Bessie Smith Cultural Center of Chattanooga

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Bessie Smith Strut

April 16th, 2014 by bsccadmin

The  legendary Bessie Smith Strut will take place on Monday, June 9th on  Martin Luther King Blvd. Each year the Strut features amazing people,  great food and live blues and R & B music on multiple stages. It’s  known as the largest block party where Chattanoogans come together and  everyone gets along.

Admission is $7 in advance (up until June 6)  without a Riverbend   pin/$10 day of festival without a Riverbend pin and $7 with your 2014   Riverbend pin. Service fees may apply. Tickets will be available for purchase soon. Check back to this web-site for updates.

Bright Ideas: African American Inventors

February 27th, 2014 by bsccadmin
The Bessie Smith Cultural Center is pleased to present “Bright Ideas: African American Inventors” in the museum galleries March 10 – June 14, 2014. Curated by John Edwards of the Mary Walker Foundation, “Bright Ideas: African American Inventors” is an exhibition that aims to highlight the contributions of African American inventors and enlighten and empower others, through knowledge and understanding of these inventors and their extraordinary accomplishments. The exhibit, made up of both panels and artifacts, features inventions that are part of everyday American life from Garret A. Morgan’s traffic light to Alfred C. Black’s ice cream scooper to the infamous super-soaker patented by Lonnie Johnson. The exhibition will showcase the offerings that African Americans have made to inventions that have contributed to the fields of aerospace, health care, communication, science, engineering, agriculture and transportation.

God’s Trombones

December 9th, 2013 by bsccadmin

The Creative Underground and Bessie Smith Cultural Center presents James Weldon Johnson’s God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse on Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 6:00 pm.

God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse is a 1927 book of poems patterned after traditional African American religious oratory. Johnson observed an absence of attention in folklore studies to what he called a “folk sermon,” then went on to describe its nature and specific examples from his memory:

“I remember hearing in my boyhood sermons that were current, sermons that passed with only slight modifications from preacher to preacher and from locality to locality. Such sermons were: ‘The Valley of Dry Bones,’ which was based on the vision of the prophet in the 37th chapter of Ezekiel; the ‘Train Sermon,’ in which both God and the devil were pictured as running trains, one loaded with saints, that pulled up in heaven, and the other with sinners, that dumped its load in hell; the ‘Heavenly March,’ which gave in detail the journey of the faithful from earth, on up through the pearly gates to the great white throne. Then there was a stereotyped sermon which had no definite subject, and which was quite generally preached; it began with the Creation, went on to the fall of man, rambled through the trials and tribulations of the Hebrew Children, came down to the redemption by Christ, and ended with the Judgment Day and a warning and an exhortation to sinners.”

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center or from any member of the Creative Underground beginning January 10, 2014.

The Fine Art of Jazz

December 9th, 2013 by bsccadmin

Fine Art of Jazz Opens at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center

The Bessie Smith Cultural Center along with Jazzanooga will celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month by hosting The Fine Art of Jazz, an exhibition showcasing the names and faces synonymous with the Kansas City tradition of American jazz. The exhibition will  run through May 24, 2014 in our museum galleries.

Charlie Parker. Pete Johnson. Mary Lou Williams. Count Basie. Jay McShann. Booker Washington.

These and many more musicians and vocalists associated with Prohibition-era jazz found a welcome home in Kansas City nightclubs, bustling with crowds eager for the entertainment. The Roaring 20s saw local and out-of-town musicians forge a distinctive Kansas City style of jazz as they enjoyed the camaraderie of all-night jam sessions with boisterous, noisy clubs as the backdrop. Many of the musicians who got their start in Kansas City’s jazz hub became household names across the nation in the 1930s and 1940s as jazz exploded in popularity, but the genesis of the movement also left its mark forever on the Kansas City music scene. Today the tradition jams on, with clubs across the city featuring jazz nightly.

It is this mixture of activity, tenacity and nostalgic charm that moved Pulitzer Prize winner Dan White to spend almost 20 years photographing and interviewing renowned jazz musicians.

“I began photographing jazz musicians in 1987, hoping to create a visual record of these talented artists and to help preserve Kansas City’s tradition as a birthplace of jazz,” White says. “I’d been listening, watching and talking to those in the local jazz scene for quite some time. They were very open to passing along their knowledge and traditions with anyone who shared their love of the music; I wanted to capture some of this feeling before it slipped away. Players like Rusty Tucker, Speedy Huggins, Milt Abel and Pearl Thuston. They had a certain sound. When they were on, there was nothing like it. I’ve shot more than 50 portraits of these players and singers over the past twenty years. It’s a good feeling to have captured part of Kansas City’s history.”

The result of White’s work is a series of  50 black-and-white portraits of Kansas City jazz musicians and vocalists, complete with commentary from exhibition curator Chuck Haddix, co-author of Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to BeBop – A History.

The exhibition is organized and toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance. ExhibitsUSA sends more than 20 exhibitions on tour to more than 100 small- and mid-size communities each year. Mid-America is the oldest nonprofit regional arts organization in the United States. More information is available at and

Photo credit:

Dan White, Elmer Price, 1989, archival print, 24 x 24 inches, courtesy the artist. © Dan White.

PURCHASE 30th Anniversary tickets HERE!!!!

November 14th, 2013 by bsccadmin

Purchase tickets for the Bessie Smith Cultural Center’s 30th Anniversary Luncheon to be held on Tuesday, February 4, 2014, 11:30 am at the Doubletree Hotel with guest speaker Judy Smith by clicking HERE or copy and paste the following link:

Museum Hours

Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, Noon to 4 p.m.
Sunday, Closed

Admission Information