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Arts & Culture

MTSU and Property Assessor Turn County Office Space Into Community Art Gallery

Title searchers, taxpayers and other visitors can enjoy works of community art while they rifle through paperwork and wait their turn for service at the Rutherford County Property Assessor’s Office, thanks to a unique partnership between the county office and the MTSU Department of Art.

The new Murfree Gallery, named for the family of Revolutionary War hero Col. Hardy Murfree for whom the city of Murfreesboro was renamed in 1811, will formally open Friday, Nov. 22, with a special reception and art exhibit in the downtown Rutherford County Office Building, 319 N. Maple St.

The Murfree Gallery is located in the lobby and antechamber of the property assessor’s office on the second floor of the County Office Building.

The inaugural opening reception is set from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Nov. 22. The gallery's first exhibit, scheduled through Jan. 30, 2014, includes students from the MTSU Department of Art and several noteworthy community artists.

Working alongside local businesses, the MTSU Department of Art, through the Todd Art Gallery, collaborated with county Property Assessor Rob Mitchell to feature ongoing exhibits in the new Murfree Gallery. 

“Rutherford County has a rich cultural history. I can think of no better way to celebrate it than through a partnership with Tennessee’s finest University, Middle Tennessee State University," Mitchell said of the new gallery and partnership. 

"I believe we should strive to make better use of our public buildings for the benefit of our community. Hopefully this will be just one small step towards that goal.”

L & K Trophy House Inc., Lowe’s of Murfreesboro and Middle Tennessee Reprographics assisted Mitchell with the gallery conversion costs.

MTSU art major Amber Lelli, chief curator of the Student Gallery Committee, worked with the Todd Art Gallery's Eric Snyder to select works from MTSU art students to include in the first Murfree Gallery exhibit. 

Representing a snapshot in time from the fall 2013 semester's areas of graphic design and studio art, works are featured by students Brian Bailey, Davion Baxter, Felicia Cannon, Carissa Gay, Lindsey Isbell, Nick Murphy, Josh Petty, Whitney Proper, Acacia Richey, Morgan Rotenberry, and Starling Sensing.

The featured community artists include local favorites Mary Watkins, Diane Stockard and John Smith, who recently began to paint iconic and nostalgic scenes of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County while he also served as a funeral director at Nashville’s Mount Olivet Cemetery. Other community artists in the inaugural Murfree Gallery exhibit include Bobbie Bittner, Jack Freeman and Suzanne LeBeau of the Murfreesboro Art League and the Attic School of Art’s Pamela Mack and Carol Moliterno. 

“The benefit that the Murfree Gallery brings to MTSU and the Department of Art is the expressed interconnectedness and benefits that exist between the university and our surrounding municipalities and county," said MTSU's Snyder, who also chairs the Murfreesboro City Hall Art Committee.

"For our students, this collaboration offers opportunity for real-world experience, particularly in the area of the growing trend of public facilities functioning as art spaces and limited public forums. For these MTSU students and those to follow, this type of opportunity is invaluable," he added.

The Murfree Gallery will be open to the public during the regular County Office Building hours — weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. — as well as the first Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to noon. Special event hours will be announced when new exhibits get underway.

For more information on the new Murfree Gallery, contact Mitchell at assessor@rutherfordcounty.org or 615-898-7750. For more information on MTSU's Todd Art Gallery, contact Snyder at eric.snyder@mtsu.edu or 615-898-5653.