Gallery 202: Kelly Harwood

On the corner of Second Avenue and Church Street sits a non-descript, red-brick house. The shrubbery is well-kept and the lawn is modest. The only hint of luxury lies in the heavy front doors kept propped open most days, that beckon anyone through its wide frame. You wouldn’t expect to find an Andy Warhol work in there, much less five of them. But there they are, hanging in an open room where a Pablo Picasso etching and two Salvador Dali paintings also claim residence.

Then again, nothing at Gallery 202 is what you would expect. Because this unassuming Federal-style house is actually the historically significant Clouston Hall, a residence that’s been around for nearly two centuries and entertained three American presidents. Now, it houses paintings by artists ranging in recognition, from Marcel Mouly to local painter Julie A. Harvey, along with sculptures, art glass and hand-made jewelry.

“Clouston Hall has been a party house from the get-go,” says Gallery 202 co-owner Kelly Harwood, with a grin that stretches as he tells the history of the carousing that’s gone on in the place. “After all, the house was built in 1821 as a second home for entertaining.”

“We still like to have fun,” Kelly says. “And we welcome everyone.”

This good-natured banter is what Kelly is best known for around Franklin, and is indicative of the kind of experience visitors get when they step into Gallery 202’s sweeping foyer. Devoid of any of the pretentious snobbery that private art galleries are often stereotyped for, the two-story home doesn’t keep its door open for the breeze only. And anyone who has stopped by can feel the positive aura that surrounds the place.

“It’s magic in here,” Kelly says. “I hear it every time people come in – it just feels good.”

Kelly opened Gallery 202 with Ira Shivitz in 2010, after 20 years in the interior design business. Though the art gallery was originally intended to sell local and regional work,

Kelly has included “investment art” under the 15-foot ceilings as well. Within a year, Kelly, Ira and manager Jim McReynolds have created a gallery with world-class art in Franklin, Tenn.

“Jim is an amazing friend, and he really makes the gallery,” Kelly says. “I couldn’t do it without him.”

The pieces vary in price, from small screen-prints and statement jewelry to wood art that’s been featured in the Smithsonian, and it’s placed all over—even above the clawfoot tub in the upstairs bathroom. If you look closely at the small-print plaques, you might find pieces by Kelly, a self-taught painter, sprinkled among the Warhols and Dalis.

Almost more impressive than the work itself is the history that houses it all. Clouston Hall acted as a hospital during The Battle of Franklin, treating soldiers during “the bloodiest hours of the American Civil War.” Clues to this time are hidden throughout the house, like the floor in the foyer that’s marked by a cannon ball fired during the fight. And in one room, under one of four Waterford chandeliers, there’s a black stain from the blood of wounded Civil War soldiers.

“I find something new like this everyday,” Kelly says, palming a replica of the small cannon ball he keeps behind the fireplace. “The house has a big impact on people.”

Kelly finds a way to share the home’s pedigree with most people that visit Clouston Hall, often over a painting and a glass of wine. He’ll shoo you to the staircase banister to show you how low it was originally built, or point out the waves in the old antique windows that were never replaced. Because of the house’s rich background, Kelly calls Gallery 202 “history embracing art.”

“There’s this amazing story, and then we have the incredible art,” Kelly says. “And it all just rolls into one.”

Signs that Gallery 202 doesn’t take itself too seriously pop up throughout Clouston Hall. A manikin wrapped in maps, the gallery’s “unofficial mascot,” can be found anywhere on the property on any given day — this day with a fedora, that day with a tie. A large ceramic pig painted emerald green sits under a Kelly-commissioned landscape, taking a hiatus from Clouston’s lawn where it was dressed as the Wicked witch for Halloween. And on many days, you can catch Kelly or Jim at their easels, in the back of the foyer where acclaimed artist and former Clouston Hall owner Walter Bunn Gray crafted his art.

Kelly, who has formed close relationships with many of the gallery’s artists, says that the local art community played a large part in the Gallery 202 location. In 2011, Kelly helped start the Franklin Art Scene, a free art walk in downtown. The first Friday of every month brings people from all over to Franklin and Gallery 202, to listen to the live music and see a Warhol by the stairs or a Picasso by the piano.

“There’s so much talent here, and this is a great way to get our community involved in that,” Kelly says, “And it’s not your average art walk.”

Though Kelly lives in Nashville, the heart of his work lies in Franklin – and he doesn’t plan on that changing.

“We’ll be here forever,” Kelly says, and it’s the first time he hasn’t cracked a smile all afternoon.

For more information about Gallery 202, visit their website.