August is a big month for Brown County. It’s about to have its first 2,000-seat venue after a decade of waiting.
The Brown County Music Center held a soft opening Thursday evening, a little more than a week before its official grand opening. Art is on the walls, sound tests are rolling out and construction is almost finished. The vision that many in the community have had since the Little Nashville Opry burned down is coming to fruition.
IndyStar took a tour of the center, which is at 200 Maple Leaf Blvd. in Nashville, Indiana. Here are some of its noteworthy attributes:
Murals from Nashville House
Murals painted by Indiana artist George Lachance were donated to the Brown County Music Center by the family of prominent businessman Andy Rogers, who once owned The Nashville House, in Nashville Ind., on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. The painting includes three of the Rogers children, far right. (Photo: Photo courtesy of the Braun family)
Two murals with Brown County history offer an eye-catching greeting upon entry. Patrons of the now-shuttered Nashville House will recognize them right away. They’re the same art that graced the restaurant that was famous for its fried chicken, mashed potatoes and fried biscuits with apple butter, center board member Jim Schultz said.
Jack Rogers co-founded the restaurant in 1927, and his son Frank “Andy” Rogers took over in 1959. Georges LaChance, a well-known Brown County Art Colony member, painted the scenes of local life. A 1943 fire that destroyed Nashville House damaged the murals, and the business reopened in 1947 before closing in 2018.
The Rogers family donated the two murals on display now, and three more will head to the center as well, executive director Dana Beth Evans said.
It has a rustic feel
That shouldn’t surprise you, seeing as how it’s in Brown County. Neither should the view out the windows, which shows rolling hills of trees. The stone exterior gives way to an interior with stained wood accents and columns. Skylight-like windows line the ceiling and let in natural light.
Staff and contractors put finishing touches on the Brown County Music Center, just hours before the soft opening of the new venue in Nashville Ind., on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. The venue can seat about two thousand. (Photo: Photo courtesy of the Braun family)
On one side of the lobby is a beer garden, and on the other side is a family garden, where the under-21 crowd can enjoy their concessions. Oatmeal-colored handmade wooden benches sit in the space as well.
The auditorium seats 2,017, including seats that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Three main tiered blocks of seats are inside, including 132 seats in front that can be removed for special types of shows or dancing, Evans said.
The designer’s connection
Doug Harden, of Miller Architects, had been dreaming of a new building since the demise of the Little Nashville Opry in 2009. He drew up designs of a building that would highlight the ticket buyers’ experience: good sound, no visual obstructions and comfort.
Harden is also a longtime musician, having started performing at Bill Monroe’s Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival when he was a young teen. He plays mandolin now for the Not Too Bad Bluegrass Band.
“I’ve always told people, ‘It’s all in how you say the word ‘too,'” he said. “It’s all in the inflection.”
Regardless of whether the emphasis is on the “too” or the “not,” the band was set to make Nashville history as the first to play on the new center’s stage at Thursday’s soft opening.
Find the best things to doIt contains a new art gallery
Gallery 200, so named for the address, is ready with its juried art show hanging on the walls. The work includes paintings like Rick D. Wilson’s oil on canvas of hilly farmland with cows grazing, Lynne Medsker’s mixed media “Floral Riot” and Jerry Clifton’s wood portrait called “Spirit Women.” People can purchase the art and find out where to find more of a particular creator’s work.
Shovels decorated by Brown County artists for the 2018 groundbreaking are on display as well. And so is a famous one signed by the Oak Ridge Boys, which came with a note congratulating the new center.
What’s coming up
Two more soft openings are scheduled for Saturday and Wednesday. They’re free but require tickets. Programming will officially begin with a sold-out Vince Gill concert Aug. 24.
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Performances by Kiss, Luke Bryan, Gary Clark Jr. and Melissa Etheridge highlight the music roster for August.
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