Way back in November, when the Delta and Omicron variants were still wreaking havoc on the world, we made plans to see the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit Nashville, hoping that it would be safe to attend by April. And it was! Being fully vaxxed and boosted, we set off on the 6 hour drive from Southwest Virginia to The Music City. “The Fisk Jubilee singers from Nashville’s Fisk University and Queen Victoria most often get the credit for the city’s nickname”, but it was about 50 years later, in the 1920s, as WSMs Grand Ole Opry gained popularity, that the nickname began to take hold.
We arrived in the early evening and went straight to Centennial Park. This 132-acre park features the iconic Parthenon, the world’s only exact-size and detail replica of the original temple in Athens, Greece. “When Tennessee celebrated its 100th year of statehood in 1897 with the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, Nashville took advantage of its nickname “Athens of the South” and built the Fine Art Building as a copy of Athens’ most famous building and the epitome of Greek classical architecture”
I’ve now seen the Parthenon twice but only from the outside. “Since the 1930s, the Parthenon has continued to host changing art exhibitions in its galleries and to educate both Nashvillians and visitors about the legacy of the ancient Greeks and their impact on American civilization”. Someday, I’ll plan the time to go inside and really learn the history and see the interior exhibits.
A very pleasant surprise, thanks to Greg, was finding the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument, also located in Centennial Park. Nashville artist Alan LeQuire created the monument which was dedicated in May of 2020, one hundred years after women gained the right to vote. The gorgeous monument depicts the 72-year suffrage struggle which culminated with victory. It is worth noting that less than 10% of all monuments throughout the US feature women.
The next morning, we made our way to the event center to be immersed in Van Gogh. The exhibit was such a powerful and moving experience. Worth every penny spent and every mile traveled. Set to a wonderful selection of music, the video projection of the artist’s work revealed the talent and the tragedy. We were literally surrounded by Van Gogh’s art as you can see by the photo of our feet.
People walked around, sat on benches, or on the floor in identified, socially distanced spots. The patterns on the floor changed based on the work being shown at the time. 500,000 Cubic Feet Of Projections, 60,600 Frames Of Video, and 90,000,000 Pixels offers the opportunity to experience art in a new way, one that is welcoming to all. We watched the exhibit three times, moving around from space to space, seeing something different each time.
I’d love to hear from those of you who saw the exhibit in another city.
After lunch, we worked our way downtown to see the historic Ryman Auditorium. The words from the website are better than any I might write: This place is hallowed ground. This is the exact spot where bluegrass was born—where Johnny Cash met June Carter, where souls were saved and a slice of history was nearly lost. It was right here that country music found an audience beyond its own back porch, and countless careers took off as deals were signed on napkins and paper scraps backstage.
We took the self-guided tour – watched all the videos, read all the plaques, followed all the timelines. Greg bought me a Chocolate Moon Pie, which as it turns out, I did not enjoy, and even let me take a total tourist photo of him. If you are a lover of old country music, you know, before the “bro trend” as Reba calls it, you must visit!
“You know, ‘Hey bro, let’s go down to the river and catch some fish.’ And everybody’s ‘good ol’ boys’ and that’s the ‘bro music.’ I would really like it to get back to the real strong country. The country of Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Ronnie Milsap, Mel Tillis. I miss that kind of country.” – Reba McEntire
We spent the rest of the day exploring some of the downtown area. There is a six block segment of Broadway that has turned into a mini Vegas / New Orleans combo. Lot’s of partying in the streets, bar after bar filled with music and people, and many a party bus going by. Nashville has evidently become the “go to” destination for batchelorette weekends.
We would love to return to explore the Cumberland River walking paths, the myriad of other museums, university campuses and restaurants, and to hear some live music. Much has changed since I visited 10 years ago. If interested, check out this link from that visit to see some of the incredible architecture of this city. You will also see how much my photography has improved (thankfully!).
If you do visit, be sure to take some time to walk over the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge to capture some great views of the city. The final two images were taken from Denim restaurant on the 21st floor of The Joseph, a hotel where we might stay someday if we win the lottery 🙂
Until next time, so long Nashville!