Perambulating the Bounds

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Nashville Arts Summit

I went by the Belcourt for two of the Arts Summit panels on Saturday. This was a more or less day long event organized by the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt (Bill Ivey’s outfit). As I understand it the point of Saturday was to assemble a lot of folks from every part of the arts, get them to describe Nashville’s “assets” (assume they’re think Asset-Based Community Development) in their area, the barriers, and what should we do differently/new/in addition. For theater, visual arts, music, film and I don’t know what else they assembled a panel who spoke to this and then took questions from the audience. The Curb Center folks were writing it all down and I guess they are going to write a report and take it to Metro and whomever else will listen. I think it’s meant to be a followup on the arts survey that was done years ago (I think the Frist Foundation funded it) and was one of the things that led to the creation of the Frist Center.

The visual arts panel was not great. It was a small group, which should have worked out better than it did, and most of the comment were of the variety of “let me tell you about this great community arts program we have going.” Try to get more involved in the schools and in promoting arts education. Lots of nice advice about how to make a living as an artist here. One person (I think he was from the Nashville Composer’s Association) said we should bring the Artspace group from Minneapolis down to do an assessment of developing some artist live/work/performance space. Of course, he really pushed the idea that we need a 300-500 seat performance venue—and he was standing in the middle of one, the Belcourt’s 1925 hall, the original home of the Grand Old Opry. Of course, you have to sell a few tickets to pay the rent on the Belcourt.

The music panel was a lot better. It was all people who are involved in genres other than Country and Christian, and it included Alan Valentine from the Symphony and Carol Penterman from the Opera. The others were someone from the blues community, Lori Mechem from the Nashville Jazz Workshop, someone from the Americana Music Association, I think a bluegrass guy, and Chris Stenstrom from Alias.

Valentine in particular had some great ideas. One was to do a big festival covering a lot of genres, like Spoleto but a wider range. His main point was to start out big, do something the national music audience and press have to pay attention to, like the new hall. That made sense, even if everyone did get a little carried away—“look at the range of music on this stage, no other city can do this.” False. Just about any major city and lots of smaller ones. Although the panel didn’t represent our newer communities (for one, Sankaran Mahadevan wasn’t there), tons of cities can claim a lot more going on in a variety of Latino styles, strong local African scenes, etc. But it doesn’t really matter whether another city can do this. Nashville can. Why not. Just need some money. I hope they'll keep the Lincoln Center summer festival in mind, which every year has a really great global reach.

Valentine also talked about starting “the world’s best art school” in downtown Nashville. I don’t know if he was talking about secondary school or college. My guess is the former. Another good idea. Why not. The Ensworth School sprung up almost overnight.

One thing he brought up, and some other people made similar points, was the lack of media coverage for the arts. Now he started by acknowledging the Scene and saying we do pretty well because that’s what we’re there for, and that the Tennessean has gotten better. I was wondering if he was envisioning another media outlet, but I suspect he was more concerned with seeing the Tennessean give the arts more space in the daily, and maybe wanting to see more on TV. I have a feeling that for the Symphony and other big organizations, all that really matters are the big outlets, and I can imagine that’s frustrating.

The contributions from Valentine and Penterman on the music panel point to one problem with the visual arts panel—the Frist Center and Cheekwood really should have been there. One of the major gallery owners would have been good. I don’t know if they asked and got turned down, didn’t ask, etc. The music panel worked because it had the big guys and some smaller ones. That would have helped kick the visual arts discussion to a different level to deal with creating distinctiveness and stronger performance.


  • i am glad to see that someone has commented on how lame the visual arts forum was at the summit. I was there (actually, one who tried to curb "the self-promotion" but failed)....i agree that some of the major contributors to publicly transferring the arts to the public such as Frist and cheekwood, should have been present - was Lain York there? or Chris Campbell?

    i think the main aspect in Nashville about the arts visually is that artists need to get involved within the community to be active in setting up community projects such as "beautification" and turning around parts of nashville that are A. lacking in funds & B. lacking in encouragement from community leaders or residence.... when i mean "beautification", i mean resurrection through creative discoveries - materials that are already on hand - work with what you got in a creative adn meaningful way!!!

    beth seiters, plowhaus arts education coordinator

    By Blogger Local Artists cooperating with the community, at 6:04 PM  

  • Beth,
    I think you're right about that, although it seems in line with some of the comments about engagement with the schools--unless you're thinking of something more revolutionary in terms of the impact on communities and people. Not just uplift, but creating the space through art where people can find the alternative to the disenfranchised hampster wheel to which the economy and society try to relegate just about everybody.

    Also--and this might be contradictory to the idea above--I want to see the scene in Nashville become so distinctive it has an impact outside town, and also so you don't really have a reason to leave Nashville. The aesthetic version of post-colonial import substitution strategies.

    By Blogger David Maddox, at 5:26 PM  

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