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Arts and Entertainment Scene Prospers in Rutherford County, TN

Rutherford County's cultural climate is getting hotter all the time

By Jessica Walker Boehm on March 14, 2018

Rutherford County, TN
Murfreesboro / Courtesy of The Center for the Arts

With a burgeoning arts and entertainment scene, Rutherford County is a top spot for all-ages fun. The community hosts annual festivals and lays claim to must-visit theaters, museums and cultural attractions that rival the options available in much larger cities, offering residents and visitors plenty of opportunities to explore the arts no matter where their interests lie.

“Rutherford County offers so much in terms of arts and culture,” says Tara MacDougall, CEO of the Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, a hands-on, environmental, cultural and educational museum that’s geared towards kids and families. “Our local government and business leaders see the value in partnering with cultural institutions such as ours to bring unique programs to residents and visitors, and with Middle Tennessee State University as an anchor of higher education, we have vast resources of talent to draw upon.”

Diverse Offerings Unite the Community

Home to a mix of permanent and temporary exhibits and offering a variety of camps and programs, Murfreesboro’s Discovery Center is a fun place to introduce children to the arts. As a result, MacDougall says the facility is an important fixture in the community that’s helping prepare the next generation for success.

“The value of art in our community cannot be overstated,” MacDougall says. “Studies show that when you allow kids to explore the world through art, whether it’s music, dance, theater or visual arts, they build skills and confidence that help them in other areas of education. With an appreciation of different types of art, kids are able to value other people and cultures that they might not otherwise have exposure to.”

Another favorite family-friendly spot in Murfreesboro is the Center for the Arts, which is housed in an Italianate structure built in 1909 and presents theatrical productions, visual art exhibitions, concerts, dance performances and educational classes.

“The arts exist as a means of human expression that all people can relate to, and the Center for the Arts exists as a way to bring this great equalizer to the people of Rutherford County and beyond,” says Patience Long, executive director at the Center of the Arts.

Smyrna is home to Carpé Artista, a nonprofit organization that engages the arts community through training, leadership development, community engagement and opportunities for area artists. The organization creates and manages a wide range of art-related classes, events, performances and camps for local residents of all ages, interests and skill levels.

Looking for more live entertainment? Visit MTSU’s Tucker Theatre, an intimate venue where local performers take the stage throughout the year, along with destinations like Washington Theatre at Patterson Park Community Center in Murfreesboro and Smyrna’s Springhouse Theatre.

In addition, the Murfreesboro Symphony Orchestra is known for putting on can’t-miss concerts, and the Ethos Youth Ensembles – formerly called the Murfreesboro Youth Orchestra – gives the community a chance to support emerging musicians during performances at spots like the MTSU Wright Music Building and Murfreesboro’s First United Methodist Church.

Local Festivals Draw in Droves

Further explore the county’s cultural scene at festivals and special events like the Boro Art Crawl, which takes place bimonthly on the second Friday of the month. The free, volunteer-managed event offers opportunities to admire a curated selection of local art at galleries and other venues on and around the Murfreesboro Square.

Also held in downtown Murfreesboro are Main Street Jazz Fest, a family-friendly, two-day event that’s held on the first weekend in May, and the Friday Night Live concert series that showcases monthly live music in the summertime. According to Kathleen Herzog, director of Main Street Murfreesboro/Rutherford County – the nonprofit organization that hosts these events, along with many others – Main Street Jazz Fest and Friday Night Live are growing more popular each year, drawing thousands of residents and visitors while continuing to bolster and enhance the area’s arts community.

The Uncle Dave Macon Days music and arts festival draws thousands of attendees to hear, play and compete in all things roots and bluegrass music, and dance each July. The festival, which has successfully attracted crowds for 40 years, is evolving to further reach music lovers of all generations by adding after dark and late night jam sessions. 

 The Greenway Arts Festival, hosted by the Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department, is another popular annual event. The daylong festival, held at Old Fort Park along the Stones River Greenway, features booths of original works created by local artists, including paintings, pottery, sculptures and jewelry, along with musical performances, art demonstrations, food trucks and an art area for kids.

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