When I went to Nashville in May for the digitalNow conference, I expected to be wowed by Nashville’s music scene, but I was blown away by the art that surrounded me everywhere I went. I wasn’t expecting that.

I can think of no better way to recharge your brain than to spend some time enjoying art. Any kind of art will do but all you have to do to feast your eyes on some visual art is to stroll through the halls of the Music City Center or cross the street and wander through the Omni.

Most hotels have thematic bland art in their public areas, hallways and rooms. Not the Omni. But then again most hotels don’t have an art curator like the Omni does. Half of the Omni’s 350-piece collection is by Nashville artists and 75% of it is by Tennessee artists. Everywhere you go throughout the hotel, even in the spa and restaurants, you’ll come upon music-inspired art. For a preview, check out this Nashville Arts article and this Omni blog post.

But you don’t even have to cross the street to get a bit of bliss, although you should. The Music City Center has a 128-piece (and growing!) art collection with all but five works by Tennessee artists. Every staff person I encountered on my tour of the Center had a favorite piece. And they’re labeled with QR codes so you can learn more about your favorites.

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“Nudie Suit Series” by Dolan Geiman in the Omni Hotel

After the conference, on Tuesday afternoon, August 12 from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., you can really get your art on with the ASAE tour, The Flip Side: Exploring Nashville’s Art Scene. One of the stops on the tour is the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, a fantastic art museum housed in an old art deco post office.

The Frist doesn’t have a permanent collection. Instead it organizes and brings exhibitions to Nashville. The curators like setting up conversations between exhibitions. For example, when I was there, you could walk from Goya’s Disasters of War down the hall to Steve Mumford’s War Journals – watercolors of recent wars that reminded me a bit of Homer’s Civil War watercolors. Both were powerful exhibits.

While we’re in Nashville, the Frist has a few exhibitions worth checking out.

  • Watch Me Move: The Animation Show – If you have limited time, this is the exhibit to see. It covers 120 years of animated imagery starting with early film experiments and moving on to Disney classics and computer-based animation.
  • Country star Marty Stuart’s photographs of fellow musicians, celebrities and regular folks will be a pleasant surprise if you can steal a bit more time for art. The show, American Ballads: The Photographs of Marty Stuart, heads to the Smithsonian and the Metropolitan Museum of Art later this year.
  • The writer in me is interested in seeing Maira Kalman’s show featuring the paintings she used to illustrate an edition of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.
  • And there’s an exhibit from the Whitney Museum of American Art, Real/Surreal.

Hatch Show Print, one of America’s oldest letter-press print shops and located inside the Omni, is another stop on the ASAE tour. Hatch does all the posters for the Ryman Auditorium – you can see some of them in the back corridor of the Ryman. Walk down the hall past the Omni reception desk, past the gift shop and you’ll come upon large windows on the right that let you look into the studio. Check out the Hatch gift shop too. Here’s a tip for meeting planners: if you have a meeting in Nashville, you can work with Hatch to create a commemorative poster for your event.

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A selection of Hatch Show Print posters

The ASAE tour also visits the 5th Avenue of the Arts – a group of 15-20 art galleries in downtown Nashville.

Are you into puppets? That’s a serious question. The Nashville Public Library has the largest city-owned puppet collection in the world. You’re wondering by now how I know these things, I know.

An Andy Warhol show, Flowers, is at Cheekwood. The Cheeks are the family behind Maxwell House, once a local brand. Their estate is now home to art and gardens. The Warhol exhibit explores his use of floral images throughout his career.

If you’re in Nashville on Friday or Saturday, check out the free 11th Annual Tomato Art Fest – “a celebration of the beloved fruit/vegetable” – in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood. Highlights include a costumed parade, an exhibition of tomato-focused art by more than 200 artists, live music, and tomato contests like the Tomato Haiku Contest, Tomato Toss, Bloody Mary Competition, Biggest-Littlest-Ugliest Tomato Contest, and a pet fashion show. How can you resist?

This is the eight in a series of posts about Nashville for ASAE Annual Meeting attendees. Thanks to the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation, I received complimentary registration and accommodations during the 2014 digitalNow conference – giving me an excuse to spend more of my money on Southern food and craft cocktails.

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