t is rare enough
for a city the size of Nashville to be blessed with a single cultural
sensation in the course of a year. But with the opening this spring
of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and a new Country Music
Hall of Fame and Museum, Nashville had two such events in just six
The two projects exemplify Nashville's transformation from a
slightly sleepy, always quirky town into a striving city whose
sophistication increasingly matches its ambitions. Yet, as the two
openings illustrate, Nashville has maintained its coexistence of
garden club gentility and country western brassiness.
With a new stadium for its professional football team, the
Titans, a new arena for its National Hockey League Predators, and a
beautiful library that opens in June, Nashville's downtown has been
largely remade. The Frist's Art Deco exterior and colorful banners
give a finished look to Broadway, an undulating boulevard that
begins with the honky-tonks near the Cumberland River and travels
past the wonderful stone arches of the 1877 Customs House and the
1900 Union Station Hotel.
The Frist, in the former downtown post office, represents the
city's aspirations to diversify its cultural life. The city acquired
the building and made basic renovations and the Frist Foundation and
family have committed $30 million for further renovations and
operations. The architect, Seab A. Tuck 3rd, has preserved and
highlighted the original 1934 hardwood flooring and decorative metal
grillwork. Within the 24,000 square feet of exhibition space is an
orientation gallery and ArtQuest, an interactive demonstration of
principles of art.
The Hall of Fame, with a wall whose windows evoke piano keys, was
also designed by Mr. Tuck, and together the two museums make a
statement about the city's past and its future. By recounting the
origins of an authentically American art form, the Hall of Fame
reinforces the city's identity as a music capital and charts the
industry's evolution from back porch to Garth Brooks.
Fan Fair, the annual concert and autograph session for the
country music industry, is June 14 to 17. The 29-year-old festival
is moving the stars' autograph booths from the Tennessee State
Fairgrounds to the air-conditioned convention center and concerts to
Adelphia Coliseum, home of the Titans (among those scheduled to
appear are Billy Ray Cyrus, Trisha Yearwood and Travis Tritt). A
four-day pass ranges from $90 to $115 or $59 to $79 for those 18 and
under. They can be ordered from (800) 657-6910 or through
The Sunday night concerts staged on the grounds of Belle Meade
Plantation, 5025 Harding Road, southwest of downtown, are becoming a
Nashville tradition. This year's series of seven concerts begins
next Sunday with Roscoe Shelton and Earl Gaines, and runs through
August. Admission is $10, free for children under 12. Information:
www.jazzblues.org or (615) 386-7500.
The Opryland Hotel, 2800 Opryland Drive, (615) 889-1000, is
staging "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit" through Aug. 31. The show
features more than 300 objects — from teapots to bow ties —
recovered from the ill-fated luxury liner. The show is open daily.
Tickets cost $16.18 and $10.77 for children 4 to 11.
Many homes in Edgefield, one of Nashville's oldest neighborhoods,
open for the Historic Edgefield Tour of Homes, on June 9 and 10.
This area near Adelphia includes many stately Victorians and
craftsman bungalows. Hours: noon to 5 p.m. Admission: $10, including
bus transportation. Information: (615) 251-1438.
The Frist Center, 919 Broadway, (615) 244-3340,
www.fristcenter.org, opened on April 8 as a museum that will have no
permanent collection. Instead, it will use its endowment to attract
traveling shows and mount its own exhibitions. The headlining
inaugural exhibition is "European Masterworks: Paintings from the
Collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario," a show that includes
Tintoretto's expansive "Christ Washing His Disciples' Feet" and 94
other varied works by artists from Rembrandt to Hockney. It runs
until July 8.
A second exhibition, on view until March 10, is "An Enduring
Legacy: Art of the Americas From Nashville Collections." The Frist's
curators built an inventory of the art hanging in parlors, living
rooms and institutions about town. The resulting show, which
includes works by Winslow Homer, Georgia O'Keeffe, Diego Rivera and
Jackson Pollock, helps root the new museum to its city.
Coming exhibitions include "Modernism and Abstraction: Treasures
from the Smithsonian American Art Museum," July 20 to Sept. 9. The
museum is open daily. Admission is $6.50, 18 and under free.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, 222 Fifth Avenue
South, (615) 416-2001, www.countrymusichalloffame.com, opens its
splendid new home this Thursday. With 136,000 square feet, it is
more than four times the size of its predecessor. The centerpiece is
the Hall of Fame, a striking rotunda that honors Patsy Cline, Merle
Haggard and 72 others in the industry beneath the words "Will the
Circle Be Unbroken," the title of the country classic by A. P.
There are also exhibits like Elvis Presley's 1961 Cadillac, the
cornfield backdrop for the TV show "Hee Haw," and a signature Hank
Williams suit by Nudie Cohen, with musical notes up the sleeves and
legs. Besides the exhibition halls, which were designed by Ralph
Appelbaum, who worked on the Holocaust Memorial Museum in
Washington, there are several small theaters for films and live
performances. Academics can study more than one million artifacts
and virtually every country recording ever made. The museum is open
daily, including until 10 p.m. on Thursday. General admission:
Besides being a spot for concerts, Belle Meade, (615) 356-0501,
www.bellemeadeplantation.com, is perhaps the best-preserved of
Tennessee's antebellum plantations. It was long renowned as a
thoroughbred stud farm. The grounds include the 1853 Greek Revival
mansion and 10 outbuildings, among them an 1832 slave cabin. Guides
in 1860's dress provide tours daily. General admission, $10.
Where to Stay
The beautiful new Hilton Suites Nashville Downtown, 121 Fourth
Avenue South, (615) 620-1000, fax (615) 620-1001,
www.nashvillehilton.com, is surrounded by the Country Music Hall of
Fame and Museum, the Gaylord Entertainment Center, the Nashville Convention Center and the
Ryman Auditorium. Its 330 suites are elegantly appointed in
traditional fabrics, with refrigerators and microwaves, among other
amenities. It features the Palm Restaurant and a sports bar, an
indoor pool and a gym. Double rates are $149 to $219, including