Edward Ellis, a member of Jazzanooga's Youth Music Academy, plays during a 2015 performance.

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Finding a homeJazzanooga finds permanent location, expands its offerings

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There's a new place in town where people can participate in art, music and cultural events — Jazzanooga, located on East Martin Luther King Boulevard.

In 2011, Jazzanooga started out as a community-wide one-day festival but has recently found a permanent home as Jazzanooga Arts SPACE. It was started by Chattanoogans James McKissic, director of the city's Office of Multicultural Affairs, and Shane Morrow, the director of the original Jazzanooga music festival.

"We started as a festival, but have grown to provide year-round community, music, arts and culture programming," says McKissic. "The idea for Jazzanooga came from a desire to see contemporary jazz acts in Chattanooga and also a desire to learn about and preserve Chattanooga's musical heritage."

The organization recently held a grand opening at its new location at 431 E. Martin Luther King Blvd. with more than 160 people, including Mayor Andy Berke, in attendance.

"It is great to see the amount of community support we had for our grand opening and we are excited to have a physical space on MLK Boulevard, where we have done some of our community programming for the past five years," Morrow said in a news release. "The grand opening represents the culmination of years of hard work and partnerships and we are happy to finally welcome visitors through our doors."

But Jazzanooga's focus is no longer centered exclusively around music, McKissic says. Jazzanooga now is working with Pecha Kucha, the series of events in which young designers show their work in timed presentations, and The Chattery, which offers classes on everything from calligraphy to making mead.

These partnerships are designed "to bring loads of new educational and arts and culture events to the MLK neighborhood," McKissic says, noting that the programs are open to all area residents.

"During our annual festival, we work hard to make sure that there are activities for families and youth as well as elements that speak to multiple generations," he says. "We will be hosting our youth-related programming in the new space and also expect to continue working in schools and with young people in the City's Youth and Family Development Department. Our youth programs introduce young people to jazz and blues and Chattanooga's musical heritage."

There will also be yoga and Zumba classes, as well as a "CoStarters" program that focuses on creative businesses.

"We want this to be a community space, and encourage people with great ideas to reach out to us about using the space to get started. We rise by lifting others," McKissic says.

Additionally, there will be monthly "Night Cap Nights," a pop-up jazz club named after the legendary jazz club the Night Cap, which was on M.L. King Boulevard, nicknamed "The Big Nine" when it was Ninth Street from the 1920s to the '50s.

McKissic says the organization is driven to preserve and promote Chattanooga's arts and culture heritage with a geographic focus on M.L. King Boulevard.

"We also encourage people to use the space for rehearsals, classes, meetings, workshops — anything that benefits the community or helps our grassroots arts and culture scene to grow," he says.

Initially, Jazzanooga was self-funded, McKissic says, but now is a nonprofit that gets its money from foundations and personal donations.

"All that we do is because of the generous funding we receive from the Benwood, Lyndhurst, McKenzie and Footprint Foundations and also the numerous people who make donations to attend our events and performances," McKissic says.

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at or 423-757-6396.