The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Step into Vanderbilt Art Gallery: Nashville’s largest public art collection

We explored the upcoming events and current exhibitions at this center of artistic life on campus.
Lana English
Inside Cohen Memorial Hall, as photographed on Oct. 30, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Lana English)

On a quiet corner of the Peabody campus nestled inside Cohen Memorial Hall is the home of Nashville’s largest public art collection: Vanderbilt Art Gallery. As you walk into Cohen, look immediately to your right and you will see Vanderbilt’s unique on-campus art gallery — home to much of campus’ vibrant artistic community. 

The gallery aims to bring together people across campus and the community to engage with critical human issues through visual art. Cohen Hall has been a home for the arts since its creation, gifted by art collector George Etta Brinkley Cohen to Peabody College in 1926. The building itself is a work of art, built with a neoclassical style and an interior atrium reminiscent of a Roman villa. 

As you examine the marble columns and Baroque bust of the Grand Dauphin, you will also see a more recent piece of art: Amie Esslinger’s multi-media installation “Holding Impact.” This colorful and dynamic piece is a visualization of two stars colliding, meant to disrupt the static architecture of the hall and display the spontaneity of nature. This piece is only the beginning of the vast art collection held by the gallery, which is free and open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. CDT.

The gallery’s collection includes over 7,000 pieces, with particular strengths in East Asian and European works on paper. At any given time, only a small selection of the pieces are displayed, changing to allow students to enjoy a wide range of art during their time at Vanderbilt. When visiting the gallery, a binder with information about the pieces is available to help educate your viewing experience. 

One particularly interesting piece currently on display is “Amida (Buddha) composed of minuscule Chinese characters,” created by an unknown artist. To see the thousands of words creating the Buddha requires a magnifying glass, and the work seems almost impossible, as the individual brush strokes are so small and no words are repeated on the piece.

Additionally, the gallery is currently exhibiting “VU Salon” until April 19, 2024. This exhibition aims to create a salon style of works that are used frequently by students for lectures or assignments. By appealing directly to students, this allows for a better understanding of the works and greater dialogue within the artistic community at Vanderbilt. As you admire the many pieces on view, you can experience the beauty of art from across centuries and the globe, many of which are actively being studied by Fine Arts classes. 

Beyond the art pieces themselves, the gallery is frequently engaging with the community, with many upcoming events through the remaining time of the semester. On April 16 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. CDT, the Peabody Sculpture Tour, hosted by Vanderbilt Art Gallery, will take place. Beginning in the gallery lobby, student guides will lead a tour of the many sculptures on the Peabody campus that frequently go unnoticed. This tour is the last of the Gallery’s “Art for Lunch” event series, which is weekly on Tuesdays and includes artist talks, presentations and workshops. 

Another event is exciting news for comic enthusiasts! This Wednesday, April 17, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. CDT, the JAM Comic Workshop returns this semester, featuring Nashville-based artist Amy Kuttab as the host. Kuttab will lead a fun and collaborative session using the ‘exquisite corpse’ model of comic drawing. Participants will start by drawing a single panel and then pass it along for the next person to add their touch. This process will continue, with each contribution building upon the last, until a unique comic story emerges. This event will be held on Wyatt Lawn, weather permitting, and all necessary supplies will be provided. With no prior artwork and cartooning experience required, artists of all levels are welcome to attend. A reading of final cartoons and sharing of favorite panels at the end to follow.

Additionally, from 4:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. CDT this upcoming Thursday, April 18, students from a new class, Electronic Music for Composers, added to Blair’s curriculum and developed by Grammy-nominated composer and electronic artist Pascal Le Boeuf, will be live in Cohen’s Gallery. Inspired by composers like Brian Eno and Delia Derbyshire and under LeBoeuf’s guidance, they will premiere multichannel generative sound installation pieces as well as electroacoustic compositions. Eno is a luminary English figure in experimental music. He is known for his work in ambient music and electronic soundscapes, mainly his seminal album “Music for Airports” which utilizes repetitive structures and minimalistic instrumentation. Similarly, Derbyshire, a pioneering electronic musician, is best acclaimed for her electronic music revolution via visionary compositions, mastery of tape manipulation, and early use of synthesizers. She also contributed to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in the 1960s. 

Other events at the gallery include the Prayer Tree Project, led by Tahlia Mintz, which will involve adding personal prayers to decorate a collective tree on Wednesday, April 17 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. CST. 

The Vanderbilt Art Gallery at Cohen Hall is both a repository of visual delights and artistic expressions worthy of being checked out. Should one be drawn to interactive learning, intrigued by sonic creations or simply seeking a picturesque backdrop for graduation photos, plenty is going on to interest all students. 

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About the Contributors
Claire Gatlin
Claire Gatlin, Former Life Editor
Claire Gatlin ('24) is a student in Peabody College studying human and organizational development and political science. In her free time, she enjoys going to concerts, reading and rollerblading. You can reach her at [email protected].
Anseley Philippe
Anseley Philippe, Staff Writer and Photographer
Anseley Philippe ('25) is a potential biomedical engineering and Spanish double-major who aspires to be an immunologist. Outside of The Hustler, he can be found queuing up at 2301, wandering around campus during his evening promenades or trying to keep up with his Spanish. He can be reached at [email protected].
Lana English
Lana English, Staff Photographer
Lana English (‘27) is from St. Louis and is majoring in neuroscience in the College of Arts and Science. Outside of The Hustler, you can find her drinking coffee, doing New York Times word games or getting nostalgic looking at old pictures. You can reach her at [email protected].
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