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Nashville: Artisans from the Crossroads of the South

EVENTS > SYMPOSIA

DECORATIVE ARTS TRUST SPRING SYMPOSIUM

April 17–21, 2024

From ceramics and furniture to silver and textiles, Middle Tennessee boasts a rich and storied decorative arts history. In the last 25 years, Nashville has exploded as a nationally recognized center of arts, education, culture, cuisine, and entertainment. The Decorative Arts Trust takes in all that the Music City has to offer with a Symposium stretching along the winding Cumberland River. We benefit from the expertise and fine Southern hospitality of friends at top cultural institutions in the region for an itinerary that inspires and educates, with curator-led tours, behind- the-scenes experiences, and peeks into private collections. Explore the wonders of the Volunteer State with us! 

The Pre-Symposium Optional Tour is full. Please email thetrust@decorativeartstrust.org to join the waitlist.

There is still availability for the main Symposium, the Fundraiser for the Emerging Scholars Program, and the Post-Symposium Optional Tour. 

SYMPOSIUM SCHEDULE

Thursday, April 18, 5:15 pm–8:30 pm

Opening Night at Belmont Mansion

  • Welcoming Remarks and Opening Program
  • New Discoveries, New Questions: Tennessee’s Decorative Arts Traditions
    Carroll Van West, PhD, Tennessee State Historian and Director of the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University
  • Opening Reception
    Sponsored by: 
    Case Auctions logo.

Friday, April 19, 8:30 am–5:00 pm

Downtown Nashville

  • William Strickland: Master Architect 
    Jim Hoobler, Retired Senior Curator of Art and Architecture, Tennessee State Museum 

  • Making the Middle: Imitation and Inspiration Along the Cumberland 
    Tracey Parks, Independent Historian 

  • After our morning lecturers prime us for a day full of exploration, a walking tour permits an examination of the tremendous development and restoration of Nashville’s urban core, including an extensive variety of building styles from Greek Revival to Victorian to Art Deco to Mid-Century Modern. William Strickland designed the unexpected and exuberant 1851 Downtown Presbyterian Church in the Egyptian Revival style, replete with lotus columns, stained glass windows, and carved images of Egyptian scenes on the sanctuary walls. Strickland’s crowning achievement is the Tennessee State Capitol, which opened in 1859 as a tribute to the people of Tennessee and has served as the seat of state government with little modification since. This gleaming stone Greek Revival building set amidst a carefully designed public park was a powerful symbol of democratic ideals and innovative construction in a state that was still largely agrarian. Following lunch, we move to the Bicentennial Capitol Mall for a trio of exclusive tours at the Tennessee State Museum, which opened in 2018. The institution was created in 1937 when the Tennessee General Assembly voted to consolidate World War I mementos and other state collections in one place. The Museum houses a representation of Tennessee, its land and people, from Prehistoric times to the present day, including significant examples of the state’s finest craftsmanship. Our afternoon features curator-led tours of decorative arts highlights and an object study with Tennessee ceramics. 

Saturday, April 20, 8:45 am–5:00 pm

Historic Houses in and around Nashville

  • Collector in Chief: Andrew Jackson and his Silver
    Sarah Campbell Drury, Vice President of Fine and Decorative Arts, Case Antiques, Inc.
  • After our morning lecture, we venture west to Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. This museum complex interprets and preserves the home and objects belonging to the seventh president. Jackson’s Greek Revival house was designed by Joseph Reiff and William C. Hume in 1834. Nearly every facet of Jackson’s life revolved around his mansion which served as his office, a gathering hall and place for entertaining, and his family home. The interiors have been carefully restored with most of Jackson’s original belongings, and we have the privilege of exclusive access to study the architecture and impressive decorative arts collection. Interpretive efforts have also extended to the grounds surrounding the house, including The Hermitage cotton plantation and the extant living quarters of the more than 100 enslaved individuals who resided there. A series of tours crafted especially for our group will offer a unique opportunity to explore this landmark of presidential history in Nashville’s backyard. Following a traditional Southern lunch on the grounds in the Cabin-by-the-Spring, the afternoon is dedicated to a variety of historic properties just south of downtown. Travellers Rest Historic Home, built in 1799, is the oldest house museum open to the public in Nashville and interprets the story of the Overton family, their Neoclassical plantation house, and the land on which it was built, including the area occupied by Native Americans in the pre-contact Mississippian cultural period. The centerpiece of The Land Trust’s Glen Leven Farm is a grand brick Greek Revival house designed by Nashville architect A.E. Franklin. The 1857 home was built for John Thompson, son of Thomas Thompson, a pioneer settler from North Carolina. Its storied past includes use as a field hospital by Union troops during the Civil War. Tennessee State Historian Carroll Van West helps us delve into the history of this significant Antebellum plantation house. 

