Chattanooga is a city made up of many communities. The historic Martin Luther King District, formerly known as the Big Nine is one of the City’s most vibrant places to live, work and play.
Today, the "Big Nine" is made up of many exciting organizations, businesses and residents who thrive to bring you arts and culture along the MLK Corridor.
The mission of Jazzanooga is to promote jazz and its related music throughout the greater Chattanooga region through performance and music education. Jazzanooga, started in 2011 as a one-day community festival and has grown become a cultural arts and education nonprofit that offers year-round programming and a month-long celebration that promotes Chattanooga's extraordinary music heritage. See Jazzanooga's regularly scheduled monthly events, including its Night Cap series and Gospel and Soul Brunches! And don't miss the3 day international jazz festival in April.
The Bessie Smith Cultural Center
Located in an area once dubbed as the city’s black enterprise zone, (the famed 9th Street District) now known as M.L. King Boulevard, the museum’s original goal was to present the many contributions African Americans made to the development of Chattanooga. The mission of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center (The Bessie) is to become the premier interdisciplinary cultural center that promotes cultural, educational, and artistic excellence and fosters research and education of African and African American heritage; and provides a venue that allows the community to celebrate through education, art and entertainment.
Lindsay Street Hall
The recently restored and historic Lindsay Street Hall offers a gorgeous downtown Chattanooga private event venue - southern elegance at its finest. For over 100 years, the First Congregational Church was a place that brought people together. As the Lindsay Street Hall, that history continues with you. This richly diverse space retains the unique historical character and stunning architectural details of the early 1900s. With the recent renovation, it is truly one of the most remarkable and stylish venues for events in the south. Two foyer entries lead into the Grand Hall featuring gorgeous 15 ft. Victorian stained glass windows, 20 ft. high ceilings with antique tiles, wrought iron chandeliers and an orchestra style stage. Exposed brick and wainscoting are complimented with a neutral color scheme throughout.
Chattanooga's favorite little venue! JJ's caters to the music-lover and feature artists from any and all genres. JJ's is a huge fan of our local bands and always tries to feature a local favorite with each show. They are open (and takebookings) Tuesday through Sunday (and the occasional Monday). Come early each Wednesday for Chattanooga's best comedy open-mic!
ArtsBuild is a private, nonprofit united arts fund and arts council. ArtsBuild provides a united voice for all cultural organizations and activities in Hamilton County. At the heart of its mission is thinking globally about the arts in Chattanooga. ArtsBuild is looking at the overall arts picture and is leading the charge to ensure a healthy arts environment that sets the path for future generations. ArtsBuild is also working to tell the good news about just how vibrant Chattanooga's arts community has become. It gathers all those interested in marketing the arts around one table to develop the best plan to share this story around the country. Its efforts will play a vital role in making Chattanooga an arts destination, increasing tourism and making this community even more attractive to prospective employers looking for a home.
SoundCorps is a 501c(3) nonprofit dedicated to growing the music economy in the Chattanooga region. Established in early 2015, SoundCorps devotes its energies to building local music industry infrastructure and professional expertise through ongoing programs, events and initiatives. These efforts will translate into increased opportunities to experience Chattanooga music. Its vision is to re-establish Chattanooga as a music mecca with a healthily growing cultural economy. Success for SoundCorps means Chattanooga has more music venues, sound recording studios, record labels, record stores, retail outlets, music industry professional services firms and more.
Townsend Atelier is a visual art school and materials resource in Chattanooga, TN. Draw out your creative spirit with art classes in oil painting, watercolor, drawing, sculpture, collage and more. The Atelier is a warm, invigorating and inspiring place filled with artists’ light. Join them for classes and workshops crossing many genres. They are dedicated to providing quality instruction in a wide variety of media to those who wish to advance their talents and interest in visual art. Whether you are a beginner or a professional artist, Townsend Atelier is a place where you can learn, experiment and grow.
Click HERE to see a schedule of all events happening on the Big Nine!
ML King District Mural
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." - Martin Luther King Jr.
