Nashville: Artist Run Galleries

by Michael Mitchell

Joey Mitchell and Teddy & Oliver Benningfield view work at Haley Gallery, Hatch Show Print: Sonnenzimmer, Shape Song Sculpture, Infinite Descriptor and Studies in Matrix,1.8 (foreground to background). Photo by Michael Mitchell.

Sonnenzimmer, Infinite Descriptor at 50%, Haley Gallery, Hatch Show Print. Photo by Michael Mitchell.

Regional Update: Nashville

One of the many ways to determine the health of an art scene is to survey the variety of artists and venues that show their work in any given city. Now, more than ever, the rise of alternative spaces, artist-run galleries, and the reimagining of some of the anchor institutions are positioning artists in Nashville with even more opportunities through both sharing ideas and advocating for one another to create a more connected community of artists. Following are some of those sites and artists who are creating a world-class reputation for Nashville as a visual arts city.

Hatch Show Print’s Haley Gallery doubles down on the importance of making prints with Shape Song, a fantastic exhibit featuring an experimental approach to sound, graphics and printmaking by Chicago-based duo Sonnenzimmer. Hopefully they will find their way back to Nashville soon. Largely credited with saving Hatch Show Print, printmaking icon Jim Sherredan’s retrospective of his thirty-plus-year career, Now and Then, will run through the end of September at Haley Gallery. Sherredan’s retrospective is a tough act to follow, but I think Wayne White may be up to that challenge: he is currently completing a residency in their print shop, and his much-anticipated exhibition will be on display October 6th to November 11th.

The Frist Art Museum presents their exhibition titled Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century that inspired Peter Plagen to encourage all Wall Street Journal readers who were interested in serious painting to take a trip to Nashville. Chaos and Awe will be on view through mid-September.

At Jefferson Street Art Crawl, Nashville as a whole has been awakened by Thaxton Waters, Omari Booker, Elisheba Israel and many more to the fact that artists of color have been making important work on the north side of Nashville long before that area became interesting to developers. Several projects by Build Better Tables, sponsored by the Metro Arts Commission, are led by artists engaging with ideas and conversations on equity, race, and food in and around North Nashville.

Elephant Gallery intentionally takes the pretension away from art viewing. A recent event included a Garfield collectible and lasagna bakeoff covered by Vice Media ( Elephant Gallery also recently began collaborating with OZ Arts to curate the entrance gallery at OZ, creating more opportunity for artists to be seen by a wider audience.

David Lusk Gallery in Nashville, similar to its sister location in Memphis, honors their veteran artists with one-person shows but also brings in rising stars like Brandon J. Donahue, Ashley Doggett and Rob Matthews. DLG also acts as an important connector from Nashville to incredible Memphis-based artists like Tad Lauritzen Wright, Hamlett Dobbins (who has two paintings in Chaos and Awe), Maysey Craddock and Greely Myatt.

The Red Arrow Gallery in East Nashville has, in a matter of four short years, established itself as one of the most reliable places to see great contemporary art in the city. The exhibits include a wide variety of media including traditionally hung painting shows, installation and video. A recent highlight was Joe Nolan’s incredible Pikes Project, an interactive photography and poetry exhibit that was a collaboration with the public.

The Green Gallery at Turnip Green Creative Reuse is probably one of the best-kept secrets in the Nashville art community. Art from the Recycling Bin by the Trahern Collective included art by Miranda Herrick, Marc Pewitt and Olivia Molinaro Landry that had either been recycled or upcycled in some way. The variety of the exhibits are as wide as the variety of materials from the store available to artists and makers for whatever amount they want to donate.

Jodi Hays, owner of East Nashville pop-up gallery Dadu, does not try to attract large crowds to the few shows a year held in the space but intentionally keeps the openings small to allow everyone into the conversation. The rest of the year the space acts as Jodi’s studio; the generosity of transforming her space for others can always be felt.

These are not the only places to see art in Nashville. I did not get to talk about the university galleries, other established spaces, or the host of new shows that are popping up monthly. I agree with Peter Plagens, you should make a trip to Nashville!

Author: Michael Mitchell is an artist (aka mikewindy) and educator in Nashville, Tennessee.