Nashville’s Zeitgeist Gallery Brings “Luminous Animals” to Whitespace

by E.C. Flamming - July 15, 2017


Alex Lockwood,  Birth of a Blue Man , 2016; mixed media, bread ties, 21 by 23 inches. (Photo: Kristina Ford Art)

Alex Lockwood, Birth of a Blue Man, 2016; mixed media, bread ties, 21 by 23 inches. (Photo: Kristina Ford Art)

There are few art spaces in Atlanta lovelier on a summer evening than Whitespace, in its 1893 carriage house with a dreamy patio and gardens. The opening of “Luminous Animals,” a group show featuring nearly a dozen artists from Zeitgeist gallery in Nashville, happened to land on a particularly warm and clear night. However, the good weather was just a bonus— “Luminous Animals,” in all its versatility, could bend its aesthetics to rain or shine.

“Luminous Animals” is the second artist trade-off between the two galleries. Last July, Zeitgeist temporarily turned its space over to Whitespace artists, including Amy Pleasant, Eric Mack and Zipporah Thompson. According to Zeitgeist, the exchange is meant to “spark a conversation between the two cities and shed some light on artistic trends across the southeast.” Both cities are experiencing massive change and growth, and the partnership seems to serve as both a networking opportunity and regional artistic showcase.

Installation view of “Luminous Animals” at Whitespace with (l to r) photo by Caroline Allison and hanging sculpture by Alex Lockwood.

Installation view of “Luminous Animals” at Whitespace with (l to r) photo by Caroline Allison and hanging sculpture by Alex Lockwood.

Group shows can be messy and awkward, a jumbling of vastly different artists operating under the same vague theme. The artwork is a mixed bag of sculpture, photography and paintings that variously clash and gel together. But there are always standouts.

In this case, two large sculptures by Alex Lockwood are the eye-catchers. Red Dancer, made up of shotgun shells, blue plastic caps, long, red plastic tubes and other plastic parts, is a humanlike form suspended from the ceiling. Red Dancer is interactive, too—visitors can “dance” with the figure by pulling on its “hands,” which is really just a plastic handle held together with rope.. Shotgun shells will always be a contested material, especially in times of police brutality and gun violence, but, like a scary Muppet, Lockwood’s work is too goofy to be truly frightening. Lockwood’s second (and arguably better) piece sits tucked away behind a screen in a corner. Composed of a thousand blue and green bread ties, Birth of a Blue Man stares up at the viewers from the floor. It’s whimsical, creepy, and hilarious.

Lars Strandh, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 59 by 59 inches.

Lars Strandh, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 59 by 59 inches.

A lovely acrylic and archival print titled Probe 02 by Ward Schumakershows a gray geometric shape that resembles a staircase sitting neatly atop a ghostly print of what could be a ship, a helicopter, a lamp, a spaceship, a pier, or perhaps some collaged combination of all of the above. Beside it, positioned in a corner, sits Schumaker’s White Mountain, a polychrome wood sculpture that mirrors the staircase shape in Probe 02. The combination works beautifully.

Caroline Allison,  Panther Motel , 2016; archival pigment print, 36 by 46 inches.

Caroline Allison, Panther Motel, 2016; archival pigment print, 36 by 46 inches.

Caroline Allison’s notable work, Panther Motel, invites us in to a seemingly normal motel that is both eerie and inviting. It’s appealing because of the cheery blue balcony and somewhat dilapidated (but still charming) palm trees. It’s unnerving only after you realize what you’re looking at — the caption of Panther Motel reads “On September 10, 2001, two of the September 11th hijackers checked out of Room 12.” Suddenly, the blue balcony is icy and ominous.

Installation view with paintings by (l to r) Lars Strandh, Karen Seapker, and Richard Feaster.

Installation view with paintings by (l to r) Lars Strandh, Karen Seapker, and Richard Feaster.

