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Arts and Culture Grow in Rutherford County, TN

Locally owned restaurants, retail destinations and entertainment venues enhance Rutherford County's cultural community.

By Gary Wollenhaupt on June 4, 2015

Rutherford County’s growth is extending to its towns and their downtown areas, creating a thriving arts and culture scene that is building momentum. An influx of restaurants, shops, entertainment venues and creative enterprises are flourishing across the county and contributing to its eclectic vibe.
Farm-to-table restaurants like Five Senses and other eateries like the The Curious Kitchen and Milano II are drawing crowds to the Murfreesboro area.
The Curious Kitchen, launched by Helena Spensatelli and her daughter, Rachel Spensatelli, opened in August 2014 and doubles as both a bistro and a recreational cooking school. The bistro is open during the day Monday through Friday, and its cooking school operates during various evenings each month. The three-hour cooking classes are open to students of all skill levels, and kids-only cooking classes are also available.
“We all cook around a custom instructional table and then sit down, family-style, and enjoy the meal we’ve prepared,” Helena says. “Every class ends with a party!”
Serving Northern Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, Milano II is also a somewhat new addition to the Murfreesboro community. The original Milano eatery closed nearly six years ago, and now in a new location it  is open daily for lunch and dinner, offering pasta dishes, steak, chicken and seafood. Nearby, Five Senses has been a favorite dining destination since 2004. It obtains food from local farmers such as Haskell Evans, 4K Farms and Batey Farms.
Events and Live Music
The Center for the Arts is a cultural hot spot near the Murfreesboro Square, showcasing live performances and featuring exhibits created by local artists and organizations. Another live entertainment venue is The Big Bang Bar, a live music venue popular for its dueling pianos.
Also supporting and growing the cultural community, Artisan Design Gallery offers handmade jewelry and hand-blown glass art such as vases, bowls, perfume bottles and candlesticks. The shop’s merchandise is supplied by artists from around the world.
The square also features annual events that unite locals in arts appreciation. Wine Around the Square benefits Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital Foundation’s Power of Pink breast cancer initiative and includes wine tastings, appetizers and live bands, while JazzFest is a two-day event featuring contemporary live jazz music. Taking place the first Friday of the month from June through September, the Friday Night Live concert series offers an opportunity to catch local musical acts.
Showcasing Local Art
Rutherford County’s annual two-day Studio Arts Tour gives the community a peek inside working artists’ studios. Attendees can glimpse the process required to create works such as furniture, jewelry, fiber and pottery.
The Greenway Arts Festival, sponsored by the Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department and Friends of the Greenway, features creations from more than 70 artists, both local and from surrounding states. The yearly event takes place at Murfreesboro’s Old Fort Park along the Stones River Greenway.
The Murfreesboro City Hall rotunda also showcases local art, while Mayday Brewery is home to three music stages and displays works from area artists.
A Growing Retail, Arts District
Downtown Smyrna is reaping the rewards of recent revitalization efforts with its newly renovated train depot, refurbished assembly hall and new farmers market. A new addition to Smyrna’s downtown scene is In Bloom, a women’s fashion boutique owned and operated by a mother-daughter team.
Carpe Artista, a Smyrna-based arts organization, has established a coffee shop downtown called Carpe Cafe that’s enriching the local culture. In addition to serving beverages and food, the cafe hosts music and art classes as well as live performances.
“Rutherford County is an exciting place to be,” says Ron Alley, Carpe Artista founder. “I can’t imagine trying to start Carpe Artista anywhere else.”
Also supporting the local retail scene is the Love Smyrna campaign. Launched by the Smyrna Independent Merchants Association, the effort encourages residents to patronize locally owned stores and hosts a Love Smyrna Week during the first week of every month.
“We encourage consumers to ‘shift their spending’ from everything going into a ‘big-box store’ to at least $50 per week going to a locally owned, small business,” says association president Vanessa Haley.
Discover more about Rutherford County’s rich quality of life.

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