This coming Tuesday, that big church-looking building in the middle of Centennial Park--a mystery to visitors but a beloved icon to native Nashvillians called the Parthenon--will host a talk about, guess what--the Parthenon!
It has often been said that native New Yorkers never go to see the Statue of Liberty, the Big Apple's biggest civic icon. That is not true of the Big Rhinestone and its civic icon, The Parthenon. Just about every native born son and daughter of Nashville has been to the Parthenon at least once, a habit that has been going on for generations. If you go back through old newspapers you will also see the big building used for music concerts, car commercials, political ads, Hollywood movies, reams of typing paper and just about everything else under the sun.
As just about Nashville native can tell you, The Parthenon in Nashville is an exact replica of the ancient Parthenon in Athens, Greece--or as exact as humanly possible. Except for one thing--the Ionic Frieze. When they were rebuilding it in the 1920's the city fathers went whole hog and spared no expense--until the Great Depression hit and they ran out of money. It took until the 1980's before Nashville finally got around to putting in the giant Athena Parthenos statue and even then it took a while to put gold leaf on it. The Ionic Frieze was a continuous band of sculpture running around the outside of the building but inside the colonnade and the original sculptures have not been replicated on the Nashville building. Don't fret though, its absence on the modern replica pretty much goes unnoticed by all except for all but the most ocd Classical scholars.
However if you want to find out about the Little Frieze That Isn't There, next Tuesday at 7PM professor Bonna Wescoat of Emory University tell you all about the Ionic frieze of the Parthenon. As you may have read in The Tennessean last year, Wescoat and her graduate students from Emory installed painted panels in the location of the Ionic frieze and tested their visibility using photography and surveys of passers-by to Centennial Park.
The talk will take place in front of the Big Gold Lady in the main room of the Parthenon, the Naos. Even though the program is free, reservations are required so they can know how many chairs to set up.
The title of Professor Westcoat’s Tuesday lecture is “Seeing Is Believing: Nashville Parthenon Sheds New Light on the Visibility of the Parthenon Frieze.”
The lecture begins at 7 p.m. at the Parthenon in Centennial Park with a light reception following. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Call 862-8431.