The bright abstract paintings by Richard Feaster and Karen Seapkervie for attention. Seapker’s Clasp (Lightroom) is especially striking, with its oily pink and blue wormholes. Are we drowning, or are we emerging? The oil paint and white highlights give the piece a wet appearance, as if it lived at the bottom of a brightly light, neon cave. Patrick DeGuira’s two acrylic pieces featuring bold color blocks and text, Labor Painting (When the Horse met the Mule) and Labor Painting (When the Mule met the Horse) allow the viewer to come to their own lighthearted (or dark) conclusions.

Patrick DeGuira,  Labor Painting (When the Mule met the Horse) , 2013; acrylic on canvas, 18 by 22 inches.

Patrick DeGuira, Labor Painting (When the
Mule met the Horse)
, 2013; acrylic on canvas, 18 by 22 inches.

Works by Lars Strandh offer a calm alternative. Potentially overlooked because of the boisterous neighboring abstractions, Strandh’s pieces certainly deserve a second glance. In one, thousands of thin horizontal brush strokes pile on top of each other to form what appear to be monochromatic field. Up close, the block of dark blue breaks down into a multitude of colors, including red, yellow, and purple.

Mesmerizing, minimalist and strangely trippy, Strandh’s work invites, rather than demands, our attention.
The whole exhibition is varied and curious, and offers an array of techniques and styles. There’s a lot to enjoy in “Luminous Animals,” and, of course, there’s always the garden.

“Luminous Animals” is on view at Whitespace Gallery through July 29.

E.C. Flamming is an Atlanta-based writer. She has been published in ART PAPERS, Paste, and The Peel Literature & Arts Review.

Source: http://burnaway.org/review/nashvilles-zeit...

Nashville Scene

Alex Lockwood’s Elephant Gallery Serves Realness With a Side of Weird

MAY 11, 2017

Found and Incidental Collections opens this weekend at the North Nashville gallery

By  Laura Hutson - MAY 11, 2017


Paul Collins working on “Boomtown Beaver” at Elephant Gallery // PHOTO: ERIC ENGLAND

Paul Collins working on “Boomtown Beaver” at Elephant Gallery // PHOTO: ERIC ENGLAND

The stretch of Buchanan Street approaching Elephant Gallery would be a visual candyland even if it weren’t for the enormous cartoon beaver. The day care across the street has hand-painted signs of toddlers in tasseled mortarboard hats, and the corner store is painted neon green. There’s a killer Jay Jenkins wall painting of a woman whose hair seems to stretch into an entire continent. But come on, a mural of a frenzied beaver gnawing at a spiraled wooden stick like some rabid minor character from Watership Down? That’s going to stand out, no matter where you’re at. And Alex Lockwood, who opened Elephant Gallery in February, is counting on it.

At first blush, some might view the gallery’s visibility on Buchanan Street, part of the important historically black neighborhood of North Nashville, as a move toward gentrification, since Lockwood is both white and a transplant from the Pacific Northwest. But Lockwood has conceived a gallery that’s more visionary than anyone could have expected, and involves the community without sacrificing integrity. How’s he doing that, exactly? By keeping it really weird.

The mural, called “Boomtown Beaver,” is the brainchild of Paul Collins, an artist and professor at Austin Peay. Collins injects themes of ecology, gentrification, industry and loneliness into something that is singularly goofy and smart. That’s high praise in an era when the success of an artwork is often equated with how many people post selfies with it on Instagram, and public murals are often designed to appeal to the broadest possible audience. But even with a title like “Boomtown Beaver,” Collins’ mural isn’t dumbing anything down.

Collins envisioned the piece as an extension of his studio practice — an exhibit of his drawings and paintings called Soft Bark at Zeitgeist Gallery a year ago proved to be a bit of foreshadowing for the ambitious mural — but it expanded into much more of a community collaboration almost as soon as he began. “Working in public view was intriguing,” Collins tells the Scene. “I really appreciated talking with and getting feedback from folks walking by.” Some of the children who helped Collins were painted into the background — small figures in the edge of the woods right where the paint darkens from blue to purple.

If Collins’ mural, which will remain on the building’s side for a year, functions like the gallery’s dynamic cover art, Elephant’s opening exhibition earlier this year, Brett Douglas Hunter’s Aminals, was its ambitious opening track. The artist took over the space like he was Red Grooms on acid, filling it with large-scale cement and papier-mâché creatures that looked like candy-colored versions of the sculptures Catherine O’Hara’s character made in Beetlejuice. With the gallery’s current exhibit, Lockwood is uncovering another layer of Elephant Gallery’s intention.


