Cross the creek to experience Liquidambar Art Gallery and studios located in the magical heart of the Sequatchie Valley, just 45 minutes from Chattanooga.
Enjoy a visual feast of art made here in our studios featuring ceramics, flameworked glass and metal ornaments and sculptures, kaleidoscopes, gelatin monotype prints, original paintings in a variety of media, and more. While you are here, visit our gardens, greenhouse, and hand-crafted buildings made of rock, logs, clay, and straw, powered by the sun. Hike on marked mountain trails, through 350 acres protected by the Land Trust of Tennessee.
The Liquidambar Art Gallery is a natural extension of the work of Sequatchie Valley Institute. Our hand-crafted passive-solar gallery is built with sustainably harvested wood which is milled on site. The art exhibited in the gallery is created by S.V.I. residents and local artists. A percentage of all sales supports the educational programs of S.V.I.
We are currently open Saturdays and Sundays. Times vary with the season. Additional open days (along with special events such as guided hikes, wine tastings, and workshops) will be announced here and on our Facebook page. You may also visit by appointment.
Dress for adventure!
The Reason for the Name
When our family, Johnny, Carol, Patrick, and Joel Kimmons, moved here in 1971, the 300 acres we now own were completely untouched. There was no way to cross the creek except by foot. The area where Liquidambar is now was an impenetrable thicket of shrub, thorns, poison ivy, and young sweetgum trees.
With brush hooks and machetes, we slowly cleared enough area for gardens and our first rough house. We named it Sweetgum. It was our home while we built our dream house, Moonshadow, half way up the mountain. Soon after moving to Moonshadow, we lost Sweetgum to fire.
Carol’s mother, Nona, needed a comfortable home, so we decided to rebuild. Sweetgum 2 was contractor-built using plans for a round passive solar house found in Mother Earth News. In the 90’s, Johnny’s mother came to live with us, and we built a house attached to Sweetgum 2, which was, of course, Sweetgum 3! The upstairs of this structure was built for a caregiver and also as a climate controlled office and studio. Large insulated windows provided passive solar heating and lighting.
Carol’s mother passed away, then Johnny’s mother — just short of 100 years of age. This left the houses available for our family, an S.V.I. office, and, now, the new art gallery. In honor of our sweetgum past, we gave the gallery the scientific name for the sweetgum tree: Liquidambar.
This name has an interesting history. The earliest known published record of Liquidambar is in a work by Spanish naturalist, Francisco Hernández in 1651, in which he describes the species as a large tree producing a fragrant gum resembling liquid amber, whence the name Liquidambar. This name was established as the genus name of the tree by Linnaeus in 1753, again referring to the sweet gum that oozes from the bark, now often used as a form of chewing gum by kids.
The sweetgum is a beautiful tree, with star-shaped, sweetly resinous leaves and spiky balls that resemble the biohazard symbol. They are very durable and used as decorations. Tiny aborted seeds inside the balls contain shikimic acid, a compound used to synthesize Tamiflu, a drug for the flu. Genetically modified bacteria are now used for this purpose—but bacteria make lousy decorations.
Sweetgum grows rapidly and is one of the first trees to re-colonize areas that have been cleared or burned. The wood is second only to oaks among the hardwoods for production, and is used for barrels, cabinets, plywood, and more. The gum has been used traditionally as a medicine for sore throats, coughs, diarrhea, and wounds. The inner bark was a folk remedy for cholera. The autumn leaves develop a variety of flaming brilliant colors, sometimes described as a conflagration!
Truly this is a magnificent tree to represent the unique art of our gallery.
— Carol and Johnny Kimmons
Directions to Sequatchie Valley Institute
and Liquidambar Art Gallery:
The Gallery at S.V.I. is located just off Rte. 28 on Cartwright Loop, halfway between Dunlap (to the North) and Whitwell (to the South), in the Sequatchie Valley, about 45 minutes’ to 1 hour’s drive north of Chattanooga.
From Chattanooga: There are 4 possible routes. If you are unfamiliar with the area, #2 is easiest. From downtown, #4 is fastest. #3 is slowest unless you live on Signal Mt. #1 is good if you live in the Hixson area.
- From 27N, past Soddy Daisy, exit onto Hwy 111, the Dunlap exit, between Soddy-Daisy and Dayton. Cross the mountain. Take the off ramp at the intersection with 127 and turn left. Drive through Dunlap. At the last traffic light, take the right fork, Rte. 28 (toward Whitwell). You will pass the public schools on the right. Travel 7 miles (from the intersection) to Cartwright Loop (just past a small store), and turn right. See below. Or:
- Take I-24 toward Nashville. Take Exit 155, Dunlap and Whitwell (Grandview Hosp. exit) onto Rte. 28. Continue on Rte. 28 for 18 miles (north) from the exit. Turn left on Cartwright Loop, just after Cartwright Garage. See below. Or:
- Take 127 across Signal Mt. to Dunlap. Turn sharp left onto Rte. 28 at the 1st light. Pass the public schools on the right and go 7 miles to Cartwright Loop (just past a small store), and turn right. See below. Or:
- lf you know the area you may also turn left off Signal Mt. Road (past Walmart) onto Suck Creek Road then continue on to cross the ridge at Suck Creek. Go straight to Whitwell (big intersection, gas station, traffic light) then turn right toward Dunlap on Rt. 28. We are about 8 miles north of Whitwell off Rt. 28. After entering Sequatchie County, watch for Cartwright Garage, then turn left on Cartwright Loop. See below.
From Dunlap: We are located just off Rt. 28 near Cartwright, between Whitwell and Dunlap. It will take about 20 min. from Dunlap or Whitwell. Take Rt. 28 (passes by the schools and Tractor Supply) south toward Whitwell. Travel 7 miles from the schools to Cartwright Loop, just past a small store. Turn right on Cartwright Loop just before Cartwright Automotive. See below.
From Nashville: Take I-24 from Nashville south toward Chattanooga. Take Exit 155, Dunlap and Whitwell (Grandview Hosp. exit) onto Rte. 28. Continue on Rte. 28 for 18 miles (north) from the exit. You will pass through Whitwell. Turn left on Cartwright Loop, just after Cartwright Garage. See below
After turning on Cartwright Loop, go 0.7 miles to a black mailbox on the right, #1233, and an S.V.I. sign. Turn right and park in the parking area. Walk across the creek or bridge to the houses. Liquidambar Art Gallery is the one with the large windows to the left.
If you get lost or cannot find anyone at the gallery, call us at:
(423) 949-4598, (423) 949-5922, or cell (404) 698-5444.