The History of the Ann & Monroe Carell Jr. Family Sculpture Trail
One of the most unique features at Cheekwood is its permanent collection of outdoor sculpture, which includes everything from statuary collected by the Cheek Family to large-scale contemporary commissions, created specifically for the institution. Of particular note is the Ann & Monroe Carell Jr. Family Sculpture Trail. A 1.5-mile loop in a wooded area on Cheekwood’s 55-acre property, The Carell Trail features ten works that examine the relationship between art, nature, and humanity in diverse and thoughtful ways.
In 1995 John Wetenhall, who was then-Director of the Cheekwood Museum of Art, initiated the project. A few years before he joined the institution, Wetenhall received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to survey outdoor sculpture in Europe, visiting some of the world’s most notable sculpture gardens, parks, and collections, including the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail in England.
Though modelled after these English examples, Wetenhall’s intent was to acquire and commission works by artists of regional, national, and international significance that responded to Cheekwood’s distinct natural setting in Nashville. As Wetenhall reflected in 2006, “We got a chain saw and a chip machine and cut a mile path through the trees, then invited artists from America and Europe to work with the natural environment. After you’ve walked the trail, you never think about sculpture the same way again.”[i]
Over twenty years later, walking The Carell Trail still engenders the transformative experience described by Wetenhall. The works installed along it create beautiful, thought-provoking dialogues with the surrounding landscape, which have the ability to not only change how we think about sculpture, but also nature itself. The Carell Trail, in many ways, perfectly unifies what is visible across across Cheekwood: art and gardens.
Cheekwood is now nearing the completion of a major improvement project of The Carell Trail that began in 2019. A generous lead gift to The Cheekwood Campaign by The Ann & Monroe Carell Foundation has enabled significant enhancements to make The Carell Trail more accessible and enjoyable for generations to come, including lighting and paving of the Hickory Loop, updated wayfinding and signage, improved horticulture design, and restoration of the sculptures.
We cannot wait for you to see these changes when Cheekwood reopens, and encourage you to share your experiences of our #CheekwoodSculpture! For more information on the outdoor sculpture at Cheekwood, including information on individual works, visit: https://cheekwood.org/explore/art/sculpture-trail/
Curator of Sculpture
 John Wetenhall as quoted in David Wood, “A walk in the woods: the Carell Sculpture Trail at Cheekwood Botanical Garden, Nashville, Tennessee,” Sculpture Journal 15. 1 (2006): 113.
Eric Orr (American, 1939-1998). Cheekwood Prime Matter, 1997-98. Bronze, copper, stainless steel, and mechanical components. Museum purchase through funds provided by Ann & Monroe Carell, Jr., 1999.2. (hero image)