Sunday, April 21, 8:45 am–10:45 am

The Holston House Hotel

  • The Jonathan L. Fairbanks Lecture
    New Discoveries: Black Craftspeople on the Tennessee Landscape
    Tiffany Momon, PhD, Assistant Professor of History, Sewanee: The University of the South, and Founder and Co-Director, the Black Craftspeople Digital Archive
  • Dick Poyner: The Chairmaker, the Man, and His Legend
    Rick Warwick, Williamson County Historian
  • An Overview of the Cumberland Plateau Pottery Tradition Featuring the Lafever, Dunn, Hedgecough, and Roberts Potteries
    John Case, Founder and President, Case Antiques, Inc.
  • John A.H. Sweeney Emerging Scholar Lecture
    “Trust much in the patronage of a liberal and enlightened community”: Portraits of Early Tennessee
    Annabeth Dooley, Exhibits Coordinator, Tennessee State Library and Archives
  • Symposium concludes

OPTIONAL TOURS

PRE-SYMPOSIUM OPTIONAL TOUR

Wednesday, April 17, 8:45 am to Thursday, April 18, 4:00 pm

Along the Cumberland: Houses of Sumner and Davidson Counties

Independent scholar and seventh-generation Middle-Tennessean Tracey Parks guides us on a day of visits to splendid sites in Sumner County. Rock Castle, begun in 1784, boasts extraordinary craftsmanship, including original paneled walls. Located in the city of Gallatin, Rose Mont is an outstanding Greek Revival house built for one of the region’s most prominent citizens, Judge Josephus Conn Guild, an influential politician, jurist, and state legislator. The house was situated on the Guild family’s 500-acre plantation where he raised thoroughbreds and held festive horseracing events. Successive generations preserved the original architectural ornamentation and materials, including Greek Revival mantels and Sheffield plate keyhole escutcheons. We continue to Cragfont in Castalian Springs, a grand Georgian home built on the Tennessee frontier for Revolutionary War General James Winchester in 1802. Winchester outfitted his home with “turkey carpets” and furniture made by his skilled nephew, William Winchester, Jr., who trained in Baltimore and whose work still remains in the house. Following lunch, we take in Wynnewood, the largest standing log structure in Tennessee. The c. 1830 main house functioned as a resort and as a stagecoach rest stop and was the operational center of the Wynne family farm for over 140 years. Hawthorn Hill is a Neoclassical brick house built by 1806. Colonel Humphrey Bate purchased the property in 1817, and it stayed in his family for over a century. Rarely open to the public, the unfinished house stands as a time capsule of aspirational interior decoration on the early-19th-century frontier. Remnants of the original stenciling and decorative paint- work remain on the first floor, and Neoclassical mantels reveal the Bates’ determination for sophisticated elegance. Following our journey west of Nashville, we return to the Holston House Hotel for a relaxing evening in the Music City.

Thursday’s itinerary brings us south of Nashville to take in two important homes. Belle Meade began as a simple but elegant two-story brick home surrounded by 250 acres and grew into a grand mansion and one of the largest thoroughbred horse farms in the South with over 5,400 acres. The original Neoclassical house was built for John Harding and later enlarged and stuccoed over by his son, William G. Harding, to transform it into a Greek Revival house with the addition of a two-story veranda featuring six solid limestone pillars quarried nearby. A 14-foot-high central hall runs the full length of the house, and the walls display thoroughbred horse paintings by 19th-century artists, including Edward Troye. Our tours of the property are followed by lunch and a tasting of the estate’s wines. We then progress to Cheekwood, the 1929 family home of Mabel and Leslie Cheek, Sr. After an investment in a relative’s coffee company paid off with a sale to Postum Cereal Company (later General Foods), the Cheeks built their country estate in a wood- land area south of the city. New York architect and landscape designer Bryant Fleming planned the house and gardens and traveled with him to England seeking inspiration from country estates and the acquisition of architectural elements for their Nashville home. Today, Cheekwood boasts an extensive art collection, including the third-largest assemblage of Worcester porcelain in the US, sculptures by William Edmonson, and an impressive selection of American paintings. 

