On Community

Photo by @TheExplorerDad Josh Ness

Photo by @TheExplorerDad Josh Ness

I recently got to participate in Native & WeWork's Show & Tell panel. It is a really fun and free event that brings together some Nashville’s creatives for a night of drinks, food, and conversation. I got to learn from Marcia Masulla, co-founder Nashville Fashion Week, as well as Joshua Ellis, the co-founder of WithCo Cocktails, People Are Brave, and founder of Modern Day Leader, Bnyad Sharif and Leah Hashinger of TIRRC (Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition) Nashville, and Lisa Goe of Popoff Nashville. Although we all had really different interests and passions, the common thread of all of our speeches was the importance of community and having the courage to do what you love. Working from home and being my own boss and only employee is lonely. And while I could say “but I am part of the Nashville artist community” I don’t often see other artists except for the occasional art crawl or when we participate in local art shows because we are all busy working. Also, artists' biggest struggle is once they've graduated, the lack of critiques and constant community that challenges us and supports us, can be so jarring that we just give up, or we go to grad school, only to be put out into the real world again, and be faced with the same void. I think that's why so many artists I know have just stopped creating. The great thing about art though, or any craft really, is that you can seamlessly collaborate with pretty much anyone you want, it doesn't just need to be artists or galleries. I think seeking those opportunities is key because 1. It gets your art and your name out there 2. It gets you involved in the community. 3. FRIENDS! You make friends. p.s. I am currently looking for friends, so hit me up. My favorite thing that Marcia Masulla said at the event was “ask not what your community can do for you, but what you can do for your community”. We've heard it before, but it is just so true and worth reminding everyone. One of my favorite quotes is by Andre Gide, who said "Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again". I think as far as art goes, reaching out to a gallery and asking them to display your work, never really works if you are just starting out and don’t have an impressive art show resume yet. You have to establish yourself in the community first. At least, that's been my experience, not speaking for everyone here.

So what do these community collaborations look like? Reaching out to some local businesses that are important to you and you want to work with and asking to do a popup show that will draw attention and foot traffic to their business, while also getting to display some artwork (and hopefully sell some) is a great start! Offering artwork to charity auctions (you still get a commission cut, but help a great cause) is another great way, as is applying to some of your local school art shows. It raises money for the school and you meet so many great people! I used to work in an office that shared a space with Native Magazine, and just LOVE the people there and anytime they needed a little freelance work done, I was always happy to donate my work when they were in a pinch. It got my name in print and helped great people, and got me some great friendships and they have been so supportive of my work and me. I recently worked with Nashville MTA on a project they are doing right now called Arts N Motion in which they work with a different artist each month to display on some of their busses and bus stops. You can see my art wrapped on a bus driving around right now! In this case, I literally got to have my work become a part of the community in a way that I never could have imagined. Money is important too, but you can’t get there without forming relationships and making connections and just being NICE.

When fellow artists reach out to me and ask for advice I am always more than happy to meet with them. I want my artist community to be one that challenges each other, but supports each other. On the other hand, if I hear an artist who just whines about how competitive the art community is here and how they never get into shows, or never get opportunities, or never hear back from galleries, or worst of all “how did he/she get that opportunity, their art isn’t even good”, but then think they just deserve a handout simply because they made some art….my response is that attitude gets you nowhere. I totally understand feeling discouraged; it’s incredibly easy to be envious or angry when you genuinely put in the work and miss out on an opportunity, and there are months when my bank account goes negative and you just want to totally give up. I've found, though, that the key is just simply, be nice, take initiative, think creatively (which should be easy for artists anyways!), be confident in your work, but stay humble, and ask “what can I do for my community?”


Speaking of community please check out this AMAZING site formed by my new friend Joshua Ellis. It's beautiful and inspiring and reminds all of us to be brave and support each other!