Public Art Chattanooga, a division of the City of Chattanooga, commissioned world-renowned artist Meg Saligman to create on a monumental mural located on the AT&T Building at 300 East M.L. King Boulevard in Chattanooga, TN. This is Meg's largest mural to date covering approximately 40,000 square feet and one of the largest murals in the country. The ML King District Mural Project reinforces the critical role public art plays in lending a sense of place to a neighborhood, and it will contribute to future neighborhood beautification and economic development efforts. The images and people in the mural are inspired by real stories, individuals, and the history of the neighborhood.
Featured video: MLK Mural Project: The Process
Bessie Smith Center -Gateway to Freedom Exhibit
In partnership with the Bessie Smith Cultural Center and the Mary Walker Historical and Education Foundation, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park invites the public to view "Gateway to Freedom," an exhibit focusing on African American involvement in the Civil War, including local United States Colored Troops stationed in Chattanooga and their lasting legacy after the guns of war fell silent. This exhibit will be on display from February 1 –April 30, 2016, in the Chattanooga African American Museum located at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. The museum is open Monday –Friday, 10 am –5 pm. Admission is $7 per adult, $5 per student and seniors with ID,$3 per child, ages 6-12, and Free of Charge for children ages 5 and under. Group rates (10 or more) are also available. Please call the Bessie Smith Cultural Center at 423-266-8658 for additional information.
The MLK community reflects over 100 years of Chattanooga and African American history and commerce in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Since 1994, the community has been listed on the National Register as an area of great historical significance. Once known as the “Big 9,” MLK Boulevard (formerly Ninth Street) is the only remaining cohesive area historically associated with Chattanooga African Americans. The MLK historic district borders the city’s central business district and occupies five blocks between Houston and University streets.
Significance of MLK - The National Register listing states that the district is important “for the social role the community played in developing and supporting a black culture and society in southeast Tennessee.” The MLK area was mainly home to worker housing and simple bungalows, but it also provided stately houses for prominent citizens. A tradition of commerce, trade and services has been in place for over a century in the MLK area. E.O. Tade, one of the earliest African American entrepreneurs, is regarded as the Father of the Ninth Street community, and is one of many important characters from Chattanooga’s early history.
Other prominent African American figures were William “Uncle Bill” Lewis, Randolph Miller, G. W. Franklin, Roland Hayes and Bessie Smith.
After Chattanooga’s early trading post era, African Americans started to settle in the area. William Lewis was born a slave in Winchester, Tennessee in 1837. He built a thriving blacksmith shop in Chattanooga at the corner of 7th Street and Market. By the Civil War era, a few black families lived in the area. By the 1880s, it was an “identifiable black community.”
Randolph Miller, another former slave, became a well-known newspaper editor. After 1864, he came to Chattanooga and worked as a pressman for The Chattanooga Gazette and later The Chattanooga Times. In 1898, Miller started The Weekly Blade, a controversial publication for its day since it covered issues without hesitation. In 1894, G.W. Franklin became Chattanooga’s first black undertaker. Franklin was also a member of the National Negro Business League and President of the National Negro Funeral Directors Association.
Music has always played a strong role in the MLK area. Roland Hayes, born in Curryville, Georgia, moved to Chattanooga at the age of 13. Trained locally, he later gained international acclaim as a classical performer and artist. He began his professional career as a member of the Jubilee Singers (from Fisk University, a historically black university in Nashville, Tennessee). He is regarded as the first African American concert singer. In 1982, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga honored Hayes with the Roland W. Hayes Concert Hall in the Dorothy Patten Fine Arts Center.
In 1892, Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga. Long held as the “Empress of the Blues,” she grew up performing on the streets of Chattanooga with her brother, Andrew. As a way of earning money for their impoverished household, Smith and her brother Andrew began performing on the streets of Chattanooga as a duo, she singing and dancing, he accompanying on guitar; their preferred location was in front of the White Elephant Saloon at Thirteenth and Elm Streets in the heart of the city’s African-American community.