What I Learned When I Crawled

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Not this past weekend but the weekend before (sorry…I’m a bit behind. Must be the cold weather? Anyway…) Matt and I decided to go to the First Saturday Art Crawl in Nashville. We had no clue what to expect, never having talked to anyone who’d been, but by the end of the night, both of us were so very glad we went. My only regret of the evening was that I didn’t bring my camera. There are some things (lots of things, actually) to which an iPhone camera cannot do justice. For that reason, I apologize for the photos in this post; they are not what they should be, and next time I’ll know better.

The concept for the art crawl is really simple: local art galleries open their doors to folks interested in local art culture. There’s a little bit of everything to see, from photography to oil-on-canvas to abstract to sculpture. You name it. The best part about the whole evening: it’s free.

Yep. We were able to spend time downtown touring some beautiful galleries, and the whole night cost us only ten dollars (typically that’s what you’d spend in parking downtown, but the meter fairies were on our side that night, and we lucked out and didn’t have to pay anything). We started out in the convention center. Neither of us had ever been there, and since that’s where we parked, we figured we’d check out Hatch Show Print first. The museum looks like an authentic production studio (maybe it really is? I should have asked), and some of the wood blocks were cut back in the thirties. There’s something nostalgic about seeing today exactly what someone would have seen back then. Matt and I particularly liked a Purity Dairy cow print for our kitchen. We love anything that comes with its own story. The original design for the print was intended to teach art students about the art of woodblock cutting.

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From there we took the (free) trolley over the to Arcade, which is where most of the action took place. The energy was almost overwhelming, so many people, so many galleries, so much to see. I didn’t know where to look first. So I didn’t. I smelled instead.

Matt and I didn’t spend our money that night on art (although we did see several pieces, like that cow, that we’d like to get pretty soon if they’re still available). No, we spent our ten dollars on the food. The Arcade is full of yummy local places to eat, and there’s a little bit of everything, like Greek food, pizza, doughnuts, and this place.

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I don’t know much about Sophie Isabella’s the Royal Wedding Cakes, never having been in need of a wedding cake in Nashville before, and typically they close at four on Saturdays. But they stayed open the night of the art crawl, and I was more than happy to indulge my cupcake habit there. Let me tell you: if you ever have the chance, you should check them out.

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I am a self-confessed lover of cupcakes (read more about that here), and I like to try new places every chance I get. So far Matt and I have developed quite a taste for The Cupcake Collection, but the cupcakes we had from Sophie Isabella’s were top-notch as well. They weren’t as sweet as the cupcakes at The Cupcake Collection, so if subtle is your favorite kind of sweet, these are awesome. Now, no more cupcake talk. I promise that’s not the only thing I think about.

Some people would probably say that I’m easily overwhelmed, that it doesn’t take a lot to Wow! me. Maybe that’s true to a certain extent. But the truth is that I’ve lived in places where culture and expression aren’t valued, at least not as much as they ought to be. I know what it’s like to crave a night of entertainment, interaction, and exploration, and those of us who live in (or near) Nashville have the opportunity, at least once a month, to realize that kind of night.

Being a member of the community means knowing what’s going on, not just politically and economically but culturally as well, and Nashville’s art scene is very much alive and kickin’. When stuff like the Art Crawl is made available to us, we owe it not just to ourselves but to our city as well to get out there and find out what’s happening and to support our neighbors in their attempts to put something beautiful into the world.

Have you ever art crawled? Do you have any tips for our next one (because we will DEFINITELY head back

When Around the Bend Doesn’t Matter

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Middle Tennessee is home. It always has been. Matt and I agreed a long time ago that we wanted to end up here somehow, and after a LOT of rambling around the country chasing Uncle Sam’s dream, we’ve finally managed to get here. While we’ve had the opportunity to live in different kinds of places (El Paso and Richmond, VA are vastly different, let me tell ya) and to visit a lot of places (Washington DC, Carlsbad Caverns, the Grand Canyon, New York City), both of us are glad to finally be home, couched in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains.

Having lived in Memphis for a few years, I know what it’s like to love a city and to want to claim it as your own. I dearly love Memphis and cherish all the time I spent there. Naturally I wanted to replicate the sentiment when we got back to Nashville, so I immediately set about developing a plan of attack. My mission was simple: find the places I could call my own, the places I would love and frequent. It’s taken awhile for us to get the opportunity to really settle into our exploration, but for the last few weekends we’ve finally gotten the chances I’ve been waiting for. And Nashville has yet to disappoint.

We started with an evening at Ugly Mugs.

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I’d read about this place during my search for potential favorite coffee houses, and it turned out to be pretty cool. Located in the East Nashville neighborhood, it is situated down the street from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and The Wild Cow, a vegetarian restaurant (also super-tasty). Matt and I ordered our coffee (call me boring: I got a pour-over decaf), and Matt chose a drink called The Hoodie, a combination of cinnamon, honey, espresso, and milk. He always orders exactly what I didn’t know I wanted.

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It’s common knowledge that weekends are Live Music nights in Nashville (wait, that’s every night), and Ugly Mugs is part of the party. In the all-too-short time we were there, we heard three really talented acts. If I hadn’t been so excited to be there, I might have paid closer attention to their names, but I was so enthralled by the experience of being exactly where I wanted to be, exactly how I wanted to be there that I completely missed out. Sorry, guys. I’ll catch ya next time.

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For our next excursion, we ventured into yet another neighborhood of note. The Germantown historic district has received a lot of the TLC kind of attention over the last few years, and now it’s a reasonably quiet hamlet nestled in the middle of metro Nashville. I went there, initially, for one reason: The Cupcake Collection. A few months ago I had the chance to sample their strawberry lemonade cupcakes, and man oh man, I couldn’t wait to get my paws on some more.

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This time I tried the plain lemon cupcake, and as I knew it would be, my yearning for spring was fueled by the sour sweetness. Memphis has Muddy’s, a bakery I dearly love, and their cupcakes have been my favorites for years. But The Cupcake Collection gives them a run for their money. Being a cupcake fiend I’m stoked to have something so scrumptious so close.

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As entertaining and delicious as our adventures have been so far, I have to say that the most impressive part of them has been what they’ve shown me about myself and the life I want to live.

When you can honestly say you love your own life, that you wouldn’t trade it for anyone else’s, then you know you are truly blessed. And I wouldn’t. I have come to realize over the last few weekends that even though my life may not always be ideal, it is mine, and it is the life I love. Sure, there are things I’d like to change, and things could always be better. But they could also be worse, so that’s something. Looking at the places I’ve been and the opportunities I’ve had, the people I’ve met and love, the people who love me, I cannot imagine any other life but this one. Being able to see things from this perspective has given me a greater appreciation for experience and the lessons to be learned from it. It has inspired me to focus not so much on where I’m going and what’s around the bend, but on how I am going to get there and who is going to go with me. Of course, a cupcake every now and then doesn’t hurt.

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I know I’m not the only person who’s had these ah-ha! moments (at least I hope I’m not). So tell me: where are you going? How will you get there? And who will you take along for the ride?

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