Stuff To Do

Where I try to suggest cool shit for you to do when you’re visiting Nashville or planting your roots.

North Nashville “Parlour” Recalls When the Harlem Renaissance Came South

At October nips at our heels, Nashville art lovers may be hard pressed to choose between a plethora of events featuring artists, performers, and creative leaders this month. Saturday evening will be all about North Nashville as galleries, restaurants, and shops open their doors for the Jefferson Street Art Crawl, followed by Art History Class Lifestyle Lounge and Gallery’s first in a series of interactive talks dubbed “The Parlour.”  

Modeled after those of the Harlem Renaissance, the salon will include readings, discussion, entertainment, and cuisine. It’s no secret that the Harlem Renaissance brought the voices, stories, and artistic expressions of Black Americans to the forefront of cultural exchange in the 1920s, but few know the history of its migration to the South. According to the gallery’s invite:

Unfortunately, the Great Depression (1929-1939) dried up the financial wellspring of support it so need to thrive. Many of those MONUMENTAL figures of that period moved back to the South for the accommodating cost of living. North Nashville became the home of such notables such as James Weldon Johnson, Aaron Douglas, and Arna Bontemps.

The discussion will center around photographer Carl Van Vechten, the namesake of Fisk University’s art gallery, and the invitation suggests visiting the gallery to see an exhibition of Van Vechten’s work prior to the event as a “pre-study.” (Let’s pause to appreciate thoughtful study and dialogue right now.) Van Vechten was a patron of the Harlem Renaissance, and it’s likely that the iconic images you conjure of Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston or Jacob Lawrence were shot by his camera. While you’re there, check out another event, Creatives’ Day.

Founding director and curator of Art History Class, Thaxton Waters, has become somewhat of an institution in North Nashville, especially since his gallery lost its brick and mortar location at the start of summer. Waters opened the salon in 2014 to provide what he calls a “Re-presentation of North Nashville” that’s dedicated to preserving the cultural and artistic history of Jefferson Street and the surrounding HBCUs while helping it thrive. After two years, the building couldn’t contain the gallery’s growth, and the landlord was unwilling to make necessary repairs. But fans soon realized that Art History Class is not one gallery or building but a spirit that has long existed in North Nashville; Waters just gave it a place to thrive.

It has been recognized with a Community Award by Spread Luv 615 and Jefferson Street Urban Merchant Partnerships with a New Business Award in 2014. Thaxton and the gallery have been written about in Native, BURNAWAY and Nashville Scene. In fact, I named it Best Culture Club in this year’s Best of Nashville, just released October 5.

Local activist groups have also taken notice. The group Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) got out the word for an Art History Class pop-up event last month and sold tickets, raising a total of $750 to go toward the fund for a new gallery. The group says it works “to mobilize white communities to support black-led liberation work.” To that end, it encourages its members to support Waters’ project “as a way to fight gentrification and contribute to the funding of black futures.”

SURJ steering committee member Marie Campbell says, “We recognize that current policies and practices in Nashville’s development projects and tourism industry are promoting gentrification in predominately black neighborhoods, displacing long time residents, while also minimizing black contributions to Nashville’s art, music, and culture both historically and currently.”

When I met Thaxton last year for a Nashville Public Radio story about North Nashville artists, he made his optimism clear: “It’s interesting at the time we’re living in now that the social awareness has risen so our voices are becoming more important. I think it’s a beautiful time right now…It’s a very fertile time for artists…we have a lot to say, a lot to speak about, and to do it through the arts is much more impactful in my opinion.”

As Nashville tunes in to the intersection of art and activism, Metro Arts Commission has been encouraging dialogue about the role of the arts in community building. They just opened up applications for the second Racial Equity in Arts Leadership cadre. The mission of REAL is to “cultivate a shared learning space for Nashville arts leaders to learn and practice new language about race, and to think through larger issues of systematic and institutional racism.”

Since Waters moved out of the Jefferson Street space, it’s been easy to make Art History Class an example of the real-world erasure of communities by gentrification — too easy, in fact. Instead, the salon could be viewed as an example of self-preservation and resistance to gentrification.

Saturday’s Parlour will be a pop-up in McJimsey Center at 2506 Jefferson Street. Get your ticket the “The Parlour” here, and check out how you can support plans for Art History Class’ expansion.

 

Poet TJ Jarrett Reads at Scarritt Bennett Thursday

Listen to me: If you miss TJ Jarrett reading her poetry at Scarritt Bennett Center Thursday at 7:00 pm, you will regret it for the rest of your life.

