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Tomato Art Fest organizers keep creativity shining in midstate

Moving from Nashville to Cannon County is not a common occurrence, but for Nashville creatives Bret and Meg MacFadyen the country state of mind was calling and seemed like a natural fit. 

After living in Music City for years, the Nashville business owners and Tomato Art Fest organizers recently packed up and headed to Woodbury for a new life venture as they now balance work in the city and home life in the hills.

As for what attracted to them to the town, Meg says friends who reside in Cannon County were a big influence along with its pace of life.

“My husband grew up in the country and we never could find a place that felt like us. There is a lot going on and a lot of diversity. The city of Woodbury is vibrant and active. We took a chance and found a property that suited us,” Meg MacFadyen said regarding her admiration for the town.

And for the locals, there is a mutual respect and they are glad the MacFadyens call Woodbury home as well.

“Cannon County is a home to many entrepreneurs. Historically, this has been a community of self-starters, farmers, artists, moonshiners, and machinists. Meg and Bret are adding to that history with their move here,” Arts Center of Cannon County Executive Director Neal Appelbaum said.

“Cannon County offers room to breath and provides creatives an inspiring landscape,” he mentioned about its attraction for inventive spirits.

The duo’s excellence is their creativity, and that is where they shine. By day, Meg and Bret run their own East Nashville business, Art & Invention Gallery. They opened the gallery nearly 16 years ago when they focused on incorporating local and regional art in one location. At the same time, Bret is a full time artist and operates a shop in Woodbury where his work runs the gamut from handmade furniture, paintings and sculptures

“When I opened, I wanted to set up a place where everyone would feel welcome. I wanted to make it a place where everyone felt art was for them, and I tried to accommodate a variety of prices and styles,” MacFadyen said.

Art & Invention hosts several shows and workshops annually, and it has received a mix of honors and awards, including a nod from Southern Living in its “Top 50 Shops in the Southeast” list.

JohnCannonTomatoesOfOzIn addition to the gallery, Meg and Bret are known around East Nashville for the annual Tomato Art Fest, which is always the second Saturday in August. When the festival first launched, it was never intended to be a festival, but with the conversation of a few locals each year it became larger each year in attractions and attendance.

What started as an art show inspired by tomatoes has now grown into a festival that had over 60,000 attendees last year.

“It grew silently and organically. The people of East Nashville and Nashville invested in it. They had a real hand in how it happened and why it happened,” MacFadyen said about the festival’s history.

This year’s festival will take place August 12-13 in East Nashville’s Five Points district and attendees can expect a mix of tomato-themed activities which include Tomato Story Time, East Nashville Tomato 5k and a parade among many other events. In addition, there is a plethora of musical talent which includes Jonell Mosser, Halfbrass, Kansas Bible Company plus many more acts.

AngieBrown1With a strong footprint already established in Nashville’s art and culture scene, Meg and Bret are beginning to put their touch on Woodbury too. Recently, the Tennessee Arts Commission provided funding through their Creative Placemaking grant program for Bret to sculpt a steel figure to be placed near the East Fork of the Stones River in downtown Woodbury.

The environmentally themed sculpture will be located at the town’s busiest intersection of Doolittle Road and Water Street in Woodbury, and it will be designed to complement the town’s recent trend of arts development and encourage further investment.

With a full schedule, Meg and Bret are enjoying their time in Woodbury and keeping busy in all of their endeavors.

When comparing life in Nashville versus Woodbury, MacFadyen says she loves the fact that Nashville is growing and becoming a vibrant city on the move, but she wouldn’t trade her evening drive home.

“What I love about Cannon County is about the time I arrive home I’m relaxed and feel like I’m driving into The Shire,” MacFayen happily said.

“It’s peaceful and I hear owls at night and see deer. I love my gardens and my nature, and I see and do more than in the city because of the space,” she noted.

For more information on Art & Invention, visit artandinvention.com and to learn more about Tomato Art Fest, visit tomatoartfest.com.

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