Frist Art Museum | Nashville with Kids

Like oil and water, you wouldn’t expect “art museum” and “elementary aged children” to mix. However, if you are visiting Nashville, we had heard that a visit to the Frist Art Museum could alter this perception. So, Kid Allergy Travel partnered (via sponsorship) with this well-known kid friendly destination to see just how this particular museum has designed its space to become one of the top destinations in Music City for children.

Right away, I thought the parking situation alone boosts this place to the top. The museum has a convenient and cost effective dedicated parking lot, which is unusual in downtown Nashville.

While celebrating this luxury, we were greeted by a whimsical, oversized fiberglass and stainless-steel sculpture called Rose on 65thStreet. My son starts counting the giant bugs on the petals. I check out the inscription on the plaque beside it: “Can art deflate humanity’s idea of its own importance?”

I can see this is going to be stimulating on a number of levels. We hurry inside.

Ascending the stairs and entering the building brings with it another dose of art and humanity. We Shall Overcome: Civil Rights and the Nashville Press (running March 30-October 13, 2018) lined the walls of the long hallway leading to the ticket booth. The fifty photographs span the year segregation began in schools (1957) to the year the National Guard was called in to the state capitol in the wake of MLK's assassination (1968). Showing both published and unpublished photographs taken by local daily Nashville newspapers, this presentation explores how media images impact public opinion.

It was only after we got our tickets that I even had a moment to notice the beauty of the building itself. An architecturally significant work of art, this 1930s building is a grand representation of the Art Deco era and is officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

We enter the Galleries, and begin with Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21stCentury (running June 22- September 16, 2018). This is a vibrant and colorful exhibit that appealed greatly to my four year old. For me as an adult, the message addressed in this exhibit was very powerful. The focus is on current artist reactions to the strong and often boundless forces of information and disinformation that define our world today. Mediums varied from video, paintings and even a virtual reality experience (for those 13 and older) to represent the impact of things like the internet and social media on our consciousness.

The next floor brought us to Image Building: How Photography Transforms Architecture (running from July 20-October 28, 2018). This exhibit is more cerebral and features mostly black and white photographs. It examines how buildings are photographed to represent a society’s desires and points to how it embodies the social and economic concerns of an era. Great for the older kid crowd and parents. Less enticing for the Kindergarten group.

Then, off to Martin ArtQuest. This beautifully designed open concept area houses a group of interactive spaces for all ages and abilities. And, it is nothing short of magical.

There are spaces to build, listen, read, explore motion and light and sketch at your own pace.  My child wanted to visit every single one.

Plus, two adult manned activity stations offer printmaking and watercolor painting. You are encouraged to complete these activities at the beginning to allow ample time for your creations to dry. But, as my luck would have it, I couldn’t persuade my four year old to explore the space in any organized fashion. Thankfully, there are plastic bags available gratis to preserve your work and protect your car when you are ready to leave.

The real winner for my little one was exploring the art of motion. He loved creating his own filmstrip for the zoetrope and then creating, directing and playing back his stop motion animation movies.

I was impressed that this area was not just an afterthought for those of us needing some place to bring our children on an excruciatingly hot day. This space gives families the opportunity to explore and create together. Plus, it gave us the ability to talk through and interpret the main exhibit, Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century, in an age appropriate way. The Exploring Exhibition center guides parents on how to connect the artwork to a child’s understanding and interpretation of the experience. We talked about the definitions of the words Chaos and Awe. And, I got to hear and visually see my son's interpretation of those two words and how it relates to his world as a four year old.

I also loved that when we needed to refuel, we could grab a quick bite downstairs in the Café, and then head right back upstairs to continue playing at Martin ArtQuest. The food was served in a fast casual setting with views of the expansive lawn outdoors. For those needing to eat gluten free, they have a variety of salads and packaged gluten free chips. For everyone else, don’t miss the hand made potato chips and great selection of grilled sandwiches.

All in all, I managed to spend just over four hours in the Frist with my four year old. At no point, even when viewing the gallery exhibition spaces, did I feel like I should be stressed out that I had brought my small child to an adult activity. The Frist has found a way to mix the right amount of intellectualism and hands-on fun while opening the world of art to people of all ages. It isn’t just about exposing your child to art. It is about experiencing art with them.

Kid Allergy Travel received sponsored admission to the Frist Art Museum. Although this was part of a media visit, rest assured, the opinions provided in the post by Kid Allergy Travel remain our own. Photos by Kid Allergy Travel.


12 thoughts on “Frist Art Museum | Nashville with Kids”

  1. The Martin Artquest section looked like a lot of fun and your little one seemed very busy! Such a beautiful gallery and great photos. Thank you for the interesting read. I love travel.

    1. Thank you Mary Louise! We visit loads of museums worldwide and the Frist in Nashville really does work hard to make every age engaged. We left feeling like we learned and played just enough to be totally satisfied!

    1. Yes, I definitely encourage you to bring the kids no matter the age the next time you are visiting Nashville. Even with my toddler we found the right amount of looking with no touching in the Main Art Exhibit space plus touching without having to look too hard in the Martin ArtQuest kid play space.

    1. Kid Allergy Travel couldn’t agree more Sarah! We hope that our real life experience taking a four-year-old will inspire more people to not be nervous about bringing a small child to view art. Every bit of exposure is great for both parent and child and this particular venue does a great job of integrating the family experience so that you won’t feel uncomfortable with your young children.

    1. Exactly—-a museum that focuses on being interactive is always a great choice with kids. That is why we love the Frist Art Museum when visiting Nashville, TN!

    1. When we entered the Martin ArtQuest Space, we were greeted by a docent and she said that people of all ages were welcome to play, create and explore! As a matter of fact, there were many adults printmaking. Great interactive space for adults and children alike.

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