Aequora at the Nashville Parthenon!
Jesse Cai Brings the Classics to Nashville’s Stunning Centennial Park
Often referred to as the “Athens of the South,” Nashville, Tennessee features a stunning exact-size replica of the original Parthenon of Greece. Intended to be temporary, it was built during the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. However, now a permanent structure, it is both a beloved symbol of Nashville and a popular tourist destination. (Read more about what the Parthenon offers here.)
Recently, the Nashville Parthenon hosted an Aequora site aiming to teach visitors more about the significance and stories behind the goddess it was originally dedicated to during the classical ages: Athena (also referred to by her Roman counterpart, Minerva), the goddess of wisdom, military strategy, and handicrafts. Using Aequora’s provided curriculum, this activity utilized the lessons on roles of the divine in ancient life, the myth of Minerva and Arachne, as well as the cultural importance of arts and cultural diffusion of classically rooted ideas.
Olympian deities, such as Athena, as well of various aspects of the classical world and the ideas they stood for are still portrayed in many ways throughout art and the modern world as our intellectual and scientific roots. Moreover, the art of weaving, associated with Athena, connects to current cultural topics today- drawing in on the idea of cultural diffusion stemming from Classical cultures. During this program, visitors will get to learn about the myth of Athena and Arachne and connect the mythological figures with the giant gilded statue in the main hall! To introduce the idea of such parallelism, visitors will be able to create their own weaving pieces. This active, hands-on experience will help visitors understand the significance of the ideas of ancient culture in modern life.
The weaving activity itself consisted of looms, weaving tables (constructed by Kyla Easterday, the Kidsville Program Manager), and take-home Athena peplos weaving kits developed by Jennifer Richardson, Acting Director, Education & Curatorial Assistant. The “Weaving Athena’s Peplos” kits project was supported by Centennial Park Conservancy. The peplos dress (as worn by the Athena statue at the Parthenon) kits also highlight the importance of polychromy in ancient art. In creating their artwork, visitors also learn more about the Panathenaia, which was the “Festival of all Athenians.”
With the help of Katie Petrole, the Director of Education at the Parthenon, I was able to utilize parts of Aequora’s curriculum in putting together this exhibition. Each visitor received a packet of Aequora provided material relevant to the pop-up display as I walked them through the classical references and cultural significance. As a member of the Tennessee Junior Classical League’s (TJCL) executive board, I was also able to organize a digital showcase of JCLer artwork from the annual state convention for visitors to explore or share their own woven creations. (Check out the display here!) Submissions to the showcase of any classically inspired artwork are welcome as well. (Feel free to direct any questions to [email protected] and submit here).
In the words of Katie Petrole: “The Aequora materials organized by Jesse helped our visitors understand the myth of Arachne and create cross-cultural connections. It paired perfectly with hands-on weaving experiences at the Parthenon, and the opportunity to extend their museum visit with a take-home weaving kit, Aequora lesson, and invitation to share their creations with the JCL was simply brilliant.”
Although Aequora programming typically targets elementary to middle school students, visitors of all ages enjoyed learning more about the giant statue in the main hall through its curriculum! The hands on activity options were engaging both onsite and offsite. Future plans include further incorporating Aequora lessons at more Parthenon pop-up displays, possibly including hosting Kidsville programs! In the meantime, we plan on refining the Athena/Arachne weaving program and trying deeper hands-on crafts. I’m excited to continue encouraging exploration into the Classics with the help of Aequora!
In action! (All pictures below provided by Katie Petrole):
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