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Nashville: More than Music

Gallery One, Nashville.

By Bobbie Leigh

You go to Nashville to listen to music, every night, every  chance you can get.  The music  world  is energetic, fun, and chock full of talent.  But don’t neglect the art scene which is just as vital.  The city even has its own art publication,  the monthly Nashville Arts  Magazine, which showcases galleries, local artists, and  museums.

The Frist Center for the  Visual Arts in  downtown Nashville  is the cultural art heart of the city. It sets the pace  and draws  in  crowds  with music, tours, lectures, films,  and panel discussions.  In just ten years, it has become  a symbol of the  city’s  support  of the visual arts.

Frist Center.

A former post office, this 1934  Art Deco building is  ideal for displaying art works. The huge, high-ceiling rooms where postal workers sorted the mail are a perfect setting for  art exhibitions.   It is spacious enough  for large shows without crowding. Extensively renovated, it now has a café, gift shop,  and a busy calendar of  music in the courtyard and concerts  in the great hall. The current show is a loan exhibition, “The Birth of Impressionism, Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay,”  on view through January 23, 2011.  The Frist  does not have a permanent collection, but   it hosts  blockbuster exhibitions from London, Paris, and American Museums that are guaranteed to attract large crowds. The Frist also curates its own exhibitions.  “Vishnu: Hinduism’s Blue-skinned Savior,” a Frist curatorial project will be on display Feb 20-May 20 before heading for the Brooklyn Museum in June.

Nashville is serious about making art —not just music —a part of its citizens’  lives. The Nashville Association of Art Dealers (NAAD) hosts a monthly citywide event with art galleries and museums opening their doors and in some case, presenting art walks and discussions.   The Tennessee State Museum hosts a yearly show ,“Best of Tennessee,”  showcasing the work of  state artists  who win a juried competition.   The work is extremely varied with an outstanding number of landscapes.

Nashville’s  eclectic art galleries for the most part  are spacious, airy, well lit, and  numerous.  Just about every type of  media from textiles to photography are represented along with  painting and sculpture.   What’s new to the city is a growing spirit of cooperation among  gallerists who are working together to encourage interest in the visual arts.   With funds and  shows, they support  the growing number of  local artists who  live here  and are drawn to the energy and youthful vitality of the city.

The Arts Company

Here are some favorite galleries well worth checking out

Gallery One, Contemporary Fine Art in the  Belle Meade Gallery. Jeff Faust who describes his work as “subtle surrealism” is  a leading talent. Another is  landscape painter Henry Isaacs.  Three galleries  located between Church and Union  show  contemporary work –especially installation and  mixed-media art.  The Arts Company , the Rymer Gallery, and Tinney Contemporary all play a major role in the city’s buzzy art scene and the Saturday Art Crawl scheduled throughout the year. The  LeQuire Gallery sponsors annual “New Figurative Artists” exhibition featuring  well-trained artists who interpret the human figure  with technical and emotional accuracy.  The paintings are intensely personal, especially those of  Joshua Bronaugh.

For a breather, walk through the Cheekwood  Botanical Gardens and check out  the art work in the museum.   And since it’s Nashville, the absolute  musical  must is  a night at  the  songwriters’  gathering place, the Bluebird Cafe. Check out the schedule and remember to make a reservation online. The café is small, only 20 tables, but the musicians who meet there informally and decide on the spur of the moment what they will play are among the most talented in the city.   For more  information, go to www.visitmusiccity.com.

Bobbie Leigh has written for many national publications including The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, and Departures. Currently she is a New York correspondent for Art & Antiques.

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1 Comment

  1. January 10, 2011 at 11:23 pm — Reply

    The Renaissance Center is just 35 minutes from downtown Nashville in Dickson, TN and has some of the best art in the state, including permanent collections. We’re about to open five new exhibits this week and also house the Tennessee Artisan Market – the state’s central location for art, fine crafts and handmade goods exclusively from Tennessee artisans. Our mission is to provide a place where young and old alike can experience a “renaissance” of art and creativity.

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