The Paint Box Art Gallery

by Julia Pearson
photo by Cindy Steele

The Paint Box Art Gallery has been a mainstay of the art scene in downtown Nashville for over 41 years. There have been a few jogs in the path to its current address at 93 West Franklin Street. The gallery originated in Bean Blossom, and moved to Nashville in 1973 into a shop that is currently occupied by the For Bare Feet store in Antique Alley.

Always a showcase for independent artists, the shop was managed by Mariesu Vanetta. Ms. Vanetta had been an art teacher, and recognized the talent in painter Sherry Barnett’s pieces, suggestimg she consider putting her paintings in the Paint Box Gallery. Before Ms. Vanetta passed away, she had the assurance that Sherry Barnett would take over management of the gallery. The past 30 years have gone by quickly for Sherry. Half of the current nine exhibiting member artists have been with the Paint Box Gallery for fifteen years or more.

There is a sunshiny-yellow bench in front of the gallery, inviting the passers-by to sit and enjoy the scenery of the street and sidewalk. A container of decorative walking sticks made by Ken Barnett sits in front of the bench.
Inside the gallery’s door, it becomes quickly obvious that “good things come in small packages.” Visitors will find oils on canvas of Brown County scenes and landmarks, including Salt Creek and the Bean Blossom Bridge, by artist Scott Cotton. Cotton also has postcards available that feature local street busker, John Franz, in front of the Artist Colony Inn, and many examples of scrimshaw. Lucy Purdue of Nashville has oil and acrylics on canvas and wooden items. There are extraordinary canvases with country and woodland scenes by Pat Woodall, as well as pottery, handwoven baskets, and porcelain dolls. There are watercolor and pastels of countryside scenes, some animated by animals such as fawns or calves by Linda Robinson. Sharon Flake’s framed sketches of local landmarks are available. Large-sized watercolor fishes and lures by Nashville’s Ted Reeves will impress everyone. Paul Hendrickson also has paintings of watercolor and acrylics on display, as well as fine pen and ink drawings of scenes and buildings from Indianapolis, Vevay, Madison, and Nashville. Jane Schoon has pieces of realistic landscapes and florals, as well as abstract and surrealism.

Artist and manager, Sherry Barnett, has paintings with a country flavor. Her work is on canvas, saw blades, clocks, gourds, powder horns, and other decorative arts pieces. Raised in Indianapolis with six younger brothers, Sherry graduated from Emrich Manual High School. Sherry met the love of her life, Ken Barnett, at Marsh’s Supermarket where they both were working. Upon their marriage and setting up housekeeping in the country, Sherry immersed herself in country life and mothering their three children: Mark, Shannon, and Amy. When the children were in school, Sherry began painting. With a few lessons under her belt, she branched out on her own with oils on canvas. She especially loves painting on country pieces and is known for her decorative saw blades.

Sherry delights in the gallery, and it shows. She and Ken painted the walls and doors, put in new display panels, and added more lights. Curtains were hung at the windows, which give it that homey feeling. Artist Pat Woodall suggested spackling the floor, and that became a project undertaken by Pat and Sherry.

Sherry enjoys meeting people and says that Brown County, and especially Nashville, remind her of the Smokies, where she and Ken honeymooned 49 years ago.

Sherry finds it easy to paint while at the Paint Box. She says it is therapeutic for anyone. “I pick up the brush and it’s like all thoughts go away except for what I’m working on.” She encourages artists and would-be-artists to come in and consider showing their creations. New items are continually being added by all the member artists.

Beautiful, one-of-a-kind ornaments, cards, and jewelry make lovely gifts for all occasions.

Official hours for the Paint Box are 11 to 5, 7 days a week, April through December 23. January and March, the gallery is open only on the weekends from 11 to 5, weather permitting. It is not open during the month of February.