Must be my life-long checkered relationship with art and thus love of beautiful architecture that prompted my passion for Nashville's old Broadway main post office. It was the 80s. Fresh out of college, I'd hike it in heels from work to the grand lobby where some scrawny, suspenders-wearing, bespeckled postmaster behind the bars of the philatelic (huh? what?) window would seemingly begrudgingly pull out a large binder to show my choices of pretty stamps to purchase. No ordinary postage stamps would do when I could adorn my envelopes with a selection of more artful stamp designs. I loved that grand, musty smelling, high-ceilinged lobby with it's unique architectural accents and luscious flooring. (More details on the old post office.)
Progress would happen and the United States Postal services would find a former shopping mall location as a more efficient way to process the mail. This was a decade before the internet rewired virtual highways and our minds and when ground volume and tree-slaying paper was still all consuming for the government entity. I'd move away to Atlanta for the rest of the decade and return the next. Another half a decade passed and brilliance happened. And Nashville's art scene hasn't been the same since.
Philanthropist, art-loving Frist family of HCA (Hospital Corporation of America) and other Nashville wealthy gave up the funds to renovate the old Depression-era post office. The glory of the building would remain and how fitting that a house of art would house art.
A devoted art-passionate staff runs the tight ship of Frist Center for the Visual Arts, whose birth was the impetus for an art awakening, once sleepy with occasional burps of activity. Frist Center brought art from the elitist burbs to the heart of downtown and galleries, such as Nashville arts matriarch Anne Brown's The Arts Company. Brown and others began to gamble on an emerging art appetite and aptitude. It caught on. More and more galleries spouted, some fairly grand in portfolio and attitude and others quite small--with the bulk of their beautiful contents resting on Nashville's Fifth Avenue of the Arts. Dappling the middle is the historic Arcade, dating back to the 1900's, a glass arch ceiling branching Fifth and Fourth Avenues and housing a collection of sometimes teeny-tiny galleries.
Things change. A quarter of my life has raced by, slamming me to my half-century mark. The old Post Office no longer delivers the mail and most of letters are delivered electronically now. But, Art lives on in Nashville. It thrives. Thanks to a grand dame of a building--a former post office--and the vision of a grand family and additional grand arts visionaries and the artists who make Nashville's deliciously diverse art. How lucky we are?!
What are your memories about the old Post Office turned art center?