[NASHVILLE] The Parthenon is kind of a goofy thing. And I mean that in the best, most quirky way. Situated in scenic Centennial Park on the west side of downtown Nashville, it’s a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens. The first structure was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition and served as the art building; a concise exhibit just inside the entrance walks you through the history of how the popular but decaying structure was saved in the 1920s by the city, concerned residents and a team of artists.
You’ll also learn about the crazy giant swing at the Centennial and International Exposition and the appalling way that white people of the day viewed those of other cultures and races. If you’ve ever read “The Devil in the White City,” some of this is familiar—yet fascinating—territory.
Admission is free with the Music City Total Access Pass. We didn't have much time when we arrived; the security guard told us she would be locking the upstairs exhibit first, so we dashed up the stairs and around the corner…where we beheld the most ghastly, stunning, terrifying and mesmerizing statue I’d ever seen.
The gleaming replica of Athena, goddess of wisdom, stands 41 feet, 10 inches tall, making her the largest indoor sculpture in the western world. She shines with 23.75-karat gold leaf and a fierceness in the dim quiet. I don't know what I was expecting, but not that.
I was marveling aloud with shock and awe at her terrifying visage when a young woman standing next to me said, “My client’s son-in-law made this statue.”
What? Really? She gestured at an elderly man in a wheelchair. My client, she said. I bring him here every now and then to see the statue. My mind was racing…did I say anything offensive out loud in my surprise at the statue? Did he hear me? Did he think that I thought it was ugly. I hoped I didn’t hurt his feelings. I asked if I could talk to him.
Gracious to a fault, the man confirmed that his son had crafted the sculpture and that it was the largest indoor sculpture in this part of the world. He was hard to hear and perhaps a bit hard of hearing, so I didn’t catch the man’s name. But his son-in-law is Alan LeQuire who, the man shared, also constructed Musica, the largest bronze sculpture group in the United States, which sits in a roundabout in Nashville. The sculptor’s website at alanlequire.com describes a number of other major commissions sculpted by the award-winning artist.
What are the odds? Good, I guess. I had reached out to Soberdough and Eli Mason on the way over to the Parthenon, and I was already getting calls in return. This trip was full of serendipity.
Time was growing short, so we zipped through a cool art exhibit downstairs showing paintings of photos by doctors treating men injured in the Civil War, then walked the perimeter to glance at the watercolors.
Don’t tell anyone this, but it was a nice switch for me to just look at the pictures without reading every word on the placard.