The world changes. As do its people. Industries evolve. Technology moves us to the future while we’re still in the present. Even nature alters itself over the course of generations. But some things stand the test of time: beauty in its many forms. Art. Crystal. Jewels. Carvings. Pottery. Poetry. Music.
And so it is with the grandeur of a magnificent structure. This one, a Federalist styled grand dame on the corner of Church Street and Second Avenue in downtown Franklin, has held court here on its lush green lawn for 200 years. The handmade brick façade was built as a town home. Over the course of these many years, it has been home to many families, many dreams and dreamers.
Clouston Hall, the name engraved on its coveted National Registry of Historic Places plaque, has known a myriad of joys, loves, celebrations. And more than its fair share of pain and tragedy. It served as a field hospital in the Civil War and has blood stains on its floors still today.
But Clouston reached its highest and best calling a decade ago when it became Gallery 202, a lovely and welcoming art gallery whose walls wear juried fine art. Windows sparkle with their original wavy glass, original doors, millwork, and a hidden space or two are as welcoming as they were two centuries ago.
A trio of Waterford chandeliers and one of amethyst drip from 15-foot ceilings. Original glistening poplar floors welcome visitors with Southern antique furniture, a grand piano, and a stand up bass. Tasteful throughout its nearly 3,500 square feet, including the working studio of gallery owner Kelly Harwood, the two stories have so many tales to spin, both of the structure and the many pieces of fine art and their creators.
Instead of 1821, we’re here we in 2021, facing a war of our own, Covid-19. One that prevents a grand celebration that’s just bursting from the frames of its canvases. It’s a time that calls for gathering guests, tinkling glasses of champagne, laughter and music to celebrate the birthday of the grand dame (who doesn’t look a day older than 100), and the decade of its transformation to a top tier gallery. Alas, it cannot be.
“That day will come, we just have to be patient,” says gallery owner Kelly Harwood, a self-taught award winning artist from “sweet home Alabama”, the genteel Southerner to the bone, grew up in a small town, Hokes Bluff. Opportunities were few, certainly no art schools or galleries.
“I was drawing by the age of five or six, graduated to crayons, then other mediums. I was enthralled with art from the beginning; I really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, an artist,” he said. Actually, he said his first inclination was to be an art teacher since he enjoyed art classes in high school.
But his dreams grew. He took a few art classes in a community college, then life got in the way. He found himself working at a tire plant. For a decade. All the while he was painting at home.
“Suddenly, I couldn’t take it another day,” said the affable Harwood. “I had to do art, full time, sink or swim. I had to be my creative self.”
Unlike so many who come to Nashville for the music industry, Harwood came for the creative vibe of the city. He pursued his art, as well as his knack for interior design. He built a clientel of art lovers and homeowners who adored his design talents, as well as those of his brushes.
His career had taken him to Franklin, where he worked at JJ Ashley downtown.
“I was happy there,” he said. “I loved the shop and its customers.”
“One day my spouse said to me, “What is it you really want to do with the rest of your life?” “Without pause I said, ‘keep painting of course, but wouldn’t it be awesome to have a gallery to show my work and the creativity of artists all around us’”?
A bit later, in a strange coincidence, the grand dame, Clouston Hall, came on the market. Harwood passed it daily on his way to the shop. And every day he became more and more convinced the historic structure would make the perfect home for beautiful original pieces of art. The price was as grand as the house. He didn’t see how it could work out.
He and his spouse, Ira Shivitz, who is in the medical profession, put in an offer and it was accepted. Harwood was walking on air. The beauty of the place and the incredible pieces of creativity it would house seemed beyond reality.
A decade later, the Gallery is well known throughout Middle Tennessee and even out of state. He has collectors from across the country and the world.
“We show juried works by almost 20 artists, and while paintings are our mainstay, we offer such a myriad of other forms of creativity. We host striking hand blown pieces of glass, hand turned wood, brilliant bronze, Southern antiques, one of a kind pieces of jewelry, even the age old art of Encaustic which dates back to Egyptian times. The ancient medium mixes pigments with hot wax. It’s an unusual and beautiful art form,” he said.
Harwood and his work have become so well known and treasured that one of his murals is splashed across two walls in the new boutique Harpeth Hotel. He has other pieces and other artists’ pieces in common areas, and a huge abstract at the entrance to the condominiums that share space in this mixed-use development.
Harwood paints across a myriad of subject matters and mediums. From a portrait of a cow to a whale leaping in azure waters to vases filled with blooms to abstracts, his brush takes his inspiration from the world that is. And was. His canvases include a lot of commission work these days. Collectors know him, his work and his seemingly limitless stretch of telling a story on canvas.
From opening its first day 10 years ago, the gallery now has grown to a list of 2,000 clients, both local and tourists. His artists are mostly local; the talent, like the music, is here, he wants to showcase it.
“But honestly, the glue that holds this gallery and our endeavors together is my dear friend of 30 years, Jim McReynolds. He manages the gallery and continues to enlarge our scope in the arts. While he doesn’t paint, he has a fantastic eye. He can improve an already wonderful piece just by hanging it in the perfect spot to show its intricacies. He displays canvases in the light most flattering to them. He is the treasure seeker for our antiques. He is the soul of this place,” said the affable artist.
Happy 200th Birthday Clouston Hall (which does not look a day over 100) and Gallery 202, a place filled with history and its grandeur on its floors, walls and ceilings.
Copyright 2021: Southern Exposure Magazine