Week of May 21, 2001
  Snapshot from the Field

Nashville Skyline:
New Country Hall of Fame Blends Roots, Revenue

By JACK LYNESite Selection Executive Editor of Interactive Publishing

Thomas Hart Benton's final workNASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Nashville skyline last week added a unique blend of roots and revenue: the new, dramatically upgraded Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (www.halloffame.org).
        "Country music is three chords and the truth," songwriter Harlan Howard once said.
        Simplicity is part of country music's longevity. But don't let the down-home roots fool you; the Hall of Fame and Museum that opened it doors downtown seven days ago cagily incorporates more than a few solid location principles.

"The Sources of Country Music," Thomas Hart Benton's final work, hangs inside the Hall of Fame's display area.

Vanderbilt Study: Facility Will 'Quadruple Economic Activity'

roof of the rotundaThe expanded museum, for example, aggressively aims to capitalize on a strong market. At 130,000 sq. ft. (12,540 sq. m.) and spanning an entire city block, the new facility is four times larger than the original museum opened in 1967.
        And in projected economic impact, the new museum will dwarf its predecessor.
        "The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum will more than quadruple its economic impact on this area," said Richard Oliver, who headed the economic impact study conducted by Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management (http://mba.vanderbilt.edu/external). "We studied job creation, community morale, increased tourism and other factors to determine our projected impact figures," explained Oliver, a Vanderbilt management professor.
The roof of the rotunda (shown above) soars up to 70 feet (21.3 meters);
other sections of the facility have a vertical reach of 107 feet (32.6 meters).

        According to the study, the new museum opened on May 17 will:
  • generate between US$21.9 million and $28.6 million of economic activity during its first full year of operation, compared to the $5.4 million the current facility generated in 1999.
  • generate between $110.5 million and $143.7 million of economic activity over the next five years, a time span over which it will create more than 600 indirect jobs.
  • create 60 direct new jobs, doubling the staff that worked in the old museum on Music Row facility in 1999.

An Enduring Melody: Location, Location, Location

new Hall of Fame and MuseumThat projected economic punch reflects a savvy choice of location, location, location for the strikingly designed new museum (see photos).
        The facility's site sits facing a three-acre (1.2-hectare) public park in the heart of Nashville's bustling, revitalized downtown. As such, it's nestled in a hotbed of hotels, nightclubs, art galleries, public art and retail shops. In addition, nearby lie a host of gathering spots for a passel of folks: the Gaylord Entertainment Center (home of the NHL's Nashville Predators), Adelphia Coliseum (home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans), the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and the new Nashville and Davidson County Public Library.
        "We're confident that the new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum will make us a destination for tourists, conventions and fans of this great cornerstone of our city," said Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell.
The new Hall of Fame and Museum spans 130,000 sq. ft. (12,540 sq. m.) and covers an entire city block.

Roots and Refinement on the Inside

But facilities and any enduring folk music enjoy a commonality: It's what's inside that counts. (In honor of the occasion, we'll pass by David Letterman's scathing but scarily accurate observation about a recent country music awards show: "It looked like the damn halftime show for the Fiesta Bowl!")
        Inside is a combination of rough-hewn roots and state-of-the-art class: a treasure trove of historic video clips and important recorded music, public spaces and resting places, dining (with catering available) and daily live shows in four performance spaces.
        A few nice touches from inside the new facility:
  • Bronze likenesses and memorabilia representing all 74 Hall of Fame members are displayed in a 70-foot-high (21.3-meter-high) rotunda, a glassed-in space in the building's center that's bathed in the natural light falling from a circle of clerestory windows above. At 4,500 sq. ft. (418 sq. m.), the "Hall of Fame proper" section is twice the size of the space inside its Music Row predecessor. (Historical note: The first inductee was Jimmie Rodgers, the legendary "Singing Brakeman," in 1961; the most recent were 2000's long-overlooked Charlie Pride and Faron Young. Johnny Cash, we'll gratuitously add, was inducted with damn good reason in 1980.)
  • Alongside the Hall of Famers hangs "The Sources of Country Music," the last work by perhaps the Picasso of American, Thomas Hart Benton (pictured with this feature).
  • Water from the fountain in the Hall of Famers display symbolically flows alongside visitors as they descend along a 200-foot-long (61-meter-long) staircase. The water pools at the foot of the staircase in a wishing well in the heart of the public conservatory, a space designed to symbolize the music's "front porch" origins and its sense of community.
  • The building's interior is pierced by a reproduction of the bottom half of the diamond-shaped WSM-AM 650 radio tower. Serving as a chandelier, the replicated tower echoes the catalytic role the Grand Old Opry's radio home played in creating and popularizing the musical form.
  • Towering slabs of crab orchard stone looming on the circumference of the facility's dramatically lit rotunda depict the classic opening notes of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."

Unbroken Circle Closes Opening

That Carter Family musical classic returned to wrap up the museum's opening ceremonies. "Mother Maybelle" Carter's famous Gibson L-5 guitar, the last artifact to be installed in the new museum, arrived only shortly before the museum's official kickoff.

        Marty Stuart strapped on Mother Maybelle's guitar to close the heavy-on-tradition ceremony by singing "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."
        "This is the country music guitar," Stuart said, looking at the instrument. "Country music lives right inside this hole right here."
        And it lives also inside a pretty cool new building.

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