How do I know this? My bird brain was absolutely sure that the reading was LAST Thursday. I was in a meeting and didn’t skip out because I am SO IMPORTANT. I felt devastated after. I tweeted my heartbreak at a friend, who told me otherwise. I could have kissed her.

I love being wrong. But don’t be like me. Prioritize poetry in your life.

TJJarrett_Color

Photo by Dennis Wile.

Jarrett’s poetry is magical. I have read Zion, her second collection, published 2014, and spent hours chasing her characters back and forth as their moments wove through Jarrett’s words. There’s Aunt Polly, Cicely Tyson, the ghost of her grandfather, her grandmother, and Theodore Bilbo – U.S. Senator, two-time governor of Mississippi, and KKK member. In Chapter 16, Maria Brown wrote of the Bilbo poems: “There’s a kind of moral passion at work between the two protagonists; the desire to be forgiven is met with an equally powerful, though conflicted, desire to forgive.

Jarrett Ain't No Grave and ZionOne thing I love about Zion is how the poems seem very still, yet have a great deal of movement; a slow-burning anxiety observed through Jarrett’s watchful eyes. For those who love story-poems, there is much to be discovered. Those who prefer the contemplative will find many lines on which to linger. But what I think is a major draw to Jarrett’s poetry is her ability to resist moralizing while telling the truths of the human heart in conflict with both itself and our history. Poet Jean Valentine said of Jarrett’s first collection Ain’t No Grave, “I was more lonely before I heard this voice.”

Jarrett said in an interview with The Atlantic last year:

I believe in redemption. I believe some poems are really prayer. I believe one is called to write poems because God knows it’s not for money. I believe the words move you and not the other way around. I believe that one should submit humbly to hearing what the soul has to say. I’m not terribly religious, but I know some poems come, and I just stand by and attend their journey into the world.

Jarrett lives in Nashville, and in addition to being a poet, she is a software engineer. How dope is that?

The reading will be at Scarritt Bennett Center in Fondren Hall at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 26. Unlike every place else in the Vanderbilt area, Scarritt Bennett has two amazing and free parking lots. Lot A is closest to Fondren. Here is a map of their campus.

 

Jon Ronson to Read at Parnassus April 14

shamedThis is the moment I’ve been waiting for all year. Parnassus Books announced today that they will welcome author Jon Ronson for a reading on April 14 at 6:30. Ronson’s book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed will be released tomorrow, March 31, and I can’t wait.

Everyone was re-posting this NYT Magazine piece Ronson published in February that’s an excerpt from the new book. The piece is about Justine Sacco, a woman whose life was literally ruined after she posted the kind of racist tweet that a lot of white people think is too ironic to be racist. Sacco got off a plane to find her life in shambles. Ronson identifies himself as a shamer and gets inside the shame spiral that many observe from the outside. But public shaming wasn’t invented with the Internet, of course, and I’m hoping the new book will examine how it has been enacted in other times and cultures and what it does to shamers psychologically. (FYI, I just shamed a stranger on Twitter for being racist. I shamed another stranger on Facebook five hours ago for supporting the Indiana Religious Bullshit bill. I will probably shame again before bed. What is it about exercising moral superiority that is so goddamn gratifying? And how close is this to Ronson’s research for The Psychopath Test?)

Ronson has a way of diving into a subject and letting it lead him. It might take him to a Bilderberg meeting, on a road trip with a terse Northern Ireland politician, or into the open arms of many (possible) psychopaths. He follows the story and the people he meets in often riotous escapades that leave us simply enamored with the human race, even as it disappoints us. He relays these experiences through sharp journalistic prose that’s infused with his curiosity and wry wit. Ronson is a perfectly delightful writer.

If you’ve never been a fan of audio books, he will change your mind. He reads The Psychopath Test, Them: Adventures with Extremists, Lost at Sea, and Frank. (I’m hoping he does The Men Who Stare at Goats because that narrator is horrible.) Hearing Ronson read his work is such a treat. He’s a hoot to follow on Twitter and his blog sometimes follows up with people we get to know in his books. Get there early and buy his book. Hell, but ALL his books.

Here he is on the Daily Show the other day talking about So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.

Parnassus is located at 3900 Hillsboro Pike in the Hillsboro Plaza Shopping Center.

Lights, Music at Free Form Friday

[Apologies if any of you wonderful subscribers are getting this twice!]

This Friday, March 6, head over to Centennial Park’s black box Theater for Free Form Fridays featuring the light stylings of Dig Deep Light Show and the music of Parallel Lives and The Anthony Belfiglio Quartet. Dig Deep Light Show performed at the inaugural Modular Art Pods event last month in one of my favorite pieces, pouring colorful oils (I think) in the light of old school projectors; the colors coalesced and separated on a big shower curtain that crawlers could pass through or walk around. The resulting work was at times psychedelic and at times ethereal. The talented group often performs alongside musicians as a visual accompaniment.

