The Ultimate Art Lover’s Guide To Franklin

Bright brushstrokes on brick, a small statue on an unassuming windowsill, a Picasso-esque painting on a purple piano.

Come closer to Franklin’s canvas (or take a step back and squint), and you’ll begin to see that art abounds on our structures and deep within their walls.

Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Victorian—as explains, the Downtown Franklin Local Historic District is the place to be if architecture is the foundation of your passion for art. On the outskirts of this array sits the Lotz House, once home to not one but two artists.

The first: the piano maker who built the home, Johann Albert Lotz. The second: Matilda Lotz. Born inside its walls, Matilda would go on to become the first woman honored by the Paris Academy of Painting, according to the Lotz House Civil War House Museum.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Take a tour through this two-story home, and you’ll be transported into the father and daughter’s timeline from the moment you step onto the porch. Each location sparks a different tale crafted by your knowledgeable guide.

I stopped by on a recent blustery day. And as I stood, partially shielded from the chill by a soaring column, I learned that before her ascent to fame in California and abroad, Matilda would draw in the Franklin dirt as a child. Then, as my group wound, room by room, stepping gently across creaking floorboards, we were told of and saw firsthand Albert’s skill as a woodworker and Matilda’s incredible ability to capture animals in oil.

Once you’ve passed through the thin doors and back into the modern-day, take advantage of our advanced technology to find even more paintings. Download the Murals of Williamson County digital passport to plan your drive along Franklin’s mural trail. From a simple, We Heart Franklin, conveniently located across from a coffee shop, to a tristar-themed We Heart Art, under a bridge in Pinkerton Park, find at least three of these locally inspired works, then stop by the Visitor Center to claim your passport pin. (And gain instant bragging rights in the art community.)

One hare and hounds is not enough. (Yes, I did look up a synonym for scavenger hunt, and that’s pretty much the only one. Let me have this!) That’s where the Midnight Sun Scavenger Hunt comes in. You’ll trot across town in search of stallion statues modeled after our area’s famous walking horse and hidden just out of sight. I’m not ashamed to admit that I accidentally threw my phone onto the sidewalk out of excitement when I looked to my left and spotted one of award-winning artist Janel Maher’s creations peeking at me from behind glass.

After you’ve found these tiny works, head to the square to visit the March to Freedom Statue, created by Joe F. Howard as part of the Fuller Story. The project calls “attention to the suffering, but also the advancements, of African Americans in Franklin, as well as across the nation, before, during, and after the Civil War,” the Battle of Franklin Trust writes. This important artwork stands tall, representing the USCT troops who fought and died during the war. Spend time circling the bronze statue, reading the inscriptions along the base and the marker at his back, and taking in the expression on his face and the broken chain beneath him.  

Now that you’re familiar with our city’s streets, why not stick around for Franklin Art Scene? That is if it’s the first Friday of the month. This free event features local artists showcasing a range of mediums. You may be thinking, “Madison, not everyone is as obsessed with their Fitbit as you are.” Don’t worry—you can hop on a trolley to tool to your next stop. And as a bonus, in recent months, the Art Scene has partnered with, wait for it, the Mystery Art League scavenger hunt.

If your calendar is already full for the next few first Fridays, many of Franklin’s galleries welcome visitors throughout the week. DeAnn Art Gallery’s airy space on Main Street is filled with canvases covered in winged butterflies and angels.

A few streets over, Gallery 202 invites passersby to peruse sculptures in glass cases and perched on pedestals, bright paintings hung on walls, wooden doors, and its stairway. Stop for a moment to take in the soft conversations between fellow art enthusiasts and the throaty tick of a grandfather clock before popping into Kelly Harwood’s art studio to chat about his latest project—or maybe the paranormal happenings that take place within his gallery’s walls.

The next place you need to haunt is Leiper’s Fork. One street boasts three incredible galleries. The Copper Fox, perched on a slope, sells everything from walking sticks to felted animalshandmade journals, and branch-shaped candles in various colors. As you circle ceramics, you’ll catch glimpses of the rolling countryside.

Right on the same patch of land sits David Arms Gallery. Heaven for those of us who love a lamp-lit room, dark beams crossing overhead, and plaid curtains swaying as people sort through leather goods, vintage jackets painted with fish and fowl, and antler bottle openers. If you’re like my dad and you’re wondering why I haven’t described what the space smells like, a plaque above spray bottles proclaims it’s the artist’s Studio scent, “a combination of patchouli, sandalwood, and a touch of citrus.”

When you’re back on the street, walk through wafts of BBQ smoke and live music and into Leiper’s Creek Gallery. Here, you’ll be greeted by a flickering fire and vertical landscapes next to miniature statues. A white dog may click by as you stand mesmerized by the many works displayed from the entrance to its bathroom’s walls.

And, of course, this guide wouldn’t be complete if it was confined to visual art. Host to comedydance, and a myriad of musicals, the Franklin Theatre is first on the call sheet. Located in The Factory at FranklinStudio Tenn is another star on the stage, with past seasons including “Mamma Mia!” and “Frankenstein.” Throughout the year, festivals such as Juneteenth and Dickens of a Christmas offer visitors the chance to mingle with performance art. And live music regularly rings out from Puckett’s Grocery & RestaurantGray’s on Main, and Americana Taphouse, allowing patrons to pair the culinary arts with music.

I desperately hope my senior sculpture professor isn’t reading this article because I’m about to say the forbidden critic-day word that I’ve been dying to sneak in. There’s something for every art lover in Franklin, and I think that’s pretty cool. (Sorry, professor!)