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May 13, 2001

What's Doing in Nashville

By KEVIN SACK

Chris Berkey for The New York Times
Frist Center for the Visual Arts.

Other Resources

Sights and Events
Belle Meade Plantation

Concerts at the Belle Meade Plantation

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Fan Fair

The Frist Center

Hotels
Hermitage Hotel

Hilton Suites Nashville Downtown

Loews Vanderbilt Plaza

Union Station


Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Maybelle and Helen Carter's guitar at Country Music Museum.


It 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 weeks.

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.

Events

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 www.fanfair.com.

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.

Sightseeing

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. Carter.

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: $14.95.

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 Continental breakfast.

Continued
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