 

dig deep 2

Dig Deep Light Show Performs at Modular Art Pods, February 2015.

 

dig deep

 

Anthony Belfiglio is a Nashville jazz musician. His repertoire includes classics like “God Bless the Child” and “I Loves You Porgy” but his quartet, which features Danny Gottlieb, Billy Contreras, and Roy Vogt, leans more into the improvisational and avant-garde. Their collaborations are dynamic and varied, and Dig Deep will only compliment their sound.

I honestly cannot find a shred of information on Parallel Lives, so we’ll all be surprised.

The theater is in the Centennial Arts Activity Center. (It’s best to come up 27th Ave North. Here’s a map.) Free Form Fridays does a great service to the community by hosting experimental artists in an intimate setting. If you’re anything like me, you’re skeptical of experimental music. It makes you anxious and you don’t understand it, so you get mad at it. If you also feel this way, I suggest reading Tony Youngblood’s recent column in Nashville Arts that explores why this reaction is so popular and how we can challenge it. That said, it seems like this show will be on the more melodious end of experimental, and if you haven’t seen Dig Deep, you must attend. Plus, it’s free.

Check out this video from a Free Form Friday last year, featuring Dig Deep and musician Hyrka Monsta.

The Visualist Brings You More Ways to Find Art

SEE MORE ART.

It’s easy to lose one’s way in the sea of information, ads, emails, and invites on the Wild Wild Web. Since I’ve missed events for this reason, I tend to pare down to a precious few email notifications. One worth keeping is The Visualist, a website and subscription service that brings me a weekly list of arts events in and around Nashville. Hosted by sometime-NYCnash contributor Andri Alexandrou and Amelie Brown, the Visualist aims to “speak for the hidden happenings– the events without a magazine hookup, the unexposed arts with no blog shoutout, the art folks in need of a megaphone.”

The Visualist won’t advertise for music (thank god), comedy, traditional theater, dance, or well-known and publicized arts events. In short, it won’t list the events you are reading about in the Tennessean and maybe even the Scene. Although they both contribute tons, there’s a whole lot happening in Nashville that two publications can’t possibly cover. I think that given enough support, the Visualist can really amp up public participation in the arts here (beyond, I don’t know, looking at murals and posting in a Facebook group.) To continue some thoughts I posted last week about the art scenes in Nashville, I am thinking more and more that if we can improve local support of the art scenes, we can harness that energy to sustain a space for artists who have made Nashville great, even as their studios are being bought up.

So sign up and keep the good vibes going.

Also, if you are putting on an arts event and would like to be included in the newsletter, you can email the Visualist at 615Visualist@gmail.com with a short blurb about your project. For some of us, it can be tough to self-advertise. Let the Visualist help you out, and tell your friends.

Mishka Shubaly, Star Anna, Joseph Allred at Noa Noa Friday

mishkkaa

When: Friday, January 16, 9:00 pm

Where: Noa Noa, 620 Hamilton Ave. Nashville, TN

House venue Noa Noa re-opens its doors this weekend! Come out for a show of solo-performances from Mishka Shubaly, Star Anna, and Joseph Allred.

Best-selling author Mishka Shubaly just finished a tour with comedian Doug Stanhope, and he’ll soon be releasing his new album Cowards Path. He’s a best-selling author of Kindle Singles, and as one critic said, “Shubaly makes a strong case for his music, applying his pleasantly conversational vocals to a series of autobiographical, lived-in tracks that alternate between hilarious and heartbreaking. Themes familiar to his writing crop up — namely the strong pull of addiction, unnerving self-doubt and learning how to again stitch together a life — but Shubaly’s charming irreverence prevents things from ever feeling bogged down.”

He is accompanied by Seattle-based singer/songwriter Star Anna. From On Magazine: “A doe-eyed, haunting honky-tonk siren, Star Anna is a captivating singer-songwriter with a tough-girl exterior and raw emotions…It’s a sound with longing, heartache and simple sincerity in the same vein as Lucinda Williams and Neko Case.”
Mark Pickerel of Screaming Trees calls Star Anna “A musical soul-mate for those late and lonely nights, a voice so intoxicating that it might just eliminate any real desire to find a true love. “

Joseph Allred performs beautiful, aching compositions on guitar and harmonium. Check out this clip of Joseph performing at Noa Noa in 2013. There’s more of his music here.

Hope you’ll come out for this awesome show. BYOB. Free, but donations for musicians encouraged. 

