Plumb out of Tennessee and nearly out of Georgia

Posted by | September 22, 2015

Up until the early 1970s, if you found yourself surrounded by Lookout Mountain’s crisp autumn air, steaming apple cider and hot gingerbread, handmade dolls, working craftspeople and sawdust trails through the woods punctuated by the pottery of Charles Counts and the woodblock prints of Fannie Mennen, you had probably landed smack in the middle of the annual Plum Nelly Clothesline Art Show.

pillow by Fannie Mennen, Plum Nelly GATrapunto Pillow (Plant) by Fannie Mennen.

Plum Nelly is not actually a town, but a sort of farm name. It is “Plum” out of Tennessee and “Nelly” out of Georgia. This two-acre crafts center in the New Salem community, located on a spur of Lookout Mountain, was owned by artist Fannie Mennen (1903-1995). And there she conducted her annual “clothes line” art show for 26 years starting in 1947.

The Chattanooga native did not consider herself an artist until after she had taught art in schools for many years. Stricken with polio in her first year of life, Fannie’s childhood years in the early 20th century were marked by many doctor visits, surgeries and long convalesces. Despite her physical handicaps, Fannie studied music and art at Peabody College in Nashville, TN.

For many years she assumed that she herself was not an artist, but nonetheless recognized how she naturally inspired others to do artwork. For thirty years she taught art in Chattanooga, and on weekends she would retreat to her studio/home in Rising Fawn, GA. In the quiet of Plum Nelly Fannie would paint watercolor pictures of the wildlife around her.

One Christmas, she and a group of artist friends decided to make linoleum block-print holiday cards. Fascinated by the possibilities in printmaking, Fannie knew she had found her medium. For the rest of her working life she was a prolific printmaker, depicting scenes and sayings of the rural mountains. Working from a wheelchair most of the time, Fannie was known for her tireless commitment to her work and the arts community.

In 1947, on the second weekend in October, she invited local artists to hold an outdoor art show at her home. Called the Plum Nelly Clothesline Art Show, it attracted 300 visitors the first year, raising money for a local bookmobile. In the following years it became enormously successful, attracting as many as 16,000 people up the winding roads to the perilous bluff for the two-day, outdoor event. The arts and crafts represented were some of the finest in the region, and the Clothesline Art Show did much to develop the art community around Chattanooga. Georgia’s New Salem Mountain Festival continues this tradition annually every fall, and is now held at the New Salem Community Center.


6 Responses

  • Alan George says:

    For many years I have owned and enjoyed a print by Fannie Mennen titled “Owl” 20”by 5″ the print is framed. I am interested in selling it; it is in wonderful condition. Anyone interested should contact me at

  • bobby mckeel says:

    i think i won 3rd prize in 47 or 48 when i was in 7th grade at northside jr high. how can i find out for sure?

  • Harry Abell says:

    Friends of Cloudland Canyon State Park is a 501c3 charity that provides volunteers and money to Cloudland Canyon State Park for maintenance and support.

    We are sponsoring “Mountain Arts and Crafts Celebration” on November 2 & 3 in the Group Shelter for the first time this year We hope to have this become an annual event. Cloudland Canyon State Park is located in Northwest Georgia near the Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia border.

    We have 12 indoor spaces and about the same outdoors. Any information or guidance you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

    Details for the event can be found on our website and click on the Upcoming Events tab.

  • Wayne Kelley, Sr says:

    Miss Mennen taught me art at Northside Jr. High in Chattanooga. I remember she would have something for us to draw and I remember several times as I moved around the room to get a good view of item she would say “I dare you.” This meant draw from this position. I was the only student for some time that she allowed to push her in her wheelchair to her car and at least once as I pushed her down the hall just out from the library she kept telling me to go faster and faster. And I did! Well, I was almost expelled for pushing her so fast but she came to my defense. I remember her well, her wit and her wonderful criticism of my work in class.

  • Paula L. McNeill says:

    I just got back to South Georgia from Chattanooga this afternoon. I lived in Chattanooga from 1959 to 1965-6th grade to senior in high school. Daddy took us to the Plum Nelly Clothesline Art Show sometime in the early 60s, I believe. The show in the fall woods made such a strong impression on me, now an art educator, that I wanted to make a pilgrimage to the site of the Plum Nelly art show site. I didn’t know anything about Ms Mennen at the time, but am now wondering if any institution has collected her papers and art works. As a former art teacher, Would she be part of the Chattanooga Public Schools records? We never located the Plum Nelly site. Any help in finding it will be appreciated.

  • Dave Tabler says:

    Paula, I bet you could start your search with the Southern Highland Craft Guild Library. Ms. Mennen joined that group from 1959 till her death, became a life member in 1983, and stayed active in it till her death in 1995. Here’s a blog post on her life & work from their blog:

Leave a Reply

+ 7 = 15

↑ Back to top

This collection is copyright ©2006-2018 by Dave Tabler. All visuals are used in accordance with the Fair Use Law (Per Title 17—United States Code—Section 107) and remain the property of copyright owners. Site Design by Amaru Interactive