The Parthenon – Nashville, TN

Working during the week limits my ability to travel as much as I’d like, so I make the most of the weekends.  So, on Saturday, my friend B- came over early and we drove together to visit the Parthenon.

The Parthenon
The Parthenon

Now I know what you may be thinking – the Parthenon is in Greece.  You’d be correct, but there’s also a full-scale replica in Nashville, Tennessee in the middle of Centennial Park.  The 1st floor acts as an art museum and the 2nd floor is a re-creation of the Athena statue in the original Parthenon.

Why is there a Parthenon in Nashville?  Honestly, no clue.  The best explanation I’ve heard is it was created for Tennessee’s Centennial Celebration and was inspired by the fact that Nashville is known as “the Athens of the South”.  What I do know is that the Parthenon was finished and in 1931 and has been open ever since.  It’s actually a bit strange that I’ve never been before – I’m from Tennessee originally and, according to B-, it was a popular field trip destination growing up – but my schools never went.  Once in elementary school we had a field trip picnic in Centennial Park itself, but we never ventured into the Parthenon.

Our first stop after paying the $6 entry fee (less for kids and seniors) and checking out the ‘making of the Parthenon’ type info hallway, was the art gallery on the 1st floor.  No photography allowed here, sadly.  In the gallery, there are two distinct sections.  First, is the permanent James M. Cowan Collection, which consists of 63 paintings donated by the man in question, all painted by artists from the U.S.  Out of the whole collection, my favorite paintings were Mt. Tamalpais by Albert Bierstadt and Autumn in the Catskills by Sanford Gifford.  Both are exquisite landscapes that made me wish it were possible to step inside and become one with the scenery.  Autumn in the Catskills especially made me miss the mountains of the Southwest I’ve hiked and become so accustomed to these past couple of years.

In addition to the permanent collection, there is a temporary exhibit in the center room of the 1st floor.  When B- and I went this weekend, the exhibit was Kristen Llamas: The Socratic Dialogues.  To be honest, the majority of the paintings I wouldn’t have understood at all without the little plaque on the wall explaining what it was supposed to signify.  For example, one of the works was a bowl of Cheerios with one Cheerio suspended above the rest on some sort of wire.  Another work had a lot of dark colors on the left side of the canvas, and hanging on top of the right side of the canvas was a rope ladder.  However, there were a few paintings that made me smile from Llamas’ collection.  There was a toilet with a royal crown hanging on the back, and another that had a brain wired to an iPhone.

Athena Statue

After looking at the art exhibits, B- and I headed to the 2nd floor – the recreation of the original Parthenon.  There is photography allowed on this level, which is great cause you almost have to see it to believe it.  In the main room of the 2nd floor is a 42-foot statue of the goddess Athena.  In one hand, she’s holding the winged goddess Nike, and on her other side, she has a giant shield and serpent.  I’ve got to say, the statue was impressive, ornate and really ugly all at the same time.  The kind of ugly that makes you want to look away, but you can’t because it’s so mesmerizing.

The rest of the main room consists of two 7.5 ton each bronze doors and some beautiful columns.

In addition to the main room, there’s a smaller room with more giant bronze doors and some very pretty Grecian-esq statues and replicas.

Overall, B- and I really enjoyed ourselves.  Definitely a fun mini-trip and very good way to spend the morning.

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