CHATTANOOGA Part 2
On Saturday, March 11, I will return to Chattanooga for a book signing hosted by the talented artists of Artists on the Loose in their studio space at 1401 Williams Street.
Chattanooga has been a part of my adult life, especially in the field of art. I opened my first gallery in Nashville more than 25 years ago and have worked with many artists from the Chattanooga area. I have a lovely watercolor rendering of my family home from the late Virginia Damewood. I also have several sculpture pieces from the late Verina Baxter – two of the many Chattanooga artists I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years in various mediums such as painting, photography, sculpture and jewelry. At the moment, I am representing three area artists including one from Ringgold, Georgia. In fact, one of my current artists has been instrumental in making this Chattanooga book event happen.
While on the subject of art, I decided several years ago to paint a painting of a “See Rock City” barn. These barns dotted the highways of my youth as we traveled to and from Miami. I was concerned about possible copyright infringement and decided to write to the folks at Rock City to see if there would be a problem. They were kind enough to reply but I’m afraid I didn’t make myself clear. The reply said it would not be a problem for them but that I might want to check the bylaws in my neighborhood before painting my barn. After a good laugh, I sent another letter to explain I did not have a barn but wanted to paint a painting of a barn. Again, they replied saying it would be fine and that they would love to see the image of the painting once it was completed.
In the early 1980s, one of my dearest friends from college moved to Chattanooga and built a home on Signal Mountain. I had been working in the design field for some time and came to assist – something I have done through all of her moves. In 1970, we came to Belmont University as freshman and although both in the music department, she was definitely (and still is) one of their shinning stars. In November 1989, I was fortunate to hear her perform Poulenc’s Gloria with the Chattanooga Symphony at the Tivoli. It was such a thrill to see her name displayed on the marquee. Her husband had already been transferred to Mobile and shortly after the concert, she joined him. When checking with her to confirm these dates, she said: “Of all the places we have lived, I loved Chattanooga the most. I was so sad to leave.”
Nearly 20 years ago, I was in a relationship that I knew from the beginning had an expiration date. It had quickly escalated from business to friendship to more. Nashville was a temporary stop for him as New York was his dream. Of course, it’s hard to convince the heart not to wish for a different outcome. Still, we had a wonderful year together. Even my “Signal Mountain” college friend joined us once when we vacationed at the beach. However, I am left with a bittersweet memory of spending our last weekend together on a getaway to Chattanooga. We stayed overnight in one of the train cars at the Choo Choo, checked out galleries and the Tennessee Aquarium. We even visited Ruby Falls before heading home. The next day, watching him drive away, I tried my best to hide my heartache.
This past week I returned to Chattanooga to be interviewed on the morning talk show, Let’s Chatt. I came to promote the upcoming book event but unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough time to say all that I had hoped. However, before I could give it another thought, I was being guided back to the lobby. My escort told me that he thought I was brave to tell my story. He then shared he had also been molested as a child. I gave him a copy of my book and realized that may have been the purpose for my trip all along.
J. Ronald M. York, author of Kept in the Dark, is also an accomplished musician and founder of York & Friends Fine Art Gallery.
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