Like last year’s The Keeper exhibit at the New Museum in New York, Found Collections brings the idea of iconophilia — the worship of images — into public discourse.

Lockwood set out the parameters: The collections must be only objects found discarded in public or acquired for free from personal use. Found and Incidental Collections’ centerpiece will likely be Lockwood’s collection of plastic cigarette lighters, items he has found in gravel lots and gutters over the course of a lifetime.

Arranged like a rainbow in a color-coded spectrum, Lockwood’s lighter collection is the visual art version of the Pixies’ loud-quiet-loud song structure — it’s so repetitive that it can overwhelm you with the slightest push. Found and Incidental Collections will also feature a collection of discarded dime bags found by Bryan Zimmerman, hospital ID bracelets collected by Jessi Zazu, and cat whiskers assembled by Lynda Herdelin. Other collections include paint chips, photographs of men on toilets in the ’90s and more.

When I first met Lockwood in 2013, I took note of his affinity for creating collections, writing, “They remind me of that famously short short story about unused baby shoes: Sometimes inanimate objects can carry an enormous impact that’s like an emotional Trojan horse — you let it in because of its familiarity, and it wrecks you.” You can count on that same subtext to permeate the gallery’s future — if he’s smart, Lockwood will lean into the bizarre groundwork he’s laid and take risks with art and artists who are as unexpected as the bright red beaver.

And who knows? Elephant Gallery might not be the art-scene-changing institution that Nashville has been waiting for, the driving force behind the city’s storied potential as a cultural juggernaut. But it might be its Trojan horse.

Nashville Arts Magazine


April 2017

by Mark W. Scala/ Chief Curator / Frist Center for the Visual Arts

At the New York art fairs in March, an avid art addict may have seen thousands of works of art that have been created around the world, most unremarkable, many good, a few great. Because the purpose of the art fairs is primarily to make sales, not to offer thoughtful aesthetic experiences, one never loses sight of the fact that however wonderful it is, art situated between the studio and museum or private collection is inventory, a thing among things. Even our art addict cannot help but be bemused by the strangeness of a world in which expensive commodities have no real connection to need, production costs, or any of the other factors that typically affect price.

So after this high-end bazaar, one might wish to go to the temple, MoMA, or the Guggenheim to remind oneself that while art may be tied to money, what one acquires is an idea, an auratic experience, a signifier of a moment or era, a measure or reflection of culture. Art presented in an aesthetically enhanced and informative context enables one to forget the leveling dimension of the art fair, to remember that at its best, art is a force of communication and transformation as potent as great literature and film.

Or one can go in a messier direction, to artist-run fairs, galleries, and pop-ups, where younger or less mainstream artists and emerging curators are given space to construct mini-shows on a particular theme. Art dealers can be incredibly knowledgeable about their artists but are always mindful of the need to position them in the marketplace. Professional curators are objective scholars who place art within a social and historical context, but may not be prepared to gamble on the long-lasting significance of new creations. Artists-as-curators are closer to studio practice, often bringing a subjective vision shaped less by the marketplace or notions of art-historical importance than by empathic insights into other artists’ processes and challenges.

Today, the curatorial profession seeks to encourage new generations of curators from across the social spectrum, to advocate for the museum career at the middle-school and high-school level, especially emphasizing diversity and inclusivity. Some of us also encourage artists to be curators. For me, one of the most anticipated exhibitions of the year is Blue Black, which will open at the Pulitzer Art Foundation in St. Louis this June. Guest curator Glenn Ligon—an artist who works with text as it has been used to construct ideas of racial identity—will explore meanings of color in works ranging from abstract expressionism to experimental film. His insights will likely be personal and passionate. On the art-fair circuit, a recent stalwart has been Spring/Break, a rambling low-budget artist-and-emerging-curators’ show that took place this year in a hotel in New York’s Times Square. It was a lovely mob scene, hundreds of exhibiting artists and their friends, art students and young curators, as well as early-stage collectors looking for that young phenom whose work might make a worthwhile acquisition, or at least might be enjoyed as something new and distinctive.

