FACES of Nashville: Shelley McBurney

Shelley McBirney 1Today, we welcome Shelley McBurney as our FACE of Nashville. If you were lucky enough to visit Gallery One when Shelley owned it, you know how welcoming and gracious she was to her patrons. Let’s admit it, walking into an art gallery can be quite intimidating, but a visit to Gallery One was always (and still is!) inspiring and educational. Today, faced with the greatest challenge in her life, battling cancer, Shelley continues to inspire and educate. It is with great pleasure that we introduce Shelley McBurney.

Are you originally from Nashville?

I’m a fourth-generation native of Kingston Springs, a very small (and lovely) town just west of Nashville. Some of my fondest memories are of rural life there.

If not, what brought you to town?

Closer proximity to work, more cultural opportunities and good restaurants!

As a long time art gallery owner, what attracted you to this type of profession?

I am drawn to creative expression and purposeful work and have been fortunate to have spent substantial time in three such professions – print journalism, nonprofit management and the visual arts. Starting a gallery was a culmination of my interest in entrepreneurism with a desire, if not outright need, to be around creative, interesting people and ideas. Working daily with art feeds the senses in so many ways, and it was a real privilege to work with and support talented artists. Making art, in some ways, is an act of courage, and I like nurturing that.

What are some common mistakes people make when selecting art?

I think many people view art too decoratively rather than select a piece of art on its own merits. There is a lot of skill involved in developing a cohesive collection or integrating artwork in the interiors of a home or business in a fashion that maximizes visual impact. That’s a good thing. But, some worry too much about breaking the rules, and the result can be predictable and boring. Sometimes it’s good to go with your gut – to buy that one work you can’t quit thinking about but is unlike anything you’ve ever bought before. As a gallerist, I so appreciated the rare client who built their interiors or furnishings around the art rather than vice versa. Art is a very personal reflection of one’s interests and personality. It shouldn’t be an afterthought.
Shelley McBirney 3

You made the decision to sell Gallery One late last year after you were diagnosed with metastasized melanoma. What insight have you gained from this dramatic change in your life?

I’ve had a surreal year for sure. Without sign or symptom I learned of a devastating diagnosis and, what was then, a fairly grim prognosis. I underwent two surgeries and another eight weeks of in-hospital immunotherapy treatments and had come to a place of peace and acceptance. Recently I learned that I am among 15% of patients who respond favorably to these treatments. Five percent of that number can go into remission, so I am prayerful. This journey has given me a profound understanding of what I know to be true: that we are promised nothing but today, that people have an amazing capacity for love and that God is good.

We’ve also admired your sense of spirit and resolve, as we busy ourselves with the day to day things (some important, most not really). What advice do you have for our readers?

I don’t know that I’m qualified to offer advice but for me it’s simple (though not necessarily easy). I would say “be here, be now.”  And, trust God in all things.

The last show you oversaw at Gallery One was called, “My Favorite Things: Curator’s Pick.” Tell us about some of the artists you selected and why.

I could have added many more artists to that show! Gallery One has a great roster of artists. I picked California painter Jeff Faust’s softly, surrealist oil paintings because they quiet me, unclutter my mind. They are beautifully rendered, meditative works that celebrate simplicity and showcase fine painting. I also picked sculptor Chad Awalt’s figurative works in wood because he captures the human form with such imagination. I like the warmth of wood as a medium, and he works with wood in ways that I think are unparalleled.

What other aspect of the art world are you still involved with? Do you consider Nashville as an art town and why?

I’m thankfully still involved in this business I love. Shortly after selling Gallery One in December, I launched Liles McBurney Fine Art Consultants. We provide a full range of services for individuals, businesses and the design/build community, specializing in fine art acquisition and disposition, collections management, exhibition planning and curatorial services. Our first project was to work with the estate of the late, internationally reknown ceramicist Sylvia Hyman, who sadly passed away late December.

Do I consider Nashville an art town? Yes, increasingly so. It’s been a long time in the making but Nashville has become a vibrant, creative center that’s finally generating some ink for the arts more broadly, not just the performing arts. Opening of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts several years ago was pivotal. Metro government has supported promotion of the 5th Avenue Arts corridor, and there has been healthy growth in the number of working artists here. There exists a real opportunity to showcase the visual arts more broadly now; as various areas of town, such as West Nashville, have some excellent galleries that add a lot of value to the city’s cultural offerings.
Shelley McBirney 5

What book is by your bedside?

Archived by Nashville author Victoria Schwab and Ten Poems to Change Your Life by Roger Housden. I’m anxiously awaiting next month’s release of Cathie Pelletier’s The One Way Bridge. That girl is brilliant.

What are some of your favorite restaurants in Nashville?

Germantown Café, Miel, and City House.

What do you do to relax? Perhaps you have a favorite vacation spot?

I’ve enjoyed some travel lately, having just returned from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I’m headed later this month to Istanbul, Turkey. But for pure relaxation, I love to get in my car and head out to the country on long, spontaneous drives and just get lost. Or, I hang with my friends on family property on the banks of the Harpeth River. Many memories have been made there.

Would you share your 3 favorite things (that aren’t God, family or friends?)?

Can I include my dog Riley in the family category? If so, I would say adventure, laughter, and fresh cut flowers, which are balm for the soul.

Thank you Shelley!

Related