Nashville: More than Music
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.
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.
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.