A proud Nashville resident since 1958, Esther Cohn prioritizes family and involvement in her community. Marriage moved her from Texas to Tennessee, where she raised her children and continues to be very active in the local area. Much of Esther’s activity is about Cheekwood, where she has a decades-long membership filled with fond memories. We had a Q&A session with Esther, to learn more about her Cheekwood membership experience.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I have always been an active citizen of Nashville alongside my family, and have done extensive volunteer work in my life, including being a member of the board of the Friends of Cheekwood, a committee headed by my mother-in-law Helen Rosenfeld. Also, my husband’s uncle Albert Werthan was one of the presidents of the Board of Cheekwood. Before moving to Nashville, my family was also active in Houston, Texas.
What inspired you to become a Cheekwood member?
My family has been involved with Cheekwood for so long, that it is hard to remember exactly when my membership started. But I would say it started around the year 1961, which was about one year after Cheekwood opened its doors to the public as a botanical garden in 1960. I think that if you’re a member of the community, it is important to have a place where art, beauty, and culture thrive. Cheekwood is just a treasure in Nashville.
What is your favorite time of year at Cheekwood?
Although I visit Cheekwood year-round, my favorite time of year to enjoy the gardens is the springtime when the tulips in the color garden are at their full bloom.
Which gardens, areas, or plants do you most enjoy when visiting Cheekwood, and why?
Since it opened in 1999, my favorite place to visit on Cheekwood’s grounds is the Ann and Monroe Carell Jr. Family Sculpture Trail. Although I have been on the trail innumerable times, a particularly fond memory is when my husband and I took my husband’s fraternity there on a reunion trip. We saw many of the sights that Nashville has to offer, including the Grand Ole Opry, but the highlight of their trip for us was the Sculpture Trail.
What is one of your favorite memories involving Cheekwood?
My favorite memories from Cheekwood over the years have been attending the Swan Balls. We went for many years. In fact, in 1971, I was asked to be one of what they called the “Swan Ball Beauties,” which meant that it was my job to walk around with raffle tickets and sell them to people sitting at the tables. Many of the amazing workers decorating the Swan Ball and making the event come to life were volunteers in those days. I must have attended 30 or more Swan Balls over the years!
Do you have a favorite piece of art at Cheekwood or a favorite art exhibition Cheekwood has hosted? If so, what is it and what did you like about it?
In addition to the wonderful collection of art pieces on the Sculpture Trail, my favorite exhibition that Cheekwood has ever displayed is artist Dale Chihuly’s masterful glassworks. Seeing those works displayed and lit so beautifully was a treat; and I am so excited to see Bruce Munro’s Light exhibition, because I have heard such great things. I also really love the Jamie Wyeth and Andy Warhol pieces in the mansion museum.
Why do you think Cheekwood is important – for individuals, families, and communities?
The reason my family and I have supported Cheekwood for so many years is because it is such a special gem to have in a community. When I moved here from Houston, which was a more developed city than Nashville in the late 1950’s, Cheekwood was one of the only places at the time where our community could engage artistically. Since then, we have loved experiencing all the artistic enrichment that Cheekwood has to offer, first with our children and then with our grandchildren. It’s a beautiful spot, an oasis with wonderful history.
Why would you encourage others to become Cheekwood members?
I personally feel that if you're a member of a community, that it is amazing to support the wonderful things that the community has to offer. Cheekwood is just a Nashville treasure, and I would encourage people to support it just because of the joy that they would derive from visiting and taking in its natural and artistic brilliance.
Join Cheekwood today and experience the unrivaled beauty of Nashville’s landmark country estate. Members can enjoy inspiring art and garden exhibitions, family activities, programming for all ages, world-class music events, and year-round festivals celebrating the four seasons.