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Greetings from Small-Town America: Nashville, Indiana

A native of the Hoosier State shares how a small town filled with creatives inspired him to pursue a career as a professional photographer.

The Bluegrass museum in Nashville, Indiana; photo by Scott Goldsmith
Credit: Scott Goldsmith
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My career as a photographer has taken me to wonderful small towns in 49 of the 50 U.S. states. But only one town has a place deep in my heart: Nashville, Indiana (population: 1,256).

I’ll never forget my first visit, when I was 11. Mom and Dad packed the family station wagon for the two-hour trip south. We lived in the flat farmland of northern Indiana. Southern Indiana was hilly, with perfect vistas for viewing the fall colors.

The giant puffballs of red, orange and yellow on the hillsides mesmerized me, but Nashville’s art community moved me even more. The town was filled with painters, craftsmen and sculptors, selling their art from charming shops along Van Buren Street—all fellow Hoosiers! I felt a kinship with them, even though I was just falling in love with photography, shooting with my Kodak Instamatic 104.

A lightbulb (or maybe I should say a flashbulb) went off for me: You too can follow your passion.

On a recent visit, I took in the masterful paintings at the Brown County Art Guild, depicting scenes from various seasons around my beloved Hoosier State. I spoke with gallery manager Roberta Chirko. A former top model, she moved here 30 years ago.

“The town is unique,” she says. “I felt a very special kindness from everyone. One neighbor might be an artist, and another might sell an eclectic mix of stuff from a junkyard on their property.”

I raised my camera to photograph a horse-drawn carriage carrying tourists. I soon passed the Brown County Playhouse. The 425-seat venue features a variety of shows—theater, music, comedy, dance, film.

One of my favorite things to do is pack a picnic lunch and drive through the old covered-bridge entrance to Brown County State Park, five minutes from Nashville’s downtown. The park offers guided trail rides, pony rides and hayrides, along with camping, fishing, swimming, tennis and miles of amazing hiking trails.

For a deeper dive into art, head to the T. C. Steele State Historic Site to see the house, gardens and scenic grounds captured in the noted Indiana artist’s impressionist paintings.

Five miles from Nashville, Bean Blossom hosts the best bluegrass festival in the country. Bill Monroe, the “Father of Bluegrass Music,” bought the Brown County Jamboree grounds and made it his home base. Today it’s a music park and campground with a museum dedicated to bluegrass.

I’m not surprised that generations of artists and musicians—and their fans—have found inspiration in Nashville, Indiana. After all, it’s the town where a higher power told me at a very young age that I could follow my passion.

Check out our photo gallery of Nashville, Indiana.

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