by Teri Alea, Executive Director, TACA

The opportunities to learn a craft abound in Nashville thanks to the Clay Lady’s Studio, Artist Co-op and Galleries, and The Skillery. Nashville’s cultural amenities have attracted big-city transplants, ready to embrace the city’s growing creative culture.”

Artwork by Olen Bryant

Artwork by Akira Blount

Nashville’s secrets are getting outIt is no surprise that numerous publications and studies show our town to be a top cultural destination. When noting all of the wonderful opportunities Nashville offers artists—from entertainers to painters—it’s important to make sure craft is on the list.

Historically, craft has been viewed as a redheaded stepchild of the visual arts. Rooted in function, traditional crafts of clay, glass, metal, paper, straw, textiles, and wood were left off of gallery shelves for decades. Instead, shop walls featured an abundance of two-dimensional paintings and drawings. You know . . . Art.

Artwork by Dale and Brin Baucum

Thanks to visionaries in our area, today craft takes center stage in Nashville. Don’t agree? Head to the Parthenon to see Alan LeQuire’s notable sculpture Athena. Visit Centennial Park to see three events dedicated to showcasing the work of today’s finest makers. Take a class in a variety of media from talented instructors, or stop in a store selling a variety of local, work.
 In my current role as Executive Director of the Tennessee Association of Craft Artists, I have to tip my hat to those who came before me. The founders of TACA noticed the scarcity of opportunities fine craft artists had to show and sell their work and travelled across the state to fix this. As a result of their hard work and determination, exhibitions began popping up, marking the birth of Tennessee craft fairs. Behind the scenes, nonprofit organizations, like TACA, formed to support and encourage craft professionals in their careers. Craft started to creep out from the shadows.  

Setting the stage were art visionaries like Alice Zimmerman and Nancy Saturn, Vanderbilt University’s Sarratt Gallery led by JoEl Logiudice and Kim Brooks and Rusty Wolfe, and leaders in government positions, who understood that keeping artists in their community and valuing their output had a domino effect. Both the Metro Nashville Arts Commission and the Tennessee Arts Commission are among those recognized nationally as models of arts support, with significant budgets and programs that impact economic development, community access to the arts, and the ability of art organizations to stay in business.

Today, Nashville’s craft fairs continue throughout the city. In Centennial Park, fairgoers flock to TACA and American Artisan events. Pop-up markets like Porter Flea attract buyers indoors. A variety of organizations, associations, and guilds—the Tennessee Association of Woodturners, the Cumberland Furniture Guild, and Handweavers’ Guild, to name a few—continue to inform and support artists, equipping them with the tools to make a career out of their passions.

Artwork by Jason York

The opportunities to learn a craft abound in Nashville thanks to the Clay Lady’s Studio, Artist Co-op & Galleries, and The Skillery. Nashville’s cultural amenities have attracted big-city transplants, ready to embrace the city’s growing creative culture.  Looking to buy?  Collectors complete the circle of support. Pop into LeQuire Gallery and LeQuire & Company, Shimai, Art & Invention Gallery and Bryant Gallery in East Nashville, the Tennessee State Museum and the Frist Center’s gift stores, the Clay Lady’s Studio, Artist Co-op & Galleries; The Copper Fox in Leiper’s Fork, the Tennessee Artisan Market at the Renaissance Center in Dickson, and many more locations and studios across the state. Take a look at the TACA website page Buy Local and Handmade for venues big and small. 

Artwork by Vince Pitelka

Besides individual collectors, other venues with a long view have committed funds and curatorial staff to building significant craft collections. Our own Tennessee State Museum has an important collection, and HCA, Bridgestone, Cracker Barrel, and most recently the Ayers Foundation have gathered and saved high-quality handmade work, allowing craft and fine artworks to be seen and appreciated by the next generation.
  All the components of support have grown in our community. It’s no coincidence that our national media have begun recognizing, even in craft, what those who live, work, and play here already know—Nashville deserves the attention we’re getting!
The 42nd Annual TACA Tennessee Craft Fair will be held in Centennial Park  May 3–5, 2013. Hours: Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public.www.tennesseecrafts.org

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