MTSU, Rutherford County celebrate new community ar...

MTSU, Rutherford County celebrate new community art gallery

Title searchers, taxpayers and other visitors can now 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 formally opened Nov. 22 with a special reception and art exhibit in the Rutherford County Office Building at 319 N. Maple St.

Kelsey Greer, an MTSU graphic design major and a student designer in the university’s Creative and Visual Services Department, studies “Tendons (The Release)” by fellow student Lindsey Isbell at the Murfree Gallery opening in downtown Murfreesboro Nov. 22. (MTSU photo by Darby Campbell)

The new creative space is named for the family of Revolutionary War hero Col. Hardy Murfree, for whom the city of Murfreesboro was renamed in 1811. The sixth generation of Murfrees now live and work in the city.

“He (Rutherford County Property Assessor Rob Mitchell) selected the right family to name this gallery after,” County Mayor Ernest Burgess said at the opening reception.

“This is increasing all of our exposure to some of the things happening in our community and our county.”

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

It’s located in the lobby and antechamber of the property assessor’s office on the second floor of the County Office Building. The gallery’s first exhibit, scheduled through Jan. 30, 2014, includes work from students from the MTSU Department of Art and several noteworthy community artists.

“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 the 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.

Organizers and supporters of the new Murfree Gallery in the Rutherford County Office Building in Murfreesboro gather amid the art on display at the Nov. 22 opening reception. From left are Eric Snyder, coordinator of MTSU’s Todd Art Gallery; Amber Lelli, chief curator of the MTSU Student Gallery Committee; Rob Mitchell, Rutherford County property assessor; and Col. Hardy Murfree descendants William Murfree DeJean, Bob Murfree, Betsy Murfree, Gina Murfree DeJean and Elizabeth Murfree DeJean. (MTSU photo by Darby Campbell)

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 or 615-898-7750. For more information on MTSU’s Todd Art Gallery, contact Snyder at or 615-898-5653.

— Gina E. Fann (

A dancer is captured in an exaggerated kiss by MTSU senior Davion Baxter during a trip to Taiwan in this photo included in the inaugural exhibit of the Murfree Gallery, which opens Nov. 22. Baxter is majoring in both photography and graphic design and plans to graduate this December. (Photo courtesy of Davion Baxter)

MTSU senior Nick Murphy’s untitled illustration is part of the inaugural exhibit of the Murfree Gallery. Murphy is majoring in both painting and graphic design. (Photo courtesy of Nick Murphy)

This painting by MTSU junior fine art major Lindsey Isbell, “Tendons (The Release),” is part of the inaugural exhibit of the Murfree Gallery. (Photo courtesy of Lindsey Isbell)

Murfreesboro artist John Smith’s trompe l’oeil painting — not photograph! — of the Rutherford County Courthouse is part of the inaugural exhibit of the Murfree Gallery. (Photo courtesy of John Smith)

Murfreesboro artist Mary Watkins’ painting “Mrs. C’s Hats” is part of the inaugural exhibit of the Murfree Gallery. (Photo courtesy of Mary Watkins)