Hunter Museum Celebrating 60 Years on the Bluff


Contact: Katrina Craven


Several anniversary events planned

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Aug. 1, 2012) – With three buildings representing 100 years of architecture, a growing permanent collection and a variety of public programs, the Hunter Museum is part of Chattanooga’s history, and plays an important role in its present and future.

Since the Hunter Museum of American Art opened its doors on July 12, 1952 as the George Thomas Hunter Gallery, the Museum been central to Chattanooga’s cultural life.

The Early Years of the Hunter

George Thomas Hunter arrived in Chattanooga in 1904 to work for his uncle Benjamin Thomas, at the Coca-Cola Thomas Bottling Company. Several years later, Hunter inherited the company from his uncle and began a tradition of philanthropy which continues to have a significant impact on Chattanooga. Mr. Hunter created the Benwood Foundation, a charitable trust that continues to create positive change in the city today.

Mr. Hunter was unmarried and following his death in 1951, the Chattanooga Art Association approached the Benwood Foundation to ask that the Faxon-Hunter mansion be donated to their organization in order to found an art museum. The association transformed the home into a space suitable for Chattanooga’s art museum and named it the George Thomas Hunter Gallery of Art, in honor of its benefactor.

The new museum needed leaders and several Chattanoogans stepped in to help. Scott Probasco, a graduate of Dartmouth and a leader in the area banking industry, became involved with the Hunter. Joe Davenport, an insurance executive, had become interested in art. He and his wife, Hedy, also supported the museum. And Ruth Holmberg—the granddaughter of Adolph Ochs, past owner of “The Chattanooga Times” and “The New York Times”—came to Chattanooga in the 1950s and also took an active interest in the Hunter. Other notable city leaders joined the team including E. Y. Chapin III, Jack Lupton and Robert Maclellan.

The 1970s Brought Growth and Change

In 1973, Hunter Museum leaders proposed an expansion for the Museum. The new building, designed by Chattanooga architects Derthick and Henley, was built of concrete with a central atrium and won several prestigious architectural awards. The new building and renovated mansion opened to the public in September of 1975 with the new name, Hunter Museum of Art, and a gift of 40American paintings from the Benwood Foundation.

After the opening of the 1975 building, the museum grew rapidly. With funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Allied Arts and the Lyndhurst and Benwood foundations, the museum began to build its collection of works by American artists. A collections department was established and the collection was professionally documented with a 300-page catalogue. Programming efforts were expanded and studio classes were offered in partnership with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

In 2000, a number of internal changes took place to improve operations and an operating endowment campaign was underway. The Hunter was poised to move to its next level of development and become even more involved in the Chattanooga community.

The 21st Century Waterfront and Beyond

When Chattanooga’s $120 million 21st Century Waterfront Plan was unveiled in 2002, the Hunter Museum became an active partner with the City of Chattanooga, the Tennessee Aquarium, the Creative Discovery Museum and other organizations to complete this public/private venture in less than three years.

The Hunter Museum portion of the project included a $22 million expansionand renovation, designed by architect Randall Stout. It was completed in April 2005. The project created 28,000 square feet of new construction, 34,000 square feet of renovated space, a new entrance and temporary exhibition space, restoration of the 1905 mansion, the creation of an outdoor sculpture plaza and a complete reinstallation of the Hunter’s permanent collection of art.

Now, as the Hunter Museum celebrates 60 years on the Bluff, it is poised to move forward as a nationally recognized cultural hub that inspires personal and community transformation through American Art. The Hunter Board of Trustees and staff recently completed a strategic planning process and areat work on plans to move the institution forward. With new technology, community-focused programs and a growing collection, the Hunter looks forward to the next 60 years.

60th Anniversary Events

  • Thursday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m.: 60th Anniversary Celebration | The community is invited to celebrate the Hunter Museum’s 60th Anniversary. Enjoy local music, gallery experiences, discounts, Chattanooga-made treats, view the new exhibition on the history of the Hunter and hear from those who helped shape the Hunter.
  • Friday, Sept. 7 at 10 a.m.: Happy Anniversary Hunter Pre-K day | Preschoolers and their care givers are invited to join in the Hunter’s 60th Anniversary celebration with craft-making activities. Register at
  • Sunday, Oct. 7 from noon until 4:30 p.m.: Free First Sunday | Celebrate the Hunter’s 60th Anniversary during Free First Sunday with gallery experiences, craft activities for the kids and special musical guests, The Voices of Lee.
  • Thursday, Oct 11 at 6 p.m.: Gems of Chattanooga Cuisine with 212 Market | View “Chattanooga Gems III” and then learn about the treasures of Chattanooga cuisine with our localculinary jewel, 212 Market.
  • Thursday, Oct. 18: Avant-art hosts Art Collection 101 | Art lovers who would like to become collectors have to start somewhere, but where? How does a collection evolve? Should I buy only what I love? The Hunter’s Avant-art group invites you to join them as experts discuss these questions and more. Learn more about starting your own art collection and view Chattanooga Gems III—an exhibition highlighting works from private collections in the Chattanooga in celebration of the Hunter’s 60th Anniversary.
  • Thursday, October 25 at 6 p.m.: Landmarks on the Bluff | Local attorney and expert Maury Nicely leads participants on a walking tour of the Hunter Museum complex, the Bluff View and surrounding areas. He’ll discuss architecture and share some of the rich history of the sites.
  • Saturday, Nov. 10: Spectrum Gala | This black-tie fundraising event supports the collection, exhibitions and programs of the Hunter. This year’s gala features a seated dinner as well as live and silent art auctions. This is a ticketed event and reservations are required.


The Hunter Museum of American Art is located at 10 Bluff View in Chattanooga, Tenn.  The Museum is open every day until 5 p.m., Thursdays until 8 p.m.  For more information the public may call the Museum at (423) 267-0968, or visit us on the Web at