by Mary Unobsky

Art is the accomplice of love. Take love away and there is no longer art. 

– Remy de Gourmont


photo: Brad Kavan

The above quote is from the nineteenth-century Parisian poet and influential critic Remy de Gourmont. It describes the women we are embracing in this series, an innovative group who learned that when they sought to discover the best in others, they brought out the best in themselves. They are the unsung heroines who have kept the faith, fought the good fight, captured something unique, gone against the grain, made inroads, given an extra turn of the screw, and led with their passion. These women are as diverse as they are ardent—an assortment of artists, political activists, museum mentors, donors, and trailblazers who have an involuntary reaction to excellence and have unselfishly lifted up others by their actions.


These warrior women don’t often get the spotlight and are like beautiful birds flying under the radar. We’ve assembled a list, which is by no means definitive, of this spectacular species in Nashville. This month we spotlight Lisa Hester.

Being the Director of Arts Access, a position mandated by the state legislature, gave Lisa Hester an opportunity to nurture an underserved population during her
sixteen years at the Tennessee Arts Commission.

“There was a time when art produced by people with disabilities was considered subpar. The art scene in Nashville has become much more inclusive,” reports Hester “and the funders place more value on the work.”

LISA HESTER credit Nancy Lee Andrews jpeg

photo: Nancy Lee Andrews, makeup: Emmy Harris

Hester historically sought out a multitude of artists from the immigrant communities, as well as seniors, the disabled, and even the incarcerated for a Prison Art Project which is now in its second year. One of the artists she encouraged—Estelle Condra, an artist, actress, and storyteller with a disability—went on to win the Governor’s Award, the state’s highest honor.

“Life is art, art is life, and you can’t grow, live, or exist without it. It’s our essence,” adds Hester.    

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