Frist Art Museum invites you to visit new exhibition

Like a giant serpent, the line of black college demonstrators wends its way around the courthouse area, coming out from Jefferson Street and James Robertson Boulevard April 19, 1960. The blacks, on the day of the Z. Alexander Looby bombing, marching three abreast stretched 10 blocks.

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts has changed its name to the Frist Art Museum and introduced a new visual brand identity. The change became legally effective on April 1, 2018. To celebrate the occasion and the institution’s 17th birthday, the Frist Art Museum will offer free admission on Sunday, April 8, 2018.

When you come, enjoy their new exhibition entitled “We Shall Overcome: Civil Rights and the Nashville Press, 1957–1968,” along with several other exhibitions and special programming. While fellow southern cities such as Birmingham, Greensboro, and Little Rock may have been the focus of more headlines, Nashville played an important role in the civil rights movement during the late 1950s and 1960s.

In addition to being the first metropolis in the southeast to integrate places of business peacefully, Nashville was a hub for training students in nonviolent protest, many of whom became influential figures on the national stage. During an April 1960 speech at Fisk University, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself said, “I came to Nashville not to bring inspiration, but to gain inspiration from the great movement that has taken place in this community.” This legacy is worthy of reexamination fifty years after King’s death, when race relations and social justice are again at the forefront of our country’s consciousness.

The fifty photographs in the “We Shall Overcome” exhibition were taken between 1957, the year that desegregation in public schools began, and 1968, when the National Guard was called in to surround the state capitol in the wake of King’s assassination in Memphis. Of central significance are images of lunch counter sit-ins, led by students from local historically black colleges and universities, that took place in early 1960. This exhibition, organized by the Frist Art Museum, offers an opportunity to consider the role of images and the media in shaping public opinion, a relevant subject in today’s news-saturated climate.

The photographs are sourced from the archives of Nashville’s two daily newspapers at the time: The Tennessean and the now-defunct Nashville Banner. Some were selected to be published, but many were not. All images generously provided by The Tennessean and the Nashville Public Library, Special Collections, which houses the Nashville Banner Archives.

Additional programming of interest are a panel discussion with participants in the local civil rights movement moderated by historian Linda Wynn, entitled Voices from the Front Lines, on Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 12:00 Noon in the Frist Art Museum Auditorium. Hear the stories behind the photographs of “We Shall Overcome: Civil Rights and the Nashville Press, 1957–1968,” and take a deeper look at the civil rights movement featuring first-person accounts by individuals who fought for racial equity in Nashville including Gloria McKissack, Rip Patton, and King Hollands.

And plan to attend the concert, Songs of Freedom, presented with the National Museum of African American Music, at 7:00 p.m. in the Frist Art Museum Auditorium. Music has been used throughout history to unite communities in the face of injustice. From early spirituals to civil rights era freedom songs to jazz and blues recorded at Angola Prison, music has conveyed messages that could not be expressed by words alone. Join us for a celebratory evening of music, featuring performances by the Fairfield Four and other Nashville musicians. This program is presented in partnership with the National Museum of African American Music.

Both the panel discussion and concert are free and open to the public; first come, first seated. Please note that “Slavery, the Prison Industrial Complex: Photographs by Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick” continues through May 28 and “Nick Cave: Feat.” continues through June 24. You can view both of them free on Sunday, April 8, also.