Hunkered in the historic Hadley Schoolhouse, creative juices are always flowing at the Old Hickory Art Center.

The hidden gym is at 1308 Fuller St. and haven to almost 60 painters who use the quaint space to paint all types of art genres.

Longtime painter Ken Matthiesen said he joined the group of artists about seven years ago. He’s also a songwriter.

“Our painters run the gamut of experience and genres,” he said. “There are portraits, still lifes, landscapes and so much more. We all learn a little more each time we grace the door here.”

The center is a dream of Tom Taylor, said Matthiesen. 

Taylor is a retired graphic artist. Dupont built the two-room schoolhouse and served first through eighth grade classes from 1935 until 1956, said Matthiesen. 

With help from the Old Hickory Utility District, the building was refurbished and painted a bright red. It can’t be missed on Old Hickory Boulevard.

Taylor founded the center that is currently a refuge and haven for artists to paint, learn and sell their artwork. He currently directs the center, teaches students and gives them advice he’s learned through all his years of painting. 

At 18, Taylor started his career as an artist and received a full scholarship to attend Columbus School of Art. He then spent 45 years as a professional litho artist.

“My retirement has allowed me to focus full time on my own artistic creations,” he said. “I just love the Old Hickory Art Center.”

Matthiesen said he started dabbling in painting about seven years ago.

“I am a songwriter from Kansas, and I’d go to places like Hobby Lobby to try my hand at painting,” he said. “They welcomed me here with open arms. Painting is much like songwriting. People build their schedules to paint and create here. It gets to be a lifestyle…whatever fits in your life. People just love the vibe of creativity.”

People come from Hendersonville, Gallatin and Nashville to paint in the two-room renovated schoolhouse that, for years, catered to local students. They may have even offered an art class back in the day to the students.

“We are the only studio in Nashville that operates like we do,” Matthiesen said. “We have the paint and brushes. You start small and go into your craft. It’s really super nice. It’s satisfying to see the outcome of each art project. We are better artists because of this place.”

Many of the people who gravitate each week to the center are retired; others are just looking for a hobby, a place to get away and unwind and escape into their own creativity. 

Last Friday, participants enjoyed a private get together at the center, and on Saturday, they held their annual art sale from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Anyone unable to attend should fear not. Artwork is on sale during the week, Tuesdays through Fridays, from 9 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

Art lovers are encouraged to drop by and browse the artwork created by the people who use the art studio. There’s about $6,000 worth of expression at the studio at any given time that range from $15 and higher.

Matthiesen said everyone is welcome to join the group, and on any given day, at least 20 artists are busy painting at the center. 

“Come on over,” he said. 

To view the high-caliber talent, visit the gallery page at oldhickoryartcenter.com.

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