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Marty Stuart photography exhibit comes to birthplace of Country Music Museum

BRISTOL, TN - Country music star Marty Stuart is well known for his talents on stage, but a lesser-known fact about the five-time Grammy winner is that he also possesses an eye for photography. Now through January, 2020, visitors to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Historic Downtown Bristol will have the opportunity to see another facet of this iconic singer-songwriter through a new special exhibit, American Ballads: The Photographs of Marty Stuart.

marty stuart photography exhibit
Chicken Reel, the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe, 1995. From the masters series. ©Marty Stuart

Not only is Marty Stuart a master storyteller through his songs, but also through his revealing photographs. He has been taking photographs of the people and places surrounding him since he first went on tour with bluegrass performer Lester Flatt at age 13. His inspirations include his mother, Hilda Stuart and her documentation of their family’s everyday life in Mississippi. He also admires bassist Milt Hinton’s photographs of fellow jazz artists and Edward Curtis’s well-known images of Native Americans at the turn of the 20th century.

Stuart’s photographs in American Ballads range from intimate behind-the-scenes depictions of legendary musicians, to images of eccentric characters from the back roads of America, to dignified portraits of members of the Lakota tribe in South Dakota, a people he was introduced to by his former father-in-law, Johnny Cash. Whatever the subject, Stuart is able to tease out something unexpected or hidden beneath the surface through a skillful sense of timing and composition, as well as a unique relationship with the sitters often based on years of friendship and trust.

The exhibition is organized around three themes: The Masters, Blue Line Hotshots, and Badlands. The Masters depicts a number of well-known stars in moments of unguarded intimacy and honesty. Blue Line Hotshots respectfully captures the essence of unique townspeople Stuart has met on his travels. Badlands explores the everyday life and traditional ceremonies of the Lakota people and their culture on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

"We are thrilled to have American Ballads here at the museum. It's subject matter fits in well and is sure to be of interest to our visitors," says Head Curator Rene Rodgers. "Stuart's black-and-white photographs are wonderfully striking, and each one tells a story – viewers will be instantly drawn into them and want to know more!"

American Ballads: The Photographs of Marty Stuart is on display now through January 31, 2020 in the Special Exhibits Gallery of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Visitors may choose to exclusively tour the special exhibit at a lower cost than regular admission; American Ballads is also included in the museum's regular admission price.

American Ballads: The Photographs of Marty Stuart was organized by the Frist Art Museum, Nashville, Tennessee. Special thanks to The Massengill-DeFriece Foundation for their support of the exhibit at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.

For admission cost, a complete list of events happening at the museum, and a comprehensive look at everything the Birthplace of Country Music has to offer, visit

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, explores the history of the 1927 Bristol Sessions and their lasting impact on our music heritage. From the Bristol Sessions and beyond, our region continues to influence music around the world.

The 24,000 square foot museum is located at 101 Country Music Way (corner of Moore & Cumberland Streets) in Historic Downtown Bristol, Virginia. Through multiple theater experiences, film and sound, and interactive, technology-infused displays—along with a variety of educational programs, music programs, and community events—the exciting story of this music and its far-reaching influence comes alive. Rotating exhibitions from guest curators and other institutions, including the Smithsonian, will be featured throughout the year in the Special Exhibits Gallery.

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. through 6:00 p.m. and Sunday, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays and most major holidays; call ahead for clarification at 423-573-1927. Admission is $13.65 for adults, $11.55 for seniors, students, military, and children ages 6—17. Children 5 and under are free.

Discounts are also available for groups of 20 or more. Admission prices include Virginia admission tax. The Birthplace of Country Music Museum is a Blue Star Museum. Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 museums across America and offers free admission to the nation’s active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve, from Armed Forces Day through Labor Day.

Published September 4, 2019

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