OWNER OF THE ARTS COMPANY, ANNE BROWN, HAS BEEN A DOMINANT FORCE IN NASHVILLE’S ART SCENE FOR DECADES.
Written By: Liza Graves & Elizabeth Fox
Photographers: Ashley Hylbert
Anne Brown, owner of The Arts Company, has been a dominant force in Nashville’s art scene for decades. She is a strong voice and proponent for visual art being a part of public life. As a city, we have benefited from Anne’s vision and we are proud to have her as our FACE of Nashville this month.
You have been working to build the Nashville art scene for several decades. Is there any one thing that you can point to as a pivotal recent moment for the arts in Nashville?
Virginia Woolf observed that “Somewhere on or about December 1910, human nature changed.” In Nashville, I would echo that by saying “Somewhere around 2000, the arts in Nashville changed.” Major public institutions opened in proximity to each other in downtown Nashville—all within a five-year span on either side of the new century. We are all building on that momentum. Visual art is now a part of the public life in Nashville.
How has 5th Avenue changed since you opened up The Arts Company in 1996?
In every way. From a dark and scary street by night, dirty and empty by day. We were surrounded by empty buildings—all dark at night. We were the only artistic action on the street. Now we are surrounded by some 15 to 20 other galleries, restaurants with crowded outdoor dining—open every night of the week—a new streetscape in one block, with curtains of lights crossing the street and on all night, anchored by an official historic marker on the corner designating this as an official art district…with lots more in the planning stages.
Is supporting art in the South different from other areas of the country?
Yes, decorative art has prevailed in the South historically. Only in very recent years is that mindset changing about the role of contemporary art expression as a valued part of a lively community—as an asset to business, to the community identity, and as a way to add value to one’s personal life. Modern art museums, galleries, and working studio artists are significant public assets. With an influx of folks from other parts of the world, Southern cities are beginning to change.
Is there a quote or piece of advice that you have relied on that you can share with our readers today?
There is a brief section of an Ezra Pound poem that I have relied on for comfort, wisdom, and insight: “Nothing matters but the quality of the affection—in the end—that has carved the trace in the mind where memory lives.” I keep learning from that image. It is concise and unambiguous.
What are a few songs that would be on your playlist when entertaining?
Selections from Louis Armstrong, Beegie Adair, Leontyne Price, and Stéphane Grappelli
Tell us one thing that people might be surprised to learn about you.
Professionally, I love to make things happen, to try something new. Personally, [I love] great reading and great conversation and time to indulge in both.
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