Monthaven Art and Cultural Center

Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center
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In her oil painting “Hidden Sanctuary,” the artist (and MACC teacher) Jessica Lewis depicts a young woman relaxing by the side of a cool stream, her foot gently caressing the surface of the water. It’s an intensely Romantic (with a capital ‘R’) work. Indeed, one could readily imagine Lewis at a 19th-century Paris salon, engaging in animated conversations with Victor Hugo and Eugene Delacroix.

Hidden Sanctuary by Jessica Lewis

Cast a glance at her next oil painting, called “The Space Between Us,” and we are suddenly catapulted from 19th-century France to the Space Age. In this photorealistic work, we see a young boy wearing an astronaut helmet and spaceship pajamas. A plastic ray gun is in his hand. Without question, there’s more Pixar Studios than Paris salon in this terrific work.

Lewis’ paintings go on display starting Sunday, March 10, 2024 in an exhibition titled Artists of Monthaven. The show features the works of more than a dozen art teachers and staff at Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center. Lewis and her colleagues are showcasing their works to inaugurate the MACC’s new Papillon Gallery.

Papillon will occupy approximately 500-square-feet of newly renovated space inside Monthaven Mansion, located at 1017 Antebellum Circle in Hendersonville. Derived from the French word for butterfly, the gallery will highlight the talents of visual artists from Middle Tennessee. Ruth Chase, the MACC’s regional arts director, will serve as curator for the new gallery. She says the mission for the new space is badly needed.

The Influencer by Donna Woodley

“The Papillon Gallery is the only place of its kind in Sumner County,” says Chase. “It will serve as both a fine arts gallery and community hub for artists and art lovers. Sumner County needs a professional gallery space for local artists to exhibit their works, and a place to nurture these artists at every stage of their careers.”

Versatility would seem to be the defining characteristic of Lewis’ style. As it just so happens, it’s the most salient feature of Donna Woodley’s entire life. Woodley joined the MACC staff in 2023 as an accountant. Yet she is also a gifted visual artist and professor of art at Tennessee State University.

The first piece of art you’re likely to see when you walk into Papillon Gallery this month is Woodley’s “The Influencer.” You’ll see it first in part because of its size – 5 feet by 5 feet. You’ll remember it forever, though, because of its joie de vivre.

“The Influencer” is a kind of triptych, presenting three images of Woodley’s late friend Juandale Cooper. Woodley depicts her big, burly and spectacled friend in three playful poses. A skilled artist can recreate a person’s likeness with uncanny accuracy. Woodley captures Juandale Cooper’s soul – his charisma, his humor, his unfailing sense of style.

Unearthed by Ruth Chase

Ruth Chase, Papillon’s curator, has included some of her own art in the exhibit. A California native who recently relocated to Tennessee, Chase has developed an inquiry-based artistic practice that focuses heavily on community bridge-building. In the current exhibit, Chase’s artistic inquiry moves beyond community, examining ideas that are more existential. Her piece “Unearthed” features two shapes, possibly human, bathed in light. Chase seems to suggest that there’s something about life that transcends the physical realm, something spiritual, something divine.

Other teacher-artists and staff in the current exhibit include Val Adams, Cain Barnes, Cyle Barnes, Derris Dabbs, Jessica Duke, Dr. Priscilla Eichler, Megan Bailey Gill, Brooke Hammond, Mariah Leggett, Drew Kirk, and Diane J. Stockard. They have produced 27 works in all. They are all standouts and are available for purchase.

Works that especially attracted my attention included healing arts facilitator Val Adams’ sculpted metal eagle, aptly named “Victory,” Education Director Drew Kirk’s inventive collage “Brief Encounters,” Jessica Duke’s arresting acrylic “Gridlocked,” and Cyle and Cain Barnes’ ferocious, stalking “Wolf.”

The opening reception for Artists of Monthaven will be from 3 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 10. This will be a great time to meet the MACC’s educators and staff members, enjoy wine, view art and get to know the creative community. The teaching staff will participate in an Artist Talk from 5 to 7 p.m. on March 28. These arts educators will lead an inspiring conversation about teaching, making art, and pursuing a career in the arts.

Papillon’s much anticipated inaugural exhibit runs through March 31.

Gridlocked by Jessica Duke


Val Adams’ Victory


Brief Encounters by Drew Kirk















Kaylin Warden

External Affairs Coordinator

Kaylin Warden joined the Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center staff in 2024 as External Affairs Coordinator. In this post, she organizes special off-site events and manages the organization’s external communications. She also works with the development department by updating the MACC’s customer relations database, and she assists the executive director in setting up exhibitions. Above all else, Kaylin is passionate about the arts. It comes as no surprise, then, that she is now pursuing a master’s degree in art history. When she’s not at the MACC, you can find her reading her favorite books (especially ones dealing with maritime mysteries), cooking, gardening, playing with her cat and two dogs, and cheering for the Nashville Predators.

Ruth Chase

Regional Arts Director
Ruth Chase is the Regional Arts Director of Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center, joining the team in 2023. For Ruth, the job is all about community, bringing people together to uplift and educate artists and art lovers alike. Her role at Monthaven is to strengthen the local artist community and build connections that will enrich Hendersonville and our surrounding communities through art exhibitions, art education, and opportunities for regional artists.
Prior to joining Monthaven, Ruth worked in the arts for over 30 years and is a multimedia artist and graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute. Her artistic practice is inquiry-based and engages in community bridge-building. She was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Los Angeles, curated and juried exhibitions, and has taught at the Crocker Art Museum.
Ruth was awarded an Artist-in-Residence for Artist Activating Communities through a grant from the California Arts Council for three consecutive years. Her film Belonging screened at both the 18th Annual Nevada City Film Festival and Wild & Scenic Film Festival. She has received the Legendary Female Artist of Venice award, and she has exhibited in The Crocker Kingsley, the Museum of Northern California Art, and the Diego Rivera Gallery at the San Francisco Art Institute. Ruth also continues her work as a Curatorial Consultant and Art director for the Californian Indigenous Research Project, where she has worked with the local tribe since 2018.