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Franklin gallery owners share how art crawl learned to walk

Art Scene founders discuss last 8 years, look to art’s future in Franklin

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The eighth anniversary is typically represented by bronze, but the Franklin Art Scene is celebrating with steel, aluminum, plaster and lots of paint. 

This Friday will mark eight years since the first Art Scene in 2011, and select downtown Franklin businesses will once again decorate their walls, tables and floors with fresh collections from featured artists. Art enthusiasts can look forward to a unique spread this month: anthropomorphic metal sculptures, pieces from an artist featured in the Vatican, a live fiber art demonstration, Halloween décor — no, September is not too early — and visual anthropology to name just a few creative varieties. 

While this list includes a wide range of artistic styles (and that’s not even the half of it), the Franklin Art Scene has never lacked for diversity. 

Kelly Harwood, owner of Gallery 202 and one of the Art Scene founders, emphasized that each month brings a slew of unique artists. And while the events have certainly grown over the years, added co-founder Michael Damico, they have been a hit since the beginning. 

“The first one, … people rallied, and it was a success, and community embraced it,” Damico said. “We were able to use that first one as a sort of proof of concept, and then we fumbled our way into something that resembled a better machine, and it kind of (grew) and (took) on its own entity.” 

Damico, who owns Damico Frame and Art Gallery, said the idea of starting an art crawl came out of his friendship with Harwood, one of the only other gallery owners in the area. After transporting his business from Florida, Damico popped into Gallery 202 one day to introduce himself. 

“We just kept visiting,” he said. “I’d go talk to him. We’d just brainstorm about ideas. I mean, you get creative people together, and it’s hard to keep the ideas inside. It just comes out.” 

Harwood explained that, even though there were few art galleries downtown, once the idea of an art crawl was mentioned, this was no obstacle. 

“We reached out to other locations that were businesses and wanted to see if they could host an artist for us so that we could have more locations,” he said. “Sometimes there are 20 locations. I mean, it’s a big night because there are a lot of wonderful artists here that need a place to display.” 

With more and more participating vendors, the Franklin Transit Authority stepped in to help guests hop from place to place, offering its trolley services during the event.  

The growth won’t stop at new vendors if Damico has his way. His vision for Franklin Art Scene extends beyond one night per month and into an everyday, prosperous, well-incorporated art culture throughout the city. 

“I am in the process of forming some kind of partnership with the Arts Council of Williamson County, and I intend to let this organization … facilitate the arts in this community in a dramatically new way to include public art grants, maybe even expanding into other types of events for artists and maybe not even alienating our culinary art friends either,” he said. “Some fun, fun plans to really connect the community to the arts are in the works.” 

He said this artist-community connection is critical to the blossoming of the city’s art scene, and he hopes to see a shift towards this grand vision even within the next year as he works with the Arts Council. 

“This organization is growing a vision and a mission that is 100% trying to elevate all artists and the community’s understanding of art, and … that is true purpose coming through,” Damico said. “It’s not just people who paint; it’s also people who look. And if people who paint have a higher standard and if we could all, as a group, help everyone who looks have a higher understanding, then that whole dynamic uplifts. I feel absolutely compelled by that, and I’ll do everything in my power to uphold that. And that is the future.” 

The Franklin Art Scene will take place across downtown Franklin on Friday, Sept. 6 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit franklinartscene.org.

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