If Social Practice Art—exploring the power of art to inspire, to ignite, to engage, and to motivate into action—is your passion, M-SPAR may be your great opportunity. M-SPAR (McGruder Social Practice Artist Residency) is an innovative program with the C.E. McGruder Family Resource Center, offering opportunities to conceptualize and develop transformative projects for the North Nashville community.
Housed in an old, abandoned Metro school on 25th Avenue North, McGruder is one of seventeen United Way Family Resource Centers scattered across Nashville in schools or run by agencies such as PENCIL Foundation or Catholic Charities.
Courtney Adair Johnson began in April of this year as the first artist-in-residence in a pilot for the program to determine its feasibility and has since moved into the role of administrator for M-SPAR. For participating artists, free studio space is provided on site under the non-profit Nashville Cultural Arts Project Seed Space in exchange for a community-based project.
That pilot project, Mapping McGruder, was designed using questionnaires to collect community assets and information on art and community in building a template to share in brochure form with the community. It includes the history of Curlie McGruder and the McGruder Family Resource Center (FRC) and its potential to be a service-based hub for the community.
Johnson visited several FRCs with United Way. “We are hoping by this time next year to be a more vibrant resource for North Nashville and see art helping to create that.” McGruder’s location in the former school offers hallways, classrooms, and even an auditorium for projects.
The M-SPAR application process is open. In order to be considered, artists should submit a letter of interest and an artist statement. According to guidelines, M-SPAR applicants may “activate public spaces and raise visibility for specific issues” by choosing to focus on Public Art. An alternative is the focus on Cultivation for projects including “promoting workforce development, lectures, tutoring/mentoring, and activities that further conversations on contemporary art in Nashville.”
“The letter of interest is the starting point,” says Johnson. “But over time, the project can change. It can be fluid. The community will influence the direction the project takes, and it’s possible to expand and to bring in partners for the project.”
The space and the needs and dynamics of the community will enable artists to move beyond their normal artistic expression and to experiment with and include events, performance pieces, and new media such as using light and sound to project onto the building.
As the program develops, Johnson is exploring opportunities to attract funding and to build dynamic partnerships with area HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).
The artistic platform to express social concerns, to expand community awareness for topics such as social justice, sustainability, and neighborhood/cultural preservation is now available. Artists may send a letter of interest and artist statement to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.seedspace.org/M-SPAR.