Month: March 2015

A Few Superlatives on Laurie Anderson at OZ Nashville

LaurieAnderson2Last night, I was fortunate to see Laurie Anderson perform for the first time at Oz in one of the most meaningful, wondrous performances of my lifetime. “The Language of the Future” is a continuous joy, beginning and ending with Anderson and her trademark electric violin, the sound of which tears though the air with surprising melodies and deep, earth rocking tones. Her voice is like that of a sorceress and a horror tale and a mother reading a storybook to her children, at once haunting and reassuring. What I didn’t know going in was that Anderson is hilarious and a dynamite storyteller. She told tale after tale from her life: breaking her back as a child, going on a silent canoeing retreat only to be stuck with a group of nature-loving incest survivors, taking a job at MacDonald’s in Chinatown, hitchhiking to the North Pole, hiking with her dog Lolabelle. One after another the stories come, laced with satire and uncanny observations. But these aren’t the stories typically heard today on The Moth or This American Life; you know the ones, with the big lesson learned tied up in a bow at the end. Anderson’s stories are quick and dark and funny, and the meaning is there, but it comes out in the performance, the voice, the reverberations of her synth, her piercing blue eyes. Alone on a dark stage surrounded by dozens of tea lights, Anderson is like a messenger from the future, here to tell us about our time. She reveals much of herself in the performance but more about America, ourselves, and the stories we all tell.

Anderson is performing a second show tonight at Oz Arts Nashville. Tickets are $57.50, a bargain for the quality of the show and the experience of witnessing this legendary artist. If you’re unfamiliar with Anderson, read about her in this week’s Scene.

LOCATE Arts Raises the Bar in Tennessee

images (1)Last night at Zeitgeist, two Tennessee natives introduced an arts organization that could have great value to the state of Tennessee. Carri and Brian Jobe are launching LOCATE Arts, a state-wide initiative that will connect the arts communities in Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Memphis. It will be headed by a board of arts administrators from around the state, including our own indomitable Lain York.

LOCATE Arts will take two main actions:

First, it will launch an exhibition listing site that will centralize a selection of arts events in the four cities. The website will provide a unified face of Tennessee that will integrate artists, galleries, and museums state-wide. The website will be curated: art must be contemporary and high caliber, but this doesn’t rule out experimental arts events and exhibitions. It does probably rule out portraits of Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash (one would hope.) The site is modeled after Glass Tire, a website that does this in Texas. While Glass Tire also publishes art reviews, LOCATE Arts probably will not, but for good reason: Jobe and Jobe want to keep the site neutral and be primarily informative. If it’s done well, it will probably have a ripple effect, resulting in a robust arts dialogue that is heard in every corner of Tennessee! But seriously, in the longterm, this may encourage the foundation of new arts venues, attract artists and art students, and help art commerce to thrive. Jobe and Jobe hope to roll this out this summer.

Second, LOCATE Arts will put on a Tennessee Biennial that will work toward strengthening the state’s arts identity. This exhibition will feature Tennessee and national artists and work will be selected by an outside curator. Brian Jobe says it will spotlight positive, strong efforts across the state, providing a foundation for artists and the public to mutually support one another. The Biennial will happen in Nashville and travel to the other three cities; it is tentatively planned for Fall 2016.

Someone might have dubbed Nashville the second most vibrant arts city (still cloudy on who did and why), but these opportunities will show this vibrancy. I feel like people often conflate The Arts to include all types of art. So, when Nashville boasts of its “arts vibrancy,” it’s really saying, “We have a lot of music so you should come here.” I think it’s important to maintain that visual art is a separate category that has very different needs in order for it to be sustainable. Meanwhile, there’s also a lot of mediocre visual art in Nashville, and I think this could really raise the bar and challenge artists, curators, and writers to grow.

We’re always talking about “supporting the arts,” but sometimes that just means liking a photo on Facebook. I know that there’s a big push back about people moving to Nashville right now, but our artists cannot work if they cannot make a living, and incorporating the rest of the world into our space could go a long way in helping them do that. Also, I love the idea of being aware of what’s happening in the rest of the state. I hear murmurings, but they’re few. Imagine loading up a car with other art lovers and barreling to Memphis for a weekend of gallery hopping and studio visits? Rad.

LOCATE Arts is in its fundraising phase. They have applied for 501c3 status. Until then, they are fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas. They estimate that their first year will cost $340,000. Go to their website and check them out, and shoot them an email if you want to hear more at Both Carri and Brian Jobe are experienced arts administrators, and they’ve been researching initiatives such as these all over the country for years. If you can spare it, consider donating to this cause, and spread the word among your people. (i.e. This is a really good thing to share on Facebook.)