Explore Nashville’s Arts District at the First Saturday Art Crawl

As the city known for its music, Nashville is developing a new reputation for its flourishing arts district. 5th Avenue of the Arts is transforming into the visual arts center of Nashville’s historic downtown entertainment district, highlighted every month with the First Saturday Art Crawl. IMG_2191

This is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the latest exhibitions by emerging and legendary artists. The first Saturday of the month from 6-9 p.m. an alliance of 20 galleries along 5th Avenue of the Arts and Church Street Arcade open their doors to throngs of over 1,500 art aficionados. On display in the intriguing blend of restored historic buildings is an art lover’s smorgasbord of fresh, original and contemporary artwork in photography, painting and sculpture. IMG_2199

This is a casual affair. Crowds of all ages wander through the galleries taking in a healthy dose of culture while sipping on complimentary glasses of wine served by many of the larger galleries. It’s almost as much fun people-watching as it is browsing the wonderful exhibits that change every month. In the street, recently expanded sidewalks accommodate diners and entertainers. IMG_2187 A jazz ensemble plays in the moonlit evening, while a nearby juggler shows his skill as a fire-eater. The whole mood is festive.

IMG_2207While browsing the avant-garde diversity of exhibits, you can enjoy the rare opportunity to meet and chat with many of the artists. On occasions like this, you never know what surprises may lie in store.

In a small exhibit room of The Rymer Gallery I met Paula Williamson. I followed her gaze over the collection of acrylic paintings on display. “These are all done by clients at Open Arms Care,” she explained. “They all have intellectual or developmental disabilities. One that doesn’t have much mobility or any mobility, I’m their hands.”

IMG_2186I looked at the paintings with new eyes.

“I don’t teach anything,” Paula said modestly. “I just follow what they tell me to do. I stretch the canvas and make the frames. I’ll put a laser beam on their forehead and they’ll point to the colors of paint they want. They tell me how to mix it and if they want me to paint with a brush, a fork or a sponge.”

Open Arms Care is a non-profit organization in Nolensville, committed to helping people with disabilities reach their maximum potential and lead meaningful lives. “I’ve learnt how to pull the talent out of people,” said Paula. “When they’ve finished it’s wonderful to see the excitement on their faces.”

Attending the art crawl, it’s apparent the intent is for people to experience the unexpected. And that’s half the fun of exploring Nashville’s thriving arts district.

IMG_2204If you get a little tired from all the walking, a free shuttle, provided by Nashville Downtown Partnership, makes frequent stops to galleries on the periphery of 5th Avenue.

Do you have a favorite Nashville art gallery? 

Hi! I’m Dayle Fergusson. As a transplanted Aussie living in Middle Tennessee since 1986, I have been a freelance travel...Read on

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