For this coastal transplant, mountains are still a little magical to me even after seven months in Chattanooga. It's no surprise that when I get the chance to go through a tunnel (and try to hold my breath and make a wish) I take it. I often travel Brainerd Road through to East Brainerd for work, and always wanted to stop on the other side of the tunnel where the Brainerd Art District is taking root. I stopped one rainy afternoon and was not disappointed with what I found.
3250 Brainerd Road, 622-8236
It's hard to make sense of what Gannon Art Center is when you walk through the back door. There are random prints, framed diplomas and art lining the walls. To your right, a wall of frame corners, at least 100, are attached in a haphazard pattern. To the left, a small room with empty frames hanging on the wall, some stacked-all unique.
It's been that way for 43 years, says Lisa Norris who has worked there off and on since high school. "We have generations of families who come in here for custom framing," Norris says. "We're also an art gallery and we do offer some art supplies, but really people come here for the framing."
As I wander around the store, admiring some vintage pastel pencils and ink tips, Lisa helps a customer frame her son's diploma. Using garnet and black silk mattes, an ornate frame and even a little line of gold inset, the paper diploma becomes a regal piece of art to be proud of for years to come.
4. Comedy Catch and Giggles Grill
3224 Brainerd Road
5. Mocha Lounge
3116 Brainerd Road
6. Gogh Art and Art Warehouse
3260 Brainerd Road
7. Melrose Boutique
3204 Brainerd Road
3301 Brainerd Road, 702-5736
Would you believe that the building now housing Dwelling was once home to three businesses and five apartments overhead? When owner and interior designer Christi Homar found the space, she wouldn't let go of the building's potential.
"When I walked in the building, I just knew," Christi says, adding that she tore down walls to open the space up. "The salvageable lumber, we used it, as well as the tin ceiling tiles that were still in good shape."
The same could be said for the consigned furniture and housewares that fill her shop. From mid-century modern pieces of dining tables and chairs to Victorianesque parlor couches, Dwelling has an array of forgotten time pieces that may seem archaic to the 21st century. The curation and the quality of the pieces, however, make them look new, and as you walk around, you start to try to fit pieces like a futuristic purple armchair into your home. Christi says Dwelling will see some changes to the store on the horizon, but she plans on staying at her location on Brainerd Road.
"We bought this building and we live close by, so we definitely plan on staying here and being a part of this community," she adds.
3240 Brainerd Road, 504-3238
Next door, a large pottery studio sits dark and vacant looking. But a closer look and a tug on the door handle opens up to a large ambient space with cool purples and greens and an excited potter inside.
Marien Heintz has been teaching eightweek- long pottery classes in the space since January and couldn't be happier about the business. "I have classes, and while they are full right now, there will be more, and I'm always scheduling private groups," she says.
Around the shop, smooth clay pieces adorn workspaces in various stages of completion. On shelves, pieces ready to be glazed and fired sit next to glaze samples. "It's tricky, and I want to make sure it's right before I fire it ... but pottery can be so peaceful; it's a process, you know," Marian says.
I was sad to learn after my walk around Brainerd Art District that the street's only daytime café and the town's only kite shop would be shuttering the very week I was there. A longtime community staple and meeting spot, it'll be hard to let go of the unique place, but rumor has it that the strip will soon see a yoga studio and juice bar hoping to fill the void and add to the area's allure. As for the kites? Chattanooga will have to find another home for the flighty activity.