POST-SYMPOSIUM OPTIONAL TOUR

Sunday, April 21, 11:15 am–7:15 pm 

Franklin: History on the Harpeth 

We depart for Franklin, TN, acclaimed as one of the prettiest and friendliest cities in the South. A downtown architectural walking tour with historian Rick Warwick reveals the history of Franklin’s preservation efforts focused on the handsome buildings along Main Street. The city played an outsized role during the Civil War, and the 1864 Battle of Franklin was one of the bloodiest conflicts, with more than 300 wounded Confederate soldiers taking refuge at nearby Carnton, the c. 1826 McGavock family home and farm. The house retains many of its original 1840s upgrades, including faux-painting, wallpaper, carved mantels, and furnishings. The Carter House was designed and built under the supervision of Fountain Branch Carter in 1830. This late Neoclassical house was occupied successively by three generations of his family. In spite of heavy damage caused by Civil War rifle and cannon fire, the farm office and brick smokehouse remain extant. The house retains many of its original decorative elements, including wallpaper, faux-graining, and marbling. Our time in Franklin concludes with a congenial reception hosted by devoted preservationists and Trust members Kay and Rod Heller at Windermere, their 1880s home adjacent to Carnton. 

FUNDRAISER

FUNDRAISER FOR THE EMERGING SCHOLARS PROGRAM

Friday, April 19, 6:00 pm–9:00 pm

Pontotoc Farm, the Home of Mary and Hank Brockman 

We are delighted by the invitation to join Trust members Mary and Hank Brockman at their elegant Greek Revival house in a crook of the Harpeth River just outside of Franklin for our Emerging Scholars Program Fundraiser. Having fallen in love with the lush property for their thoroughbreds, the Brockmans moved an 1854 post-and-beam clapboard house 20 miles to this location. As dedicated collectors of decorative arts and supporters of promising new leaders in the field, they have filled their home with exceptional examples of Southern furniture, paintings, and silver.

Please join us for a wonderful evening of connoisseurship and conviviality as we toast our hosts’ hospitality and lend support to the Trust’s efforts to encourage the next generation of curators and academics through a growing series of grants, scholarships, and internships. In 2024, more than 50 graduate students and young professionals will benefit from the Trust’s Emerging Scholars Program.

A donation of $300 per person and prior registration are required to attend this fundraiser. 

LODGING AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

ACCOMMODATIONS 

Holston House Hotel, 118 7th Avenue North, Nashville, TN
Special Room Rates: A block of rooms is reserved for April 16–22, 2024, at $285 per night. These rooms are available on a first-come first-served basis until March 15. Please make your reservations as soon as possible to ensure availability by calling 615.392.1234 and referencing the Decorative Arts Trust. If you are attending the Pre-Symposium or Post-Symposium Optional Tours, please reserve a room for the duration of your stay in Nashville.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

Registration fee: $1,200 per person, which includes all lectures, tours, meals, receptions, and transportation referenced in symposium brochure as well as a $50 tax-deductible donation to the Dewey Lee Curtis Scholarship Fund to underwrite symposium scholarships (see below). Participants may elect to make an additional donation through registration. 

Student and Young Professional fee: $500 per person, limited to current graduate students and nonprofit professionals less than 5 years from the completion of a degree. The Trust also awards at least two Dewey Lee Curtis Symposium Scholarships for graduate students or young professionals. Applications are due by February 23, 2024. 

Optional programs: The Pre-Symposium Optional Tour is $500 per person. The Post-Symposium Optional Tour is $375 per person. The Friday evening fundraiser for the Trust’s Emerging Scholars Program is $300 per person, fully tax deductible. All fees include transportation, admission, and food and beverage as referenced in the brochure. Registration for optional programs is limited. 

Membership: All participants must be members of the Decorative Arts Trust. Visit decorativeartstrust.org/join for membership levels and benefits. Members at the Sponsor level and above are invited to a special event on the evening of Saturday, April 20. 

Cancellations and Refunds: All cancellations received by February 16, 2024, are subject to a full refund less a $100 administrative fee per person. Participants canceling between February 17 and March 15, 2024, will receive a 50% refund. Refunds will not be made after March 15, 2024. 

Itinerary: The schedule, sites, and events outlined in this itinerary are subject to change as necessary. 

Participation: The program is limited to a maximum of 75 members. We will organize and maintain waitlists on the basis of the time requests are received. If requested, participants are expected to take COVID-19 tests and wear masks. The Trust’s Symposium itineraries are planned with care and attention to detail to ensure a memorable and rewarding experience for all participants. This itinerary includes standing for long periods of time, walking on uneven surfaces, and ascending and descending stairs without handrails. Please consider if this program is suited for your health, physical condition, and individual circumstances. 

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