The Frist: Bringing High Art to Nashville

Stuart Deming
Stuart Deming


Nashville, Tennessee is a city known for its vibrant music scene and rich history. However, many people may not be aware of Nashville’s first art museum. The Frist Art Museum, located in downtown Nashville, has a fascinating history and a reputation as one of the premier art institutions in the Southeastern United States.

The Frist Art Museum is housed in what was originally the main post office of Nashville, built in 1933. The building was designed in a Classical and Art Deco style, a popular architectural movement of the time that emphasized geometric shapes, streamlined forms, and decorative motifs. The post office was in use until 1986, when the main distribution center for the post office moved closer to the Nashville airport. In the early 2000s, plans were made to convert the building into an art museum, and after an extensive renovation, the Frist Art Museum opened its doors to the public in April 2001.

One of the hallmarks of the Frist Art Museum is its commitment to showcasing a diverse range of artwork from different cultures and historical periods. The museum is a non-collecting museum, which means it doesn’t have traditional “collections”, but has temporary exhibits that includes works from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

One of the most popular features of the Frist Art Museum is its Martin ArtQuest Gallery, an interactive space that allows visitors to engage with the art in a hands-on way. The gallery features a variety of activities that encourage visitors to explore different artistic techniques, such as printmaking, painting, and sculpture. Visitors can also participate in guided workshops led by museum staff.

In addition to its exhibitions and educational programs, the Frist Art Museum is also known for its striking architecture. The building’s Art Deco features have been carefully preserved, including the original terrazzo floors, marble walls, and ornate ceiling details. The museum also features a stunning Art Deco staircase, which is a popular spot for photographs.

Since its opening in 2001, the Frist Art Museum has become a beloved institution in Nashville’s cultural landscape. Its commitment to diversity and accessibility, as well as its stunning architecture and engaging exhibitions, have made it a must-visit destination for locals and tourists alike. If you’re planning a trip to Nashville, be sure to add the Frist Art Museum to your itinerary!

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