The new Gallery of Iconic Guitars (GIG) at Belmont held its official grand opening April 25 with an event fit for its home in Music City. The vintage instrument museum celebrated its opening with performances from legendary country artists Vince Gill and Ricky Skaggs, along with current Belmont graduate student Ben Valine, a commercial guitar performance major from Forest Lake, Minnesota. At the event, Gill and Skaggs played two of the 100 instruments currently on display, a Martin acoustic guitar made in 1939 and valued at $350,000 and a Lloyd Loar-signed mandolin from the 1920s considered to be even rarer than a Stradivarius violin.
The James B. and Lois R. Archer Charitable Foundation serves as the presenting sponsor for The GIG, providing support to undergird the museum’s operation, special projects and educational programming. Mr. Archer said, “We are so excited to work with Belmont University on this project. Music is such a fundamental part of our lives. It inspires creativity, and we hope that the gift will inspire future generations of students who have endeavored to devote their careers to the performing arts.”
Prior to the sponsorship agreement for The GIG, the Archer Foundation was supporting Belmont students in other ways through their engagement with the Curb College Pipeline Project. Originally launched in 2011, the nine-member student Pipeline team gathers each summer as a think tank that seeks creative solutions for the entertainment industry. The Archer Foundation—in conjunction with MV2 Entertainment (a values based entertainment company spearheaded by Mr. Archer in 2015)—reached out to Belmont as a strategic partner to re-imagine the music and entertainment industry. MV2 executives, Tony Harrell and Clay Myers walked alongside the students during the summer of 2016 to tackle some big questions faced by the industry and is sponsoring another Pipeline Project this summer. The Archers and their executive team with KJ Energy have also come alongside the students with personalized training in leadership development and creating a values-based culture.
Curb College Director of Development & Industry Relations Sarah Cates said, “James and Lois Archer are visionaries. To have supporters who will lock arms with you before a project is complete, and see what’s not yet there, is truly inspiring. The Archer’s philanthropy and trust in Belmont to launch this project, shows their visionary leadership — the type of leadership that makes history.”
The GIG is the result of a gift to Belmont University of nearly 500 historically significant instruments and supporting endowment. Beyond conveying the important history and design of these instruments, the Gallery of Iconic Guitars will foster future opportunities for many of the instruments in the Shaw Collection to be played by both well-known and student musicians, bringing the instruments alive for a new generation.
Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher said, “I’ve played guitar since I was a teenager so to have these prized instruments on this campus is a true joy for me personally. But the real value of these historical treasures comes with the educational opportunities they present to our students and faculty as well as visitors to the museum.”
The Gallery of Iconic Guitars is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Admission is $5, and free for children under 12 as well as Belmont students, faculty and staff.