Impulse and the Anonymous Artist + Open Studios

I am not sure when or how I came to this understanding, but for a long time I have considered artists to populate the upper echelon of society, to be its most influential members, and to leave behind a testament of it that can inform generations to come. Much of what we know about the past and about other cultures is found through the work of artists. How much have we learned from artifacts discovered from ancient Mesopotamia? How many people know the extent of suppression of free speech in China because of Ai Wei Wei? What would the Great Depression look like without The Grapes of Wrath? You get the point.

We are fascinated by artists, and we delight in discovering their kinks and eccentricities. To learn about the life and habits of an artist I admire is to gain a bit more understanding of her greatness; my own is both dwarfed and magnetized by the knowledge. Marina Abramović will fast for days, weeks, or months as part of a performance. Hemingway stood up at a podium and wrote in pencil on yellow legal pads, every day at 6:00 am. Nabokov planned his novels out on index cards before writing a word of manuscript.

"Impulse: Playing House as a Blank Artist" will be performed at Ground Floor Gallery and Studios Saturday, Dec. 6.

“Impulse: Playing House as a Blank Artist” will be performed at Ground Floor Gallery and Studios Saturday, Dec. 6.

And this is why I’ve been thinking all month about Impulse: Playing House as a Blank Artist, showing at Ground Floor Gallery. Created by Austin Hoke, Ziona Riley and Evelyn Walker, the installation opened in November and gallery owner Janet Decker Yanez has kept it up for another run this Saturday from 3 to 6. The piece decontextualizes the objects of the artist, blasting them apart so they can be re-examined. I read it as a study of the artist that mocks my own inclinations to put him or her on a pedestal above the rest of humanity. The objects could not be more mundane, the life that emerges more ordinary. The only thing that threw me was an overly vague installation statement, which seemed to obscure for the sake of obscuring. Where it should reveal more about the piece, it pulls it into art-speak pretense, which seems to be exactly the thing that installation is attempting to trump. Impulse collage

This one criticism aside, Impulse is innovative and provocative. The trio has set up six stations in the space to mark the anonymous artist’s belongings, or more accurately, the physical pieces that make up the artist, with an audio tour that sounds like 70s-style documentary footage. (“When you hear these tones…prepare to transition to the next station.”) Each station takes the viewer to a set of objects owned by “the artist”, things like thrown-away trash, objects that are precious only to their owner, photos of “strangers found amongst the artist’s family.” Playful but instructive, I felt a sort of tug of war with the audio recording; when I thought I was headed toward a meaty conclusion about the work, it pulled me in another direction charged with the possibility to make meaning. In station one, I found dozens of framed family photos, yet I was told they are not the photos of the artist’s family, and the narrator comments wryly, “If you have ever wound up with someone’s stray sock amongst your clean laundry, you will know what it is like to end up in someone else’s shoebox.” Section six is wall of trash items mounted on rectangles of carpet. “The objects were used up, diminished, and cast away, mingled with dirt, orphaned, run over by indifference and better places to be. Have they really outlived their usefulness?”  Both clean and soiled clothes form a pile in the corner; the garments “filabuster our shifting skins, sediments posing as sentiment.” Spend some time with these elements, and you begin to imagine their owner, the Blank Artist. impulse collage 2

The work is enjoyable for these moments of poetry and for the overall harmony of its elements. The many items to examine, the cello performed by Austin Hoke, it’s an experience that gave me a deep feeling of contentment and pleasure. There are also, of course, any number of meta-analyses about the work (artists using their own objects to perform an artwork about the artist’s objects.) It’s a fresh exhibition by some cool, young artists in Nashville that we’d all do well to keep on the radar.

On Saturday, Ground Floor will also have open studios, so you can check out the work of Yanez, Heidi Martin Kuster, Mandy Brown, Desire Hough, and Shana Kohnstamm. It’s a big day with Porter Flea and the two art crawls, but GFG is smart to host the reception early in the day. The gallery is located at 924 4th Ave. South.

Capra Classics at Belcourt

"It's a Wonderful Life" and five other Capra Classics play at Belcourt in December.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” and five other Capra Classics play at Belcourt in December.

There are many reasons my spirit needs refreshing this holiday season, and here comes the Belcourt to my rescue with a series of Capra classics. It kicks off with the quintessential “It’s a Wonderful Life,” during which I’ll do my best not to perform each part. Next, they’ll have “It Happened One Night” starring Claudette Colbert as a runaway debutante and Clark Gable as her amorous yet grumpy suitor–it’s a great romantic teaser.  They’ll have heart throbs Jean Arthur and Gary Cooper in “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.”  Jimmy Stewart performs a successful filibuster and earns five stars for patriotism in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” “Lost Horizon” was not memorable for me, but I’m willing to give it another shot.  The crown jewel of course is “You Can’t Take It With You” with Lionel Barrymore, Jimmy Stewart, and my gal Jean Arthur. It’s a morality tale that will put all your holiday money woes to shame.

