Rymer Gallery brings together contemporary art, artists in lively series of shows

Two years into its successful operation, the Rymer Gallery is proof that advance planning pays off.

The downtown gallery has become a favorite spot for fundraising events, and its mix of local, regional and even international artists reflects a strong desire by owner Jeff Rymer and his staff to bring a varied and vibrant mix of contemporary art to Nashville. And its success has also highlighted the importance of doing plenty of background research before launching such a venture.

“We spent almost a year before opening visiting galleries around the country,” Rymer said. “We went to more than 150 different places so we could get a feel of the aesthetic we wanted the gallery to present as a structure and also what kind of backdrop we wanted to create to show the art. We wanted both to find styles that would work well in Nashville and also to begin finding and reaching out to artists who were not known in the local area.”

The travels of Rymer, curator Herb Williams and gallery director Tonia Trotter, led to 25 invitations being sent out to artists, explaining
what the new gallery would represent and how it would be positioned in the community. Hopes weren’t terribly high in terms of response.

“Herb said to me, and I thought he was totally right, ‘We’ll be lucky if we get three or four people to respond,’” Rymer recalled. “To our surprise, 18 of that original 25 said they wanted to be a part of what we were doing. We whittled that down to a dozen that we thought were
the right fit, and by the time we opened we had about 25 artists represented.”

The 3,000-square-foot gallery runs 10 shows a year, highlighting a single artist or a group of three or four whose styles and works are complementary. The walls at the main location and annex gallery and studio adjacent to the Hermitage Hotel can hold between 100 and 125 paintings and sculptures, so upwards of a dozen artists are always on display, even if they’re not that particular show’s featured pieces.

And like most other galleries in town, the Rymer has quickly gotten into the swing of the city’s arts-related calendar of events, including an annual open house and themed exhibit for Artrageous.

“It’s probably our favorite show of the year to plan for,” Rymer said. “We try to take the artists that we feel with fit with the sensibilities of the guests who are coming that night, local artists and others who we feel will connect with the theme and feel of the event. We’re always able to have a very broad scope for this show, which is why we like doing it so much.”

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