This month marks the 10th anniversary of one of Nashville’s most popular visual art events, the First Saturday Art Crawl downtown. If you’ve been around the Nashville art scene at all in recent years, you have most likely ventured down 5th Avenue of the Arts to attend a crawl or two.
Since it launched a decade ago, the First Saturday Art Crawl has grown exponentially, becoming one of the most visible and well-attended art events in the city.
In August 2006, the inaugural art crawl featured just a handful of galleries: The Arts Company, TAG (now Tinney Contemporary), and the now-defunct Twist and Dangenart in the Arcade. Now the event boasts dozens of venues in the area, drawing thousands of visitors each month.
“It has become part of the overall Music City brand,” said Arts Company owner Anne Brown. “Ten years ago, The Arts Company had been the only gallery on the block for the previous decade. It was an urban desert. Today, there are packed coffee houses and new restaurants with lines out the doors, dozens of residents living in lofts on the street, along with iconic historic venues, including the Arcade.”
The Arts Company Building located on 5th Avenue of the Arts. (Photo: Bob Schatz)
“The exponential growth in downtown Nashville has been quite surprising,” said Susan Tinney, who owned TAG Gallery with business partner Jerry Dale McFadden before opening Tinney Contemporary in the same space.
“Much of this is a result of the new convention center and the many out-of-town visitors exploring the art galleries within walking distance of their hotels,” she said. “But also, local people are becoming more interested in collecting contemporary art in their own city.”
Spearheaded by architect Ron Gobbell, the 5th Avenue of the Arts concept sprang from the proximity of The Arts Company, Ryman Auditorium, The Country Music Hall of Fame and Tennessee Performing Arts Center.
“I hoped it would be a place where I could feed my art buying habit, see art, see people who liked art and serve as a redevelopment stimulus for Fifth Avenue,” said Gobbell. “Downtown Partnership bought into the idea and let me put together a committee to work on it. It died several deaths before it got traction in ’06.”
Gobbell said the project has turned out better than they thought it would.
“The continued success of the crawl is amazing,” he said. “The creativity energy of the gallery owners, along with the support of Metro and The Downtown Partnership continues, keep it fresh and going strong.”
Art crawls have popped up in other Nashville neighborhoods in recent years. Wedgewood-Houston, East Nashville, Franklin, Germantown and now Jefferson Street all host monthly art events.
With no signs of slowing down, the future looks bright for the downtown crawl.
“Today, the art crawl is focused on Fifth Avenue. In the future it’s going to be an event that stretches across downtown,” said Brown. “The numbers will increase with the opening of the 21c Museum Hotel just two blocks away, the new Tennessee State Museum underway, and even more galleries and more public art, murals and related activities throughout downtown.”
“The residents of Nashville are quickly becoming more sophisticated and appreciative of the aesthetic value and investment value of contemporary art in their lives,” said Tinney.
If you go
What: 10th anniversary of the First Saturday Art Crawl
Where: 5th Avenue of the Arts between Church and Union
Hours: 6-9 pm
Art crawl highlights
This Saturday, art crawls will be happening on Fifth Avenue downtown and in Wedgewood-Houston. Here are a few highlights from each:
On 5th Avenue of the Arts, The Arts Company debuts its annual Avant-Garage Sale & Collectors Art Exchange, a one-week exhibit featuring artworks offered again to the public through private collections.Tinney Contemporary will open "A Decade in the Making," a two-part exhibition commemorating the gallery’s 10th anniversary. At Rymer, artist L.A. Bachman has a solo show titled "Continuing Husk."
In Wedgewood-Houston, Zeitgeistwill host a one-night live performance and video installation by Brent Stewart and Willie Stewart. David Lusk Gallery opens its annual "Price Is Right" exhibition featuring work under $1,000 from 35 artists. Julia Martin Gallery opens a joint show by Emily Holt and Delia Seigenthaler. Channel to Channel will spotlight Knoxville painter Eleanor Aldrich, while Mild Climate brings in Vancouver artist Barry Doupé. Painter Viki Mammina will exhibit 30 original paintings at The Refinery in Houston Station.
by Sara Estes, For The Tennessean 11:55 a.m. CDT July 31, 2016