Sylvia Rapoport loves the Parthenon. A Nashville native, she still remembers the first time walking into the Parthenon decades ago, where her mother also volunteered in the gift shop.

“We all have to come on our fifth or sixth grade field trip to the Parthenon. That’s where we learn about Tennessee history. The only ‘high-rise’ in Nashville was the Life and Casualty building, that cute little thing downtown. The Parthenon building really was the defining piece of architecture,” she says.

And she says the building taught her to strive for the best.

This is the only full-scale replica of the Ancient Greek Parthenon. There are historians and archeologists who come to visit it just to walk the space. It’s also a real tribute to Tennessee history. When you think of Nashville, that’s what is featured, a shot of the Parthenon. It’s the money shot. It represents the aspirational nature that Nashville has always had. We’ve always wanted to be bigger and more important, and just a contender. As a child it taught me to be aspirational. It taught me there was more in this world than my little bubble on Tyne Boulevard.”

Today Rapoport is the President for the Conservancy for the Parthenon, the 501(c)(3) group that raises funds for the Parthenon and Centennial Park that helps pay for, among other things, educational programming and the $30 million park improvement renovations in Centennial Park.

“They call it a non-profit. I call it a for-purpose organization,” Rapoport says.

Once a year the Conservancy hosts a black-tie benefit for 300 people, and tickets for the gala Saturday, November 3 are still available here.

“It’s not your typical Nashville fundraiser,” Rapoport says. “We focus on performance art, and it’s all an experience, from the time you get out of your car, as you enter the party, until you leave.”

This year’s theme, Then and Now: Gondolas and Grottos celebrates the Centennial Exposition of 1897, which established Nashville for the ingenuity that defines it still. A showcase of modern ideas, it attracted two million people by horse, carriage and train and projected the promise of a new century.

“In those years, banks were going under, and it was not an easy time financially. And yet people found the money because they really wanted to showcase their city. In Nashville at the Exposition, there was a Negro building, which was very forward thinking because nobody else had done that. There was a Women’s building, which was pretty major. Susan B. Anthony came and spoke and the suffragists marched from the Capitol of Nashville to the steps of the Parthenon.”

Tickets for the gala are $500 per person. Cocktails, dinner and surprise performance art. Festive black tie is requested. More information can be found at the Conservancy Parthenon Centennial Park.

Sylvia Rappaport’s Landy Gardner-designed home

Rappaport was close friends with designer Landy Gardner, and they worked on a home together which she sold four years ago, before the designer’s death.

“I never walked into a house and said it’s a Landy Gardner home,” she says. “I knew it was Landy’s because it was well done, but he reflected his clients.”