Nashville's First Saturday Art Crawl celebrated its fifth anniversary last year, but just 17 months later, the event is experiencing growing pains: Its home on Fifth Avenue North is undergoing a major facelift that may make First Saturdays even bigger, while Twist, a pioneering Art Crawl gallery, has announced it will close next summer.
Sixteen years ago, Anne Brown's The Arts Company opened its doors, making it the first gallery on Fifth Avenue North. Brown remains an enthusiastic promoter of the Art Crawl she helped to found.
"We don't do it just to do it," Brown says, laughing. "We meet new people every month. We make new sales every month during the Art Crawl. But it's also a way to engage people in a visual art activity that's free."
What's not free is the $1.5 million Metro Public Works project that has rechristened the block the Fifth Avenue North Arts District, and will bring with it a newly paved street, wider sidewalks, public art, bike racks, pedestrian seating, new landscaping and shimmering curtains of LED lights.
"I think it's a major shot in the arm for the Art Crawl," says Brown, who feels the makeover will shine a new light — literally and figuratively — on visual art in Nashville. "It's going to make it the Art Crawl-plus."
While the redesign will affect the Fifth Avenue galleries the most, it will also impact the art spaces across the street in The Arcade. And there's another change coming to that side of the avenue.
Twist Gallery's Beth Gilmore helped organize the inaugural Art Crawl, and some of Twist's first exhibits were unsalable installations that immediately set it apart from its more commercial neighbors. This paved the way for The Arcade's other contemporary fine art galleries, such as Coop, 40AU, Open and Blend Studio. These spaces consistently program the smartest, most challenging — and often most beautiful — work at the crawl, but its hard to imagine the scene existing if Twist hadn't provided an anchor. But despite her pioneering success, Gilmore is calling it quits after July.