Celebrating 60 Years
In 1944, when Mabel Wood Cheek gave Cheekwood to her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Sharp, Cheekwood began a transformation. Having chaired the Department of Fine Arts and Music at Vanderbilt University and serving as an organizer of the Nashville Symphony Association, Walter Sharp, along with his wife Huldah, held their first of many receptions at Cheekwood in 1946. This initial reception marked the first notable moment Cheekwood would open the great wrought iron gates to the community.
After years of collecting their own modern art, and supporting arts initiatives in and around Nashville, the Sharps took the step in 1957 to officially make Cheekwood into a center for the arts and a public garden. In 1959 the mansion along with 55 acres were presented to the Tennessee Botanical Gardens and Fine Arts Center, Inc. The Second Floor bedroom suites were remodeled making way for gallery spaces to display works from the recently disbanded Nashville Museum of Art, while the estate’s ornamental gardens became the foundation for a botanical collection. To much anticipation, the gardens and museum opened to the public on May 31, 1960 under the leadership of Directors Harry Lowe and Gordon Scott.
Since 1960, gifts of horticultural specimens and fine art have been made to Cheekwood, creating both a robust horticultural and art collection. These contributions of notable works soon earned Cheekwood the reputation of Nashville’s premier collecting fine arts institution. Now in the year 2020, Cheekwood is prepared to celebrate its 60th anniversary! We invite you to join us as we unveil many exciting art, horticultural and historic initiatives in the coming months celebrating what has become the Cheekwood legacy. To learn more about our upcoming events, check out our calendar page here.
Image 1: Harry Lowe, the first director of the Tennessee Fine Arts Center stands on the Cheekwood Entrance Hall staircase preparing for the grand opening. c. May 1960. Cheekwood Archives.Image 2: Directors, Harry Lowe and Gordon Scott waiting to welcome guests through the Mansion front door. c. May 1960. Cheekwood Archives.