Viewing Capra’s films now, I want to call him naive, dangerously optimistic, clueless of troubles that Americans would face. But he made his films during the Depression, when people needed a tonic to boost their spirits and give them something to hold onto. In Capra’s cinematic world, all men and women are essentially good, and class conflicts can be assuaged with a battle between harmonicas. It reminds us of how cinema often reflects the culture and spirit of the people, for at it’s best, it shows us what we need most.

Belcourt often makes a signature drink for these events, and I wonder what they’ll come up with… (“I’ll have a mulled wine, heavy on the cinnamon, light on the cloves!”)

After viewing all six films, I’ll feel like Frank Capra whispered to me, “Friend, you are a divine mingle-mangle of guts and stardust. So hang in there! If doors opened for me, they can open for anyone.”

“It’s a Wonderful Life” will run Dec. 19-25. The rest will run in times TBA Dec. 26-Jan.1.

Hee Haw!

Art in the Park Continues

Last week we told you about Yoga for Truckers (+Everyone). At 2:30-3:30 pm, Tuesday, Nov. 4th, you can join Nicole Cormaci and Amanda Wentworth to practice yoga in the treasury room of the Parthenon.  All yoga will be conducted in chairs as part of Cormaci’s FLEX IT! goal to design a series of yoga moves for truckers and other sedentary workers. Cormaci’s Yoga for Truckers and other Sedentary Workers participatory work will result in a podcast.

We also told you about a game of Capture the Flag that went down at the Parthenon in October. Don’t miss the next events: 2-3 pm, Saturday, Nov. 8th and 22nd, MeetUp with Adrienne Outlaw for introductory zumba and capoeira classes in Centennial Park. The classes will be taught by instructors with the  Global Education Center. Weather permitting, they will be held in the park on the south lawn. Should they be held in the Parthenon museum admission applies.

Here I am guarding the jail during MeetUp's Capture the Flag. Photo  courtesy of Adrienne Outlaw.

Here I am guarding the jail during MeetUp’s Capture the Flag. Photo courtesy of Adrienne Outlaw.

The classes are part of Outlaw’s MeetUp project for FLEX IT! MeetUp events, designed to encourage acts of health and harmony, have included a potluck picnic, mud making and Capture the Flag. Future events include bread making and massage, portions of which are being shown as part of Outlaw’s evolving video installation in the museum.

Yoga for Truckers (+Everyone) at the Parthenon

FLEX_Cormaci1We don’t think about it much, but the goods we use have been transported great distances by machines operated by people — the screen that meets your focus, the coffee in your cup, the gasoline in your car. When performance artist Nicole Cormaci found herself traveling from British Columbia to Indiana regularly, she became empathetic to the physical effects of the long haul, spurring her social practice work Yoga for Truckers (+Everyone).

The work debuted in September at the Parthenon Museum as part of FLEX IT! My Body My Temple, an evolving social practice work curated by Adrienne Outlaw that addresses all matters of personal upkeep: physical, emotional, and spiritual, and invites participants to consider the social ramifications when we take personal responsibility. Cormaci’s piece offers a new element to the mix, applying the ancient, specific knowledge of yoga practitioners to the sedentary practice of operating trains, planes, and automobiles. It’s not just for transportation folks though. In our screen-based world, many of us find ourselves sitting for long stretches, only to find our bodies cramped and knees aching long after we unwind. For truckers, the damage is lasting: hip, back, and knee issues can permanently damage posture, making mobility difficult and painful. Yoga for Truckers investigates whether yoga can correct some of the damage that’s been done.

When the work debuted in September, local yoga instructor Amanda Wentworth led trucker Lonnie Keller in a sequence of yoga poses that can be practiced while driving. They’ll continue that work this week — in the cab of a tractor trailer in Centennial Park. Wentworth will lead a free community yoga class that builds on these sequences on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 1:30-2:30.

Much of Cormaci’s work is site specific, and Centennial Park is an interesting place for a work that revolves around transportation, considering that it was largely financed by railroad companies in celebration the 100 year anniversary of Tennessee’s ratification into the Union. The train is the predecessor of the trucking industry, and Cormaci’s work as whole asks us to consider the people who move things across the country, while we reflect on our own postures as we move through the world.