Rachel Collins moved to Chattanooga six years ago and immediately fell in love with the city.
"I liked the rawness of the Southside and Main Street areas, as well as the wealth of intellectual and artistic people here," she said.
A few months ago, she opened 1800 Main, a gallery and design center to help people enhance their interior and exterior home decor. In addition, she developed indoor and outdoor sculpture/garden packages for businesses.
Collins' journey to Chattanooga has been an interesting one. A native of Chicago, she moved to Maine when she was 12 years old. She had known for years that she wanted to be a veterinarian, but after a year of college, she dropped out.
"I loved horses, so I packed up my car, drove South and got a job with a racetrack farm in South Carolina," Collins said.
Eventually, she bought her own horse farm, which she ran for 12 years. Then she sold it and moved to Chattanooga. Having been classically trained in music and art as a child, she drew on her love of art for the next chapter of her life. She sees many similarities between the worlds of art and horse competitions.
"In a lot of ways, they go hand in hand because they are both about knowing quality and beauty," Collins said.
In her gallery, Collins has paintings, indoor and outdoor sculpture, glass, furniture, mixed-media works, concrete and clay containers and lamps. The 12 artists she represents are from Chattanooga, North Carolina and Georgia. Her current exhibition features sculpture by Isaac Duncan, Rondell Crier, Denice Bizot and Katerina Nissa through Jan. 5.
One of these artists, Bizot, goes to junkyards to find discarded aluminum objects. Car hoods intrigue her, and she uses a blow torch to create designs on their surfaces. For the Volkswagen package project, Collins arranged for Bizot to select three new, unpainted Passat hoods that the artist is weathering and torching. These will be installed on pedestals in Volkswagen's 80-foot by 70-foot eating deck outside the cafeteria, where Collins has also placed a number of trees and plants in concrete containers.
Another artist whose sculpture will be featured on the deck is Brian Rasmussen.
Furniture and cabinetry are also components of the gallery. If a visitor does not see an item that is appropriate for his or her home, Collins has artists' portfolios and books from which the right piece can be commissioned.
Every Thursday, Southern Lighting and Cabinets sends a field representative to 1800 Main to help visitors select unusual lighting and lamps for their homes. Collins' goal is to provide a place where visitors can meet all of their needs concerning their living spaces.
"People will no longer have to go out of town or even out to Hamilton Place to find what they are looking for," she said.
1800 Main, located at 1800 E. Main St., is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday with extended hours on Friday to 8 p.m. Call 718-2543 for information.
Email Ann Nichols at email@example.com.