Cheekwood Estate and Gardens is one of our favorite Nashville gems to share with visitors. The gardens change with each season showing off a different part of the lovely estate. The Spring tulips are stunning, the harvest mums and pumpkins delight children of all ages, and the millions of holiday lights never fail to put visitors into the Christmas spirit. Above it all, the Cheek mansion presides over the gardens like a grand dame watching over her subjects. It is truly sublime.
Originally built as the home of Leslie and Mabel Cheek in 1929, Cheekwood is a 55-acre botanical garden and art museum. The Cheek family made their fortunes by owning and expanding a regional chain of grocery stores and, later, building and selling Maxwell House Coffee. Since being converted into a museum of art and botanical garden in 1960, Cheekwood Estate has presented world-class art exhibitions, spectacular gardens, and a historic estate unlike anything else. Each year, Cheekwood welcomes over 225,000 visitors, making it one of the top cultural attractions in the Nashville area. It has also been named one of the top ten gardens in America.
This summer Cheekwood opened an exhibit highlighting large glass art installations by celebrated artist Dale Chihuly, Chihuly at Cheekwood. With almost twenty installations, including two pieces on the newly accessible Sculpture Trail, as well as two new, site-specific works created exclusively for Cheekwood, the exhibit inspires awe. During Chihuly Nights, visitors can see this extraordinary artwork through a different lens as the sun goes down and the gardens light up for a truly unforgettable experience.
That’s how we enjoyed it. We visited on a hot, humid summer evening. The first sculpture we encountered was the Summer Sun. It was breathtaking, and not just because of the heavy air. Massive, and bright, the Sun lit up the night with hundreds of curvy, Medusa-like glass tendrils. Each twisty ray is unique, some red, some yellow, all glorious. The orb hovers above the ground giving the grounds a burst of golden light.
Next we saw the Gilded Yellow and Plum Tower. Created specifically for the exhibition at Cheekwood, the beautiful golden structure towers over the gardens with Seussical elegance. The number of limbs used to make this the towering tree is staggering and the craftsmanship is what makes Chihuly so inspiring. It is flawless.
One of the last pieces we saw before leaving was Cattails and Copper Birch Reeds. Installed along the driveway to the mansion, individual glass tubes rise with the fluidity of fire, twisting up, out of the Literary Garden. It is brilliant. The reeds seemed to be lapping at the night, adding heat to the already steamy evening. And it made me want to fire up a kitchen torch or grill!
We took the time to view all of art installations. There are a few in the mansion, two on the Sculpture Trail, with the rest are sprinkled throughout the gardens. They are exceptional. But don’t take my word for it. The exhibit is open until January 10, 2021, go see for yourself…maybe when the nights are not hotter than blue blazes! If you cannot plan a visit before then, be inspired by this recipe with a little Chihuly fire!
Art pieces on display:
Summer Sun, Gilded Yellow and Plum Tower, Red Reeds, Float Boat, Turquoise Marlins, Neodymium Reeds & Niijima Floats, Blue Polyvitro Crystals, Cattails and Copper Birch Reeds, Scarlet and Yellow Icicle Tower, Small Fiori Boat, White Belugas, Sapphire Star, Polyvitro Chandelier, Cerulean Frog Feet, Fiori & Emerald Fiddleheads, Citrine Icicles, Torchlight Quadpod Chandelier, Golden Amber Persian Chandelier, Sapphire Neon Tumbleweeds, Pedestal Works in the Museum Galleries