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Art Shows

Art and art shows have a big part in the history of Nashville. With the exception of two years, summer art shows were held in the community every year between 1949 and 1969. (after 1969 it is unknown how long the art shows were continued)

The first show was a two-day affair and was held in Central Park on August 19 and 20, 1949. Approximately 350 persons signed the guest register for this first show. It was sponsored by the Nashville Art Group Society, an organization with four members. These four ladies, Mary Holman, Helen Strong, Ada Scott and Lelia Lentz, decided they had enthusiasm for art and holding an exhibit of paintings was something they particularly wanted to do. Thirteen local artists exhibited in this first show.

Mrs. Holman was the instigator of holding clothesline art shows in Michigan and the first show in Nashville had paintings and other art work hung on clotheslines between the maple trees in the park. She had exhibited previously in West Palm Beach and at Delray, Florida. She studied in the east for many years and her seascapes and watercolors were particularly popular.

Mrs. Strong had come to Nashville seven years before this first art show. Her mother, Minnie Jarvis, was a well-known artist and had paintings in the Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery in London. Mrs. Strong had studied art at Ontario College of Art.

Mrs. Lelia Luxmore Lentz (Carl) taught music and art in Nashville schools, and Mrs. Ada Scott (J. Mearle) studied art as a girl as a hobby.

At the third show the members of the Nashville art Club donated four paintings and these were given away at a drawing held in the park. In subsequent shows, drawings were occasionally held for paintings and art work. In the 1964 show, a total of 14 pieces of art were donated by the exhibiting artist and these were given as prizes in a drawing. At this particular show, a Mr. Harry Brown from Grand Rapids had an easel set up and did oil paintings during the show. Don Altemus, curator of the Kingman Museum in Battle Creek, also did charcoal sketches. A group of local musicians made up a German band and they strolled through the park providing music. Baskets of gladioli, donated by the village, circled the center of the park. Members of the adult oil painting class at the high school served as hosts and hostesses for the show in 1964. They wore colorful berets made by one of the members and a reception for all the exhibiting artist was held following the closing of the art show.

During the 1962 show, a representative was present from WXYZ-TV and movies were taken of the show and interviews conducted with several of the exhibiting artists. Michael Church from the Extension Services of the University of Michigan also attended the show. His comment at this show was that the entire community should get behind the art show and publicize it and really let the state know of the show. He also commented on the high caliber of the art work exhibited. Many artists sold art work at these summer shows.

During this period of time, Mrs.. Holman, who had a gallery in her home for several years, bought an old blacksmith shop on Main Street across from Putnam Library and converted this into a Gallery. She later sold the building to the Fire Department and then moved her gallery back to her own home.

The shows had experienced unusually good luck, weather wise. The show in 1961 was the first one which had to be held indoors. This show was held in the Masonic Temple, but as the weather cleared, artists moved their exhibits out on the lawns at the nearby homes.