I probably would not get any sleep on an overnight bus ride. After looking into my options, I decided to fly. I left Sanford Airport in the late afternoon flew directly to Chattanooga in a little over an hour!
Many parents did chose to make the drive, a couple of us flew. By midday, everyone was happy to be in Chattanooga and the team was on the river for a practice row. We stayed right in the heart of downtown, two blocks from the Tennessee River and the race site.
These kids work very hard at this year-round sport. They practice six days a week, they eat, sleep, and breathe rowing. My son’s entire wardrobe is made up of regatta t-shirts, an homage to what he loves. This year is bittersweet as it will be his last year, graduating high school in May. The camaraderie amongst this group of kids is inspiring as well as amazing.
Lyman High School brought 32 rowers, boys and girls, to Hooch. Everyone rowed hard and gave it their all. We are so proud of our kids, and this team. Many times I had to hold back tears, especially when my son exclaimed, “Well Mom, this is my last Hooch.”
Where does the time go?
They boys were happy with their race results, the Varsity 8 boat came in 20th out of over 90 entries, the Varsity 4 boat that my son was on (above left, with the blue sunglasses) said that all they wanted to do was to beat Lyman’s other Varsity 4 boat, the other half of the Varsity 8–a little healthy competition amongst themselves!
It was a great weekend for parents and kids alike, we all went out to dinner on Saturday night at the Blue Water Grill. Hurricane Irma caused Lyman High’s Homecoming to be rescheduled to this race weekend. Our kids got dressed up for dinner and celebrated in TN since they were missing the festivities at home (for the second year in a row). That’s dedication.
The kids boarded the bus for the trip home on Sunday around midday, I didn’t fly out until Sunday evening, so I set out to explore the city. After waving goodbye, giving big hugs and embarrassing kisses to my 6′-1″ son on the sidewalk… I made my way up the hill to the art museum.
There’s always an Art Museum or supply store…
The Hunter Museum of American Art rests on an 80-foot bluff over the river, so close you might think it would slide in. It’s architecturally stunning, a combination of classic old and intensely modern.
The museum’s collections include works representing the Hudson River School, 19th century genre painting, American Impressionism, the Ashcan School, early modernism, regionalism, and post World War II modern and contemporary art.
The building itself represents three distinct architectural stages: the original 1904 classical revival mansion designed by Abram Garfield, the son of president James A. Garfield, which has housed the museum since its opening in 1952, a brutalist addition built in 1975, and a 2005 addition designed by Randall Stout which now serves as the entrance to the museum. –Wikipedia
I was thrilled that the Hunter allowed photography. I clarified with them that I could shoot with the “big camera” and not just the iPhone. “Just as long as you don’t use a flash.” Well, that I could handle!
Larger than life corrugated cardboard and found object sculptures. ©St-Hilaire
The special exhibition at the Museum was the amazingly colorful and creative work of Wayne White. Wayne is more than your average artist—he is a set designer, an art director, a comic book artist, a puppeteer, a painter, a sculptor—his list of accomplishments is endless. Mr. White is originally from Chattanooga, attending both high school and college there. His work for the riotous Pee Wee’s Playhouse earned him three Emmys; he has been acclaimed for his sets on Beakman’s World and music videos for The Smashing Pumpkins and Peter Gabriel. What I marveled at most were his larger than life corrugated cardboard sculptures, and of course, his use of color.
I talked with one of the Museum employees who told me that Wayne was very involved in the design of the exhibition space. He said that Mr. White was great to work with, creative, funny, and very kind. He explained to me that the graphics on the walls were created by Wayne, projected onto the walls, traced and painted by Museum staff.
How cool is that?
I was lucky enough to have a sister-in-law of a dear friend who lives in the area. Nona was willing to meet me after the Museum and take me on a tour around town. We went to the outdoor market and craft fair, lunched, stopped for coffee, took in a couple of galleries, and explored the Aquarium. I marveled at the complexity of swimming sharks and their teeth, chased butterflies, petted sting rays, and lingered at the tanks of incredible sea horses and jelly fish. All great inspiration for my upcoming February exhibition in Key West!
I have the best Art Friends, thank you Nona for spending the day with me.
By 7:30pm I was heading to the airport to hop my Allegiant Air flight back home. My car was waiting for me, and I arrived home less than a half an hour before Connor. We couldn’t have asked for a better weekend, experiencing the regatta together as well as exploring and experiencing things on our own. I am grateful to have been able to attend, and I look forward to the spring season regattas!
I have been in Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, and Arizona in the last month. When I catch my breath, I’ll tell you all about my biannual trip to teach for the Arts Center in Sedona, AZ — My Happy Place.
How lucky am I?
for being a part of my