Singing the Praises of Nashville’s Decorative Arts: An Enjoyable Symposium in the Music City

May 31, 2024

Nashville may be known for its long-standing influence in the music industry, but did you know that Middle Tennessee also boasts a deep and varied history of decorative art traditions?

During the Decorative Arts Trust’s Spring 2024 Symposium, members delved into the design, craft, and architecture of this captivating region.

Pre-Symposium Tour Follows the Cumberland 

Tracing the Cumberland River beyond Nashville, our Pre-Tour ventured to sites in Sumner and Davidson Counties on Wednesday, April 17, and Thursday, April 18. The first morning included expert-led tours of the 1794 Neoclassical treasure Rock Castle and the early-1800s, Tidewater-influenced Hawthorn Hill. After a delectable lunch at Cragfont, the group toured the grand 1798 Georgian house. The afternoon included visits to the 1828 log structure Wynnewood, the c. 1850 Neoclassical Oakland, and the mid-1800s Palladian-Greek Revival blend Rose Mont. On Thursday, the group traveled to Belle Meade, a 19th-century home with extensive Greek Revival updates, and Cheekwood, an opulent 1929–32 Palladian Revival country estate with an impressive collection and gorgeous grounds. The group then returned to Nashville to prepare for the Opening Night festivities!

Main Symposium Explores Nashville 

The Symposium kicked off at Belmont Mansion on Thursday evening, where Dr. Carroll Van West delivered the opening lecture about decorative arts discoveries in Tennessee and the new generation of scholars that are driving this work. A convivial reception followed, with experts on-hand to share the history of the 1853 Italianate mansion. The Trust thanks the generosity of Case Auctions for their sponsorship!

Friday, April 19, began with invigorating lectures from Jim Hoobler on architect William Strickland and C. Tracey Parks on the furniture traditions of Middle Tennessee. The remainder of the day was devoted to guided visits around downtown Nashville. Members enjoyed tours of Strickland’s Tennessee State Capitol, the Egyptian Revival Downtown Presbyterian Church, and the notable architecture in between. Following a delicious barbeque lunch, the afternoon took us to the Tennessee State Museum for three curator-led experiences: a tour of the permanent collection galleries, a special sneak preview of the new Tennessee Furniture exhibition, and an exclusive object study of silver, ceramics, and textiles pulled from storage. A lovely evening reception at Pontotoc Farm, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Hank Brockman, Jr., celebrated the Trust’s Emerging Scholars Program.

On Saturday, April 20, a morning lecture about Andrew Jackson’s silver collection by Sarah Campbell Drury prepared us for informative tours of Jackson’s Greek Revival house, The Hermitage. A scrumptious lunch onsite was followed by tours of the stunning late-18th-century Travellers Rest and the storied mid-19th-century Glen Leven. Rick Warwick also provided a lecture and workshop about chairmaker Dick Poyner, a prolific Black craftsman. In the evening, the Trust thanked members at the Sponsor level and above at a reception at Old Town Farm, the home of Senator and Mrs. William H. Frist.

Sunday morning featured lectures about the Black Craftspeople Digital Archive with Dr. Tiffany Momon, Cumberland Plateau pottery with John Case, and early Tennessee portraits with Annabeth Dooley

Post-Symposium Tour Visits Franklin 

At the conclusion of Sunday’s morning lectures, a portion of the group continued to Franklin for the Post-Symposium Tour. The afternoon began with a delightful luncheon at Windermere, the late-19th-century home of Mr. and Mrs. J. Roderick Heller III. We then continued to Carnton, an 1826 plantation house with an impressive collection. The remainder of the day included guided tours of the c. 1830 Carter House (the site of the Battle of Franklin), the Tiffany windows at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the Gothic Revival Hiram Masonic Lodge No. 7, and an overview tour of other architectural highlights in Franklin. The day closed with an enjoyable reception celebrating the conclusion of a fabulous time in Tennessee!

There was so much to see, and we can only share a bit of our Tennessee experience here, especially due to some sites’ strict interior photo permissions. See Instagram for more images, and YouTube for recordings of select lectures.

Check our calendar of events for upcoming programs, and sign up for our email list to receive updates. Members at the Ambassador level and above receive advance registration benefits.

About The Decorative Arts Trust Bulletin

Formerly known as the "blog,” the Bulletin features new research and scholarship, travelogues, book reviews, and museum and gallery exhibitions. The Bulletin complements The Magazine of the Decorative Arts Trust, our biannual members publication.


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