- A. J. Samuels
Nashville may have a long way to go before garnering international acclaim as an American art destination, but new and exciting cultural phenomena are stirring in Tennessee’s capital. Many small galleries are making a common effort to promote the arts by participating in collective exhibitions and events specifically aimed at engaging the public. These are 11 of the best contemporary art galleries in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Arts Company
Founded in 1996, The Arts Company is a vital aspect of Nashville’s arts scene. Housed in a 6,000-square-foot historic building, The Arts Company is host to numerous artists; from Edward Belbusti to Brenda Buffett and Thornton Dial. The Company has built up strong rapports with many businesses in the area to sustain their high level of cultural work, and as a result, are able to put on 12 vastly varying exhibitions annually. These include the First Saturday Art Crawl Downtown, presented by 5th Avenue of the Arts on the first Saturday of every month. This is a collaborative exhibition between the art galleries and museums of Nashville. Monthly, the galleries open their doors to the public for free to create a shared appreciation of art and culture.
The Arts Company, 215 5th Ave N, Nashville, TN, USA, +1 615 254 2040
The Frist Center is one of the most important destinations for contemporary art in Nashville. Housed in a beautiful Art Deco building, the venue offers a new show every six to eight weeks, busying itself with displaying the works of local as well as international artists working across many media (renowned artist Vik Muniz, for example, exhibited his still life art of garbage materials). At the Martin ArtQuest gallery inside the Frist Center, the visitor becomes the artist – 30 stations are available for onlookers to create paintings, sketches, and collages – a learn-by-doing approach that will enrich anyone’s knowledge of artistic practices.
Frist Center, 919 Broadway, Nashville, TN, USA +1 615 244 3340
Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art
A former family mansion belonging to the Cheeks, who had built their wealth from marketing an especially favored blend of coffee, the Cheekwood Museum of Art’s permanent collection comprises exquisite examples of American and British decorative arts, as well as contemporary artworks by the likes of Andy Warhol and Larry Rivers. Unique to the museum is the 100-acre woodland surrounding the mansion; paths that run across the woods are dotted with sculptures by international contemporary artists, which together form a collection named the Carell Woodland Sculpture Trail. Nine beautiful botanical gardens are also part of the estate, each one characterized by its own arrangement and selection of plants and flowers. The blend of art and nature is a highly distinctive feature of Cheekwood, and makes it a must see destination in Nashville.
The Rymer Gallery
5th Avenue of the Arts is a group of art galleries located in downtown Nashville. Every first Saturday of the month, each gallery offers a reception or opening for a collective event: the First Saturday Art Crawl. The event is an opportunity for visitors to enjoy a wealth of amazing art in one place, as these galleries are all to be found on the same block in the center of Nashville’s Arts District. The Rymer Gallery is certainly sat the top of the pack; this space boasts a 30,000 square-foot location, and represents young, talented multimedia artists. At the heart of its mission lies the promotion of the artists represented; to this end, the gallery often participates in important national and international art fairs.
The Rymer Gallery, 5th Avenue North, Nashville, TN, USA +1 615 752 6030
Primarily a commercial gallery helping artists market their works to collectors and public venues, Tinney Contemporary also has an exhibition space and presents several shows throughout the year. The gallery prides itself on its unique selection of avant-garde contemporary artists that it brings to the public’s attention. Although it is open to all art forms, it often focuses on painters and artists working with mixed media. Among the gems of Tinney Contemporary’s portfolio are the paintings, prints and drawings of Peri Schwartz, a faithful student of color, light and shapes; the works of Bruce Munro, a British artist who chose light as his primary medium and creates striking light based installations; and Eric Zener, an exponent of contemporary realism in painting.
Tinney Contemporary, 237 5th Avenue North, Nashville, TN, USA, +1 615 255 7816
Zeitgeist Gallery debuted on Nashville’s art scene in 1994, and over the years has built a reputation as a space where both established and up-and-coming artists are welcome to explore their creative energy. The gallery also serves as the halfway point between the artists it represents and the collectors who will circulate their work. Represented artists include painters, sculptors, and photographers. On the side of its visual arts program of exhibitions, Zeitgeist gallery is home to Indeterminacies – a series of events where unusual and innovative local musicians present live performances. Writers, philosophers, and critics are also invited to spark a cross-disciplinary and unpredictable dialogue that is sure to offer inspiration at every note.
Zeitgest Gallery, 516 Hagan Street, Suite 100, Nashville, TN, USA, +1 615 256 4805
Located in downtown Nashville, Gallery One was founded in 2005, focusing on painting, sculpture, and works on paper. Gallery One has a regional scope of represented artists and strives to showcase emerging as well as established talents from the southeast region of the United States. Among them are Chris Segre Lewis, a Kentucky-based painter who highlights on his canvas the geometric shapes found in Western landscapes; Howard Hersh, an established and widely-exhibited painter whose works explore the relationships between art and nature; and Tomoo Kitamura, a Japanese sculptor known for the intriguing, organic forms which he handcrafts with ceramics.
Gallery One, 213 3rd Avenue North, Nashville, TN, USA +1 615 352 3006
Haynes Galleries carry the name of American artist and art collector Gary R. Haines. As it so often happens with galleries founded by collectors who have a clear artistic vision, the Haynes Galleries are characterized by a very strong identity. The galleries – in addition to the one in Nashville, there are two more venues in Franklin, Tennesse, and Thomaston, Maine – strictly focus on American Realism, an early 20th century artistic movement that straddled painting, literature, and music, and depicted both the good and bad of contemporary American society in a true-to-life way. Over the years, Gary Haynes has put together an excellent collection of works by American Realist painters such as David and Doug Brega, Everett Raymond Kinstler, and Peter Poskas.
Haynes Galleries, 1600 Division Street, Nashville, TN, USA +1 615 312 7000
Seed Space positions itself at the forefront of contemporary art practices, focusing on site-specific installations, sculpture, and performance-based arts. In the past, the gallery has showcased artists (such as Brad McCombs, Jack Ryan, Robbie Lynn Hungsinger, and others) who mostly create conceptually-driven works in the newest media. Much more than a gallery, Seed Space’s mission is to function as a center for debate and dialogue among local and national protagonists of the artistic community. To this end, art critics, curators, and professionals are often invited to the gallery to offer their opinion of the presented exhibitions, or engage in talks and lectures about the current state of the arts.
Smallest Art Gallery
27 inches (approximately 68 centimeters) wide and 37 inches tall, the Smallest Art Gallery is an exhibition space consisting of a single display case hung on a public wall. There is no admission for the gallery and no opening hours – all visitors have to do is get to 21st Avenue in the heart of Nashville’s Hillsboro Village at any time during the day for a look. It’s hard to believe, but this is a fully-functioning gallery with curators, a program of rotating, month-long exhibitions, and illumination powered by solar energy. In addition to being the smallest gallery in Nashville, Smallest Art Gallery is also one of the most eccentric and must-see art corners in the city.
Located in a two-floor, red brick building in the heart of Green Hills, the Bennett Galleries is a family-run exhibition space and business showcasing works – mostly paintings and sculptures – by both national and international artists. Bennett Galleries displays a somewhat modest yet still interesting selection of works, and deserves the attention of those looking to enrich their art collection. Worthy of note are James Garrett’s paintings of woods, made with polished Venetian plaster on board; the abstract compositions of Kris Prunitsch; and the elongated figures in Leszek Sokol‘s paintings.
Bennett Galleries, 2104 Crestmoor Road, Nashville, TN, USA +1 615 297 3201