The Frist Art Museum presents A Landmark Repurposed: From Post Office to Art Museum, an exhibition that celebrates the historic building that the Frist is privileged to occupy—Nashville’s former main post office. The exhibition will be on view in the always-free Conte Community Arts Gallery from January 8, 2021, through January 9, 2022.
The Nashville Post Office under construction from the Northeast, January 2, 1934. Image courtesy of the Marr & Holman Collection, Tennessee Historical Society, Tennessee State Library & Archives
Commemorating the Frist Art Museum’s 20th anniversary, this reimagined exhibition with updated design and expanded narrative highlights the building’s role as a civic institution, from its creation as the city’s main post office in 1934 to its reopening as an art museum on April 8, 2001. Through archival images, architectural drawings, “Then and Now” photographs, news clippings, and original planning documents, guests will learn about the building’s distinctive architectural styles, as well as how historical events affected the construction and function of the post office. The exhibition will also address how buildings can be repurposed, making connections with American Art Deco: Designing for the People, which will be on view in the Ingram Gallery from October 8, 2021, through January 2, 2022.
“As the Nashville skyline rapidly changes, appreciation for this historic structure has also increased,” says Anne Henderson, exhibition co-curator and Frist Art Museum director of education and engagement. “By highlighting the transformation of the building and its change in purpose throughout time, we wanted to offer our guests the opportunity to observe firsthand the importance of preserving historic places for future generations.”
Constructed in 1933–34 under the direction of local firm Marr & Holman, the building was financed by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Construction. Following guidelines from the Office of the Supervising Architect, the building displays the two most distinctive architectural styles of the period: “starved” or “stripped” classicism and art deco.
The building began its second life as the Frist Center for the Visual Arts on April 8, 2001, with the mission to present and originate high quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. “Since opening, we have hosted artists and artworks from collections around the world and invited Nashville’s community members and visitors to share in our vision of inspiring people through art to look at the world in new ways,” says Henderson. On April 2, 2018, the name was formally changed to the Frist Art Museum to convey more clearly what visitors can expect when entering the building.
“We celebrate all that has been accomplished over the past two decades and, as Nashville continues to dramatically change around our building, we remain steadfast in our commitment to working collaboratively with the diverse community of creative voices in our region,” says Henderson.