Arts Tour June 2001
by Tim Slattery
We arrived back home Tuesday night, after a two-week trip through Alabama, North Caroline and Tennessee. We saw a lot of places, and had a terrific time.
We started out in Birmingham, AL for the National Sacred Harp Convention. That was three days, during which we stayed with our friends Gary and Sarah Smith in Bessemer, just south of Birmingham.
Then, Sunday after the convention we went to Macedonia, AL (North-central part of the state) for a SH singing in a small Primitive Baptist church. We arrived late, but not late enough to miss lunch. We were well fed, and had some good singing in the afternoon. After that, we drove to Murphy, NC in the extreme Western end of that state. It's not terribly far from Alabama, we did it in just a couple of hours.
Monday we went 40 miles or so from Murphy to the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, one of the last remaining patches of virgin forest in the East. They have several enormous yellow-poplars (also known as tulip poplars). They're not Sequoias, but they're impressive. The largest are about seven feet in diameter and about 150 feet tall.
Tuesday, we went about 50 miles from Murphy to Cherokee, NC, which is the center of the Cherokee reservation in the East. (They were forcibly removed to Oklahoma in 1836, so a larger group is there.) There was lots to see there and we saw a lot of it! The Cherokees run their own museum and historical village, and there was a very good craft shop across the street from the museum. Lots of information about Sequoyah (for whom the tree was named), an illiterate half-Cherokee who invented a written form of the Cherokee language. It's the only Indian language for which the indians themselves came up with the written form.
Wednesday we left Murphy and went to Chattanooga, TN. We visited the aquarium there, which is absolutely spectacular. We also saw a 3D-IMAX show. As amazing as IMAX is, the 3D version cannot be believed until you see it. It's really something to have the narrator describing a fish while it's swimming around a foot and a half in front of you. We visited a riverside park in Chattanooga where there is a carrousel. It's built on an old platform, but the animals had all been sold off, so new animals were lovingly and beautifully carved by locals. Quite a sight.
The next day we drive to Jackson, outside of Memphis (home of Casey Jones!). We saw Mud Island in Memphis, which is a tourist attraction on the Mississippi. It was interesting, but not as good as I had hoped. After that, we visited the National Civil Rights Museum. That's in the motel where Martin Luther King was shot. It's *extremely* well done, very impressive. That evening the locals in Jackson had a Sacred Harp singing that we participated in.
Next day was the Pink Palace in Memphis. This is a mansion built of pink stone by the founder of Piggly Wiggly. He had a financial setback before it was finished, so he never lived there. It's now a very nice museum, including a planetarium and IMAX theater (only 2D, bummer!). One of the exhibits is a full-size replica of the first Piggly Wiggly in downtown Memphis. This was the first self-service market (as opposed to the kind where you ask the person behind the counter to get everything for you).
Sunday, we went to the opening of the Frieseke show at the Dixon gallery and gardens. The gardens are beautiful and large. The museum was the home of Hugo Dixon, a rich person who collected art, especially impressionists. The Frieseke show was very well presented, and Miriam's brother Nick from Cambridge, MA gave a speech for the opening.
After that, it was back home. We stopped at Natural Bridge, VA (just North of Roanoke, VA) which I hadn't seen before. Then back home, pick up the cat, and collapse.
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