You probably do, but if you don’t know Kelly Harwood by name, you know him by his incredible art. He is the artist behind the phenomenal Midnight Sun piece in the lobby of the Harpeth Hotel. This two-time World Grand Champion Tennessee walking horse is on full display along with Kelly’s exquisite landscape murals in the hotel’s upscale restaurant, 1799 Kitchen and Cocktails.
Whether it’s a commissioned piece like a family pet, or one of Kelly’s extraordinary abstract pieces, you would never know how gifted this humble man truly is when you first meet him. Kelly welcomes you like an old friend when you enter historic Clouston Hall, his magnificent gallery full of fascinating history.
Kelly’s eye for color and detail make his paintings breathtakingly beautiful. You will want to add a “Harwood” to your collection.
Painting Some of Franklin’s Most Celebrated Pieces
Kelly’s artistic talent was hidden inside him as a young boy growing up the youngest of five in Gadsden, Alabama. Painting was a positive inspiration for him through the encouragement of his mother. But he never saw art as a career. Instead, he thought he would follow the path of his father working in the local tire manufacturing plant.
“My dad helped me get a job at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company when I was 19. I was the youngest person at the plant. Co-workers called me “The Kid” and after a few years, they started using the nickname “Hollywood”. I found it hilarious, because I had never been anywhere except Panama City, which is referred to as the Redneck Rivera!”
Kelly Harwood Followed His Dreams All the Way to Franklin
While Kelly worked at Goodyear doing manual labor and building specialty tires for Disneyland’s pedestrian tram, his elderly next-door neighbor encouraged him to expand his painting styles beyond French impressionism. She encouraged him to consider drip abstracts like Jackson Pollock.
After 10 years of manual labor, Kelly woke one morning and thought, “I want to follow my dreams of doing artwork. So I retired and my life took a different route.”
So Kelly decided to move to Nashville. A friend shared with him that a design and furniture store in Franklin called JJ Ashley’s was looking for a creative person for sales and design. Kelly says, “I made an appointment to meet the owners Lisa and Stephen Biggers, who I discovered were the coolest people around. They had two wonderful sons John and Jake, aka (JJ’s). I got the job, and they all became like family to me. I have tremendous respect for them for believing in me and helping me along the way.”
Perfecting Animal Portraits and Palette Knife Florals to Everything in Between
He shared his artistic skills with lots of clients for 11 years while at JJ’s. “I would listen to the client and fine tune their dreams and visions of their home, while always adding wonderful local artwork.”
During this time, Kelly continued growing as an artist and expanding his skills with acrylics from large abstracts, palette knife florals and landscapes, to detailed animal portraits and whimsical pieces.
Another pivotal moment happened in Kelly’s life when he met the legendary artist, Bunn Gray. “I had a friend heading to Franklin for a St. Patrick’s Day party, and he asked if I wanted to join him. I am so glad I did because it was at the legendary Bunn Gray’s historic home, Clouston Hall. He had lived there since 1964.
Meeting the Legendary Bunn Gray
“After arriving, I was introduced to Bunn. My friend said, ‘Hey you are both artists.’ Bunn and I had great conversations about painting and art over vodka and orange drinks. He mentioned that he had sold his paintings to Elizabeth Taylor, Neil Simon, and other celebrities. I could not compete, so I mentioned my cousin was Elvis.”
Sadly Bunn passed away in 2001. After twenty years in the interior design business, Kelly was leaving work in Franklin and noticed a beautiful historic home for sale. It had recently been meticulously renovated by a Franklin local and friend of Bunn’s, Rusty Womack.
“I parked to get a better look and realized, I know this house it’s Bunn Gray’s Clouston Hall. I took the paper info from the box in the yard and presented it to my spouse, Ira, when returning home. We had been looking for a building to do an art gallery.
Dr. Ira Shivitz is an ophthalmologist in Nashville. He is an enormous supporter of Kelly’s art and the gallery. He also has a love for cooking, and you may even find him working at Williams-Sonoma sharing with passion with others.
A World-Class Art Gallery is Born!
“Ira said it looks perfect and a great location. After buying the home, we thought, what do we name it? It is located at 202 2nd Avenue South, on the corner of 2nd and Church Street. So I suggested ‘Gallery 202’. We both loved it, and printed up the signage.
“Our next task was to convince our friend Jim McReynolds to move up from Alabama and curate it! He agreed, and has made Gallery 202 what it is today.”
Showcasing the Best in Local Art
Gallery 202 showcases the best of local artists. This premier art gallery is dedicated to both the art lover and the collector. They offer an array of styles and mediums including paintings, antiques, glass jewelry, pottery and sculpture.
See their current roster of local artists, including Kelly’s sister Becky Harwood Thornhill who repurposes jewelry pieces and creates incredible one-of-a-kind works of art.
200 Years of History Inside Clouston Hall
The beautiful Clouston Hall was designed by Joseph Reiff, the same architect as Andrew Jackson’ Hermitage. It was built in 1821, so they are celebrating the home’s 200 year anniversary. This Federal-style home boasts of 15′ ceilings downstairs, an impressive staircase, and four Waterford chandeliers.
It was primarily used as a second home and a party house for wealthy merchant and druggist, Edward G. Clouston who came to Williamson County from Scotland. Some believe Reiff may have designed Franklin’s Carter House as well.
From Presidents to Parties – This Home has Seen it All
Clouston Hall was used for parties and political gatherings. It entertained three American presidents, Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, and James K. Polk.
Then Came the Civil War to Franklin
In addition, it was also used as a hospital for the Missouri Regiment during the Civil War. You can still see the blood-stained hardwoods and the burn mark from a cannon ball landing in the front foyer.
In later years, it was the home of Dr. Daniel Cliffe, a prominent Franklin physician, whose father of the same name was one of Franklin’s earliest physicians.
You can find Kelly’s primary studio in the back room of Gallery 202. During the winter months, he often retreats to his Maui condo. Humpback whales are his favorite subject.
When asked what his favorite piece is, Kelly kindly says, “It’s usually the one on my easel.”
“Being in downtown Franklin and located one block from main street, makes it great for the visitors to find us. We have a wonderful visitor’s center representing us here in Franklin, along with a talented art community.
A Passion for Painting, Cars, and Downtown Franklin
“My passion for cars started when I was a little boy and played in a junkyard near my home. I would pretend to drive them, picking up my buddy’s to go buy candy at the local Rexall. Later in life when I could afford to actually buy one, I found a 1966 Chrysler Crown Imperial in my home town and made it my first of many. It looked like it was from “The Beverly Hillbillies” and had belonged Mr. Drysdale. Then a few years later, I bought a 1961 Imperial convertible, 1970 Dodge Super Bee, and a 1958 Apache Truck. My most recent acquisition that I love is my 1963 split window Corvette!
“I am very proud of our wonderful town and it has so many great shops and restaurants. I love hitting the antique shops downtown and frequently buy from Scarlet Scales, Winchester Antiques, Franklin Antique Mall, Mercantile 1858, T. Nesbitt, and our friends at The Barn Door.
“There are many good restaurants in Franklin, but some of my new favorites are Izzy’s, McGavocks, and 1799 at the Harpeth Hotel.”
We asked Kelly how he would describe Franklin in one word? He said, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” It’s that magical!
Stop by Gallery 202 for a free tour of Clouston Hall. Enjoy all the local art. Meet Kelly and Jim and you’ll see why this is one of Franklin’s top places to visit.
We are Lovely Franklin!