Photo and story by Andrew Nation / Contributing Writer
The Frist Center for Visual Arts opened up two new exhibitions on Feb. 23, which are: “Rome: City and Empire” and “Slavery, the Prison Industrial Complex.”
“Rome: City and Empire” is an exhibit that consists of 10 rooms full of ancient statues, busts, paintings and more. Guests looked on and studied the past as they walked through the rooms and admired the artifacts. Murmurs of discussion filled the air as guests trickled in and out.
“This is the history of all of us,” Keith McLuskin, Frist docent, said. “Rome conquered nearly all of Europe. They had a vast empire. There is Roman DNA in American blood.”
Visitors have the chance to study different mythological statues and their origins, how the Roman people lived their lives and how the ancient people buried and honored the dead.
McLuskin also added that the artifacts were flown in from London and delivered to the Frist. Once they arrived it only took the Frist three weeks to put the enormous exhibit together.
“Slavery, the Prison Industrial Complex” had a completely different atmosphere. While this exhibit only spanned three rooms, its message had much more impact.
“It can really open some people’s eyes,” Julie Campoli of Nashville said. “I can see that, through this, beauty shows horror.”
The small exhibit tells the story of the Louisiana State Penitentiary through the camera lenses of Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick. The pair have been photographing inmates of the prison for over three decades.
The prison has been using inmate labor to harvest nearly four million pounds of cash crops a year on more than 18,000 acres of land.
The three rooms of the exhibit hosted a variety of black-and-white photos that included some of inmates working in fields while shackled together with wardens watching them on horseback.
In one corner of the room was a section of chainlink fence where visitors could write down two to three words of how the exhibit affected them. Some notes read, “Need change,” “sad” and “chilling.”
The exhibit focused on a bi-annual rodeo that inmates have been able to volunteer to compete in since 1965. However, unlike the gladiators of Rome, the inmates do not earn freedom by winning. In fact, they don’t receive any awards from their performances at the events.
Both exhibits will be open until May 28, so make sure you go check them out for yourself.
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