Artistic Director, OZ Arts Nashville

Photography by Jerry Atnip

Interview by Paul Polycarpou


Lauren Snelling blew into town with a dream and a plan—to help establish a stellar performing arts center that would showcase the best of dance, theatre, music, and the visual arts from around the world. Two years later we are all trying to catch our breath as OZ Arts amazes and stimulates us with groundbreaking performances in every art genre. And that’s just the beginning. Spend a few minutes with Lauren and you’ll quickly realize that she is far from finished, which is good news for OZ Arts and good news for Nashville.

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What is your greatest extravagance?

Travel! I absolutely love to travel; it gives me energy to see other cultures.

Why Nashville?

We got lucky. Nashville called us. We moved here from Asheville, North Carolina, to help get OZ started.

First impression?

I grew up in the South so after years of living away it was nice to come back to a place where people have manners. There’s a real honesty here.

What was the last good book you read?

I have a stack of books on my bedside table, so I have good intentions, but finding time to read is tough, but the last good book was M Train by Patti Smith.

What is one of your most annoying characteristics?

How much time do we have? I’m very pedantic about detail. I will tweak things to the ‘nth degree.

What are you good at?

I’m good at bringing people together. I’m a serious extrovert, so I like to be around people a lot.

What do you do badly?

I am horrifically impatient.

Are you always five minutes early?

No! I am always late, or I’m skidding in right on time, never early. (Not proud of this!)

Who’s a modern day hero for you?

There’s quite a few. There are a lot of female leaders right now, and that is inspiring to me. People with integrity, Helen Mirren, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

What can you not leave the house without?

This is a horrible admission, but it’s my phone. Shocking and I wish it weren’t that way. I hate it.

Who would you most like to have a long conversation with?

My husband; we’re both so busy

What would you like to know about the future?

I want to know where OZ Arts will be in ten years and what the arts scene in Nashville will look like.

What about you would most surprise people?

That I nearly went to dental school. I’m really glad I didn’t do that.

What are you most proud of?

My daughter, Indigo, and what we’ve been able to accomplish at OZ Arts in two and a half years.

What talent would you most like to have?

I wish I could speak more languages.

If not here, where would you live?

If not Australia, probably Europe, France, Spain, Italy.

Who’s your favorite visual artist?

I’m a big Rothko fan.

Any regrets?

I’ve moved around a lot. I regret that I haven’t lived anywhere long enough to establish traditions with friends.

Who are you listening to these days?

Ben Harper.

What do you like least about Nashville?

That it’s not near the coast. I’ve always been fairly close to the sea.

How do you feel about the rapid growth going on in Nashville?

I think it’s very exciting. I love the energy that comes with all this growth. I just hope we’re careful not to alienate those who created this very appealing city.

How does Nashville rate as an art city?

I think we could push the boundaries a little more. Lean in a bit more, become more engaged.

Night or morning person?

Oh my God, night, definitely one hundred percent night.

Who would you most like to meet?

Dame Judy Dench, Meryl Streep.

What’s the road ahead look like?

I feel very positive right now; there’s so much potential in what we’re doing.

A word or phrase that you over use?

“We’re not saving lives here.” I say that a lot. I mean, there is no art emergency.

Are you a political person?

It’s tough not to be, especially at this time of year with what is going on around us, but I don’t actively seek out political conversations. It’s important to be invested in the leaders we elect to represent us.

What performance have you seen that was life altering?

That’s very clear to me: I saw a performance by a Japanese dance company called Sankai Juku. I have never had the penny drop in the way it did at that performance. Absolutely astonishing.

What’s your mantra these days?

I try to say yes instead of no. “Yes” leads to so many more ideas, more possibilities.

Who would you stand in line to buy tickets for?

I would stand in line for James Thiérrée, an amazing performer. Stevie Wonder. Bruce Springsteen.



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