Member Spotlight: Lillian Gilmer

Member Spotlight: Lillian Gilmer

In this Member Spotlight, we chat with a long-time Member about some of her favorite experiences visiting Cheekwood over the years.

Lillian Gilmer and her family have been Members since 1999, but she has been going to Cheekwood since she was a child.  As a Nashville native, Lillian remembers visiting with her family, seeing the beautiful garden displays, exploring the rooms inside the Historic Mansion & Museum, and learning about Cheekwood’s history.  

Lillian’s interest in history led her to Davidson College where she majored in Asian studies and spent her free time hiking and whitewater kayaking in the North Carolina mountains. After graduating with honors, Lillian returned to Nashville to teach History and Political Science at Harpeth Hall High School, and later moved to Japan to teach English in Nagoya.  After four years of teaching, Lillian entered law school at Vanderbilt and upon graduation, began practicing real estate law with a local law firm. Ultimately, her interest in both non-profit organizations and real estate law led her to an affordable housing development. Fast forward to today, Lillian is an attorney with Reno & Cavanaugh, PLLC where she continues making a positive impact on her community, working with non-profit agencies, such as Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville as legal counsel for their single-family homeownership program, as well as representing developers who purchase, develop, and rehabilitate affordable multi-family housing through federal low-income housing tax credits and other federal subsidies.  

Lillian and her husband, Nate Gilmer, live in Nashville and are soon to be empty nesters as their triplet daughters will go off to college this fall.  Still passionate about spending time outdoors, Lillian enjoys the changing terrain and technical challenges of trail running.

Lillian, you’ve been a Cheekwood Member for 21 years, what prompted you to join?

Really? Wow…time flies. Well, I’ve been going to Cheekwood since I was a child, so those memories were certainly an influence. I remember our family going at Christmas. The mansion was so beautiful, and I loved all the different Christmas trees. Seeing it through the eyes of a child, it was magical.

Cheekwood has many gardens and trails to explore.  What is your favorite garden area to visit?

I have two favorite garden areas. I really enjoy the Japanese Garden of course. It is so peaceful and reminds me of my time in Japan. The other area where we spent a lot of time is near the Swan Lawn. When our girls were little, we visited Cheekwood every weekend, sometimes both on Saturday and Sunday. We would pack a picnic lunch and load the girls in our triplet stroller to walk to Cheekwood from our house on Page Road. Willy and Elenore were often at the gate, and they greeted us with such enthusiasm every time we arrived at Cheekwood, which was always a nice welcome after pushing our triplet stroller up the hill to the entrance gate. Then, we would always go to our special spot near the Swan Lawn, where we would lay out a blanket, pull out a few toys, some books, and snacks, and just enjoy the afternoon. We were such regulars at Cheekwood that we were featured in a newsletter back in 2004!

Cheekwood is open year-round and hosts four seasonal festivals. What is your favorite season or festival?

We always enjoy coming for Cheekwood Harvest and Holiday LIGHTS. We also enjoyed the music at Songwriters Under the Stars. Our favorite festival of all has always been El Día de los Muertos, which we never missed when our children were young. And of course, the Easter Egg hunts!

Do you have a favorite exhibition that Cheekwood has hosted?

The Treehouses were a family favorite. Our girls had a lot of fun with those. Of course, both Chihuly exhibitions were gorgeous. Last year, my husband and I celebrated our 23rd anniversary at Cheekwood. Seeing Chihuly lit up in the evening was so beautiful. It was the perfect “date night”.

Cheekwood offers so many programs and activities that our Members really enjoy. What are some that you or your family has especially enjoyed?

We have always loved all of the art activities at Cheekwood for the children.Before our girls started kindergarten, our nanny would bring them to Cheekwood once a week for art activities. Over the years, our girls went to several summer camps and art workshops.  On weekends during the holiday season, we always came to decorate cookies.

Lillian, thank you for sharing so many wonderful memories about Cheekwood. We have one last question for you.  Why do you think Cheekwood is important – for individuals, families and communities?

Cheekwood is such an amazing resource for Nashville. The ability to enjoy art, nature, and music in one setting is truly a gift, and Cheekwood is one of the few places in Nashville where all can be enjoyed at the same time. Cheekwood offers individuals a place to disappear into a landscape of beautiful green lawns peppered with colorful flowers and art exhibitions for a few hours, or even a day, a place to seek solace and a temporary escape from hectic city life. Cheekwood is also a wonderful playground for families, providing a place where families can take walks, enjoy a picnic, and be entertained for hours without the distraction of technology. Having a resource like Cheekwood is so beneficial to the community because it brings people together to enjoy the very things that are so important in life to our mental well-being (art, nature, and music), and it is these things which people often don’t take time to enjoy due to being over scheduled with obligations. Spending an afternoon at Cheekwood, whether it be alone with your thoughts, picnicking with family, or communing with other Nashvillians over an exhibition or other community event, is sure to be a delightful experience for anyone!


Not a member? Join Cheekwood today and experience the unparalleled beauty of Nashville’s landmark country estate. As a member, you have unlimited access to inspiring art and garden exhibits, programs, festivals, and events throughout every season.

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Dale Chihuly, Gilded Yellow and Plum Tower, 2019 © Chihuly Studio


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