Major Remodeling For The Bessie Smith During COVID Shutdown

Photo – Darrell and Gloria Freeman Foundation donates to the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. The Bessie Smith Plans To Use The Donation To Upgrade The Technology In The Chattanooga African American Museum.

Photo Credit – Image Courtesy of Facebook

Chattanooga, TN – The Bessie Smith Cultural Center is going to remain shut down amid rising Covid-19 cases, and they are going to use the time to go through a major remodel. During this shut down, they are going to update their displays as well as remodel the main space.

The main museum space has always been used to tell “the true story of Chattanooga African American history and allowing every individual the opportunity to walk the path from slavery to civil rights to today’s current events,” and a recent news release states it will continue to do that.

The team at The Bessie has asked the Chattanooga community, as well as artists, creators, and funders to provide input in order to prepare for the remodel.

In March, the Mayor of Chattanooga, Andy Berke issued an executive order that meant many local businesses, including The Bessie, had to shut down. Recently, The Tivoli Theater and other businesses reopened their doors for just a few weeks before Covid cases began to spike again.

However, The Bessie Smith Cultural Center remained closed, and it is likely they will keep their doors closed for weeks, even months, to come. Those in charge at The Bessie, as well as many of their partners, are eager to take advantage of this time.

In the recent news release, Bessie Smith Cultural Center board chairman, Yusuf Hakeem, said, “The Bessie is a community jewel that will always be cherished. Through the continued support of our partners, this organization will continue to enlighten the world on the richness and brilliance that has been a result of the African American experience in Chattanooga. These projects are an amazing opportunity for us to share ourselves with the world.”

The Bessie makeover will happen in two different phases. After Phase One is complete, the cultural center will have new displays, virtual interactive kiosks, a children’s education corner, and more historical information. Phase One will cost around $300,000 and it is being made possible through donations, as well as many of The Bessie’s partners.

Phase Two is when the major renovations will begin, and it will start with expanding the Vilma Fields Atrium. They will also be adding more exhibits dedicated to African-American entertainers who are from Chattanooga, including, The Impressions, Samuel L. Jackson, Usher, Russell Goode, Roland Carter and Roland Hayes. All of the exhibits are meant to take visitors on a journey through history to the present day.

During the pandemic, The Bessie Smith Cultural Center has been looking for donations and partners to help fund the renovation. The Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union is one such partner that is excited for the remodel to get started.

In the news release, the president of TVFCU Todd Fortner said they are “honored to play a role in preserving and celebrating African American History and Culture in Chattanooga. As a credit union focused on innovation, we are especially excited about the interactive video technology that is going to be utilized at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center following renovation.”

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