I saw the advertising poster the minute I stepped off the plane in Nashville...

Twenty-six rare drawings by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564) on loan from the artist's family home in Florence were on exhibit at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in the home of my youth, Music City USA.

A good omen for me and TTT&T in 2016!

Lily, Jim, and I had traveled to Nashville not just to ring in the holiday season, but to celebrate my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary with the rest of the extended Towle family.

Immediately I knew what I had to do: rustle up as many of them as possible to accompany me to the exhibit.

I wanted to get close to Michelangelo, the subject of our coming StoryApp: IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GIANTS.

I wanted to soak up everything I could about the man, his art and era.

I also wanted to see what the Frist Museum had done, if anything, to provide context and make the exhibit interactive for those who didn't already know Michelangelo. To find this out, I would observe the reactions of the youngest member of our our crew to see if she would be turned on by this history.

Lily, Jimmy, my sister and niece join me and Michelangelo at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN, Dec 2016.

Lily, Jimmy, my sister and niece join me and Michelangelo at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN, Dec 2016.

She was not. The exhibit grabbed my attention as well as Lily's and Jimmy's and my sister's, who happens to be an artist. But my 11-year-old niece, herself an aspiring artist, was not really engaged and pulled in. She needed context that she did not bring with her to the museum, as we did. The exhibit did not meet her on her level.

I downloaded the museum app, in part for her (which, BTWs, took multiple tries and compelled me to hunt down a museum employee to ask for assistance), in part for my research purposes. Unfortunately, the app was purely informational, nothing more than an exhibit brochure delivered to a mobile device. While this was great for me as a take-away study resource, it was not appropriate for a young mind. And this particular kid, well she’s my niece, so I'm biased, but she’s crazy smart. If she wasn’t compelled, then…

What a failed opportunity! It really was a fascinating exhibit for those of us coming to it with prior knowledge. Spanning almost six decades, from 1504 until a few years before his death, the works on exhibit showed the incredible diversity of the Michelangelo’s accomplishments as a sculptor and painter as well as architect and military engineer.

In the Footsteps of Giants Foot _FINAL.png

These last works piqued my interested most. They provided insight into the dynamics of Michelangelo’s sometime career working for pro-Republican Florentine forces and ambitious popes in Rome. They aided my understanding of our developing future story in which Michelangelo is hiding, in fear for his life. (More on that next week.)

For me, the Frist exhibit was successful in providing an intimate view into the mind of Michelangelo. But it also gave me insight on how NOT to present the great master to young people.

Does the fact of the Frist exhibit speak to a resurgence in interest in the man, his art, and era? If so, I'm delighted to discover that we are right on time with our launch title: IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GIANTS.

Do you have a favorite Michelangelo work? Or a fun Florence story to share? I do. It involves a 4½ year-old Lily seeing Michelangelo's David for the very first time...

We were the first to arrive at the Galleria Dell'Accademia in Florence that morning, so were among only a handful of visitors. As soon as Lily spied the giant, David, she saw nothing else. She walked straight toward him. She then circled him several times, very, very slowly. She went first in one direction, then the other. She looked him up. She looked him down. Her eyes did not move from some aspect of the statue for a good 20 minutes. Then, suddenly she cried out, startling everyone in the museum: I can't look at him anymore! She turned around and ran right back out the way she came, all the way down the long corridor leading to the statue, into the museum's entry foyer, and out the front doors. Jim and I couldn't stop her until we caught up to her running down the Via Ricasoli. This was her first experience of being moved by art.

Please share your stories in the comments. Thanks!
And Happy New Year!