“Art exhibitions are not simply displays of a compelling product. They are uniquely orchestrated experiences that derive meaning from the triangulation between the artwork, the curator, and the audience.”

At the Frist Center, we show traditional and contemporary art from around the world (including Nashville!), exposing our audience to a range of voices, techniques, and innovations while adding to the cosmopolitan perspective of artists and non-artists alike. Smaller galleries and artists-run spaces in Middle Tennessee are also engaged with curatorial projects of note. One might see lively installations at art crawls in Wedgewood- Houston, downtown on 5th Avenue, or the East Nashville Art Stumble. These often take place at artist-run places like COOP and Seed Space, Jodi Hays’s DADU pop-up, or the gallery at the downtown First Presbyterian Church. Artists also direct several commercial galleries, bringing their visions to bear in surprising exhibitions and public programs. Zeitgeist’s recent presentation of Alex Lockwood’s grand and terrifying sculptures and Richard Feaster’s ethereal paintings, organized by artist and gallerist Lain York, was a remarkable show by anyone’s standards, partly because the curatorial pairing of these two unlikely aesthetic voices created a vibe that was as gloriously irrational as it was electric.

Art exhibitions are not simply displays of a compelling product. They are uniquely orchestrated experiences that derive meaning from the triangulation between the artwork, the curator, and the audience. And happily for Nashville, one doesn’t have to travel far to get to the source. Artists-as-curators have become key agents in our burgeoning art scene, reminding us that if the cultural life of one’s community does not have everything one might want, the choice does not have to be exit stage right. Increasingly, artists are creating opportunities to forge the culture of their communities in a positive way.

Source: http://nashvillearts.com/2017/03/passion-s...

Nashville Arts Magazine


Written by Peter Chawaga

At first glance, the figures seem joyous. Their bright colors, bulbous bodies, and simplicity of form make them candidates for a Saturday morning cartoon. Then, a closer look, and the threads of soft pink and purple are traced to their guts, the plastic components of their faces are turned in horror, their makeshift bodies bent in pain.

Alex Lockwood’s upcoming show Awful Things, featuring his latest sculptural work at Zeitgeist, toes the line between horror and merriment, and not delicately.

“The color and the materials are all really innocent and childlike and approachable, and then what is happening to these pieces is the opposite,” Lockwood explains. “I hope people enjoy that dichotomy, this combination of surface color and joy and then the horror of the situation.”

Lockwood typically works with reclaimed materials, often in bright hues, creating organic forms and abstract patterns from uniformly manufactured components. His “shakers,” hosted at OZ Arts in 2015, are plastic bottle caps and lids strung together into color-coordinated nests that come to life when a rope is pulled. For years he has folded losing lottery tickets into jaggedly fluid shells and snakes.

The figures in Awful Things, each about 12 feet tall, are made from some of the same materials as Lockwood’s recent mini golf installation at First Tennessee Park: trashcans, cups, bowls, and the visibility marker balls used to signal electric lines to aircraft.

But these latest creations are not merely an astute use of material. They are a reflection of Lockwood’s experience.

“My most accessible work has been more abstract, very labor intensive, using one material repetitively,” he says. “With all the other work that I’ve done, I’ll start with a material and see where that goes and then try to bring myself into it. This just feels like, more than any other show, that I’m starting from a personal, clear experience or notion.”

The seemingly senseless death of a partner in 2008 forced Lockwood to struggle with mortality and he turned to horror movies, finding an avenue where he could confront death and a new source of inspiration. That chance to acknowledge the inescapable reality motivated him to create Awful Things, allowing visitors to explore their fates with a brightly colored, if macabre, spin.

“While birth and youth are celebrated, death and decay aren’t,” Lockwood says. “Not only are they not celebrated, they’re not even talked about. When I went through what I did with my partner, nobody knew how to talk about it … I think that acknowledging and discussing death is important for the people who are dying and the people who are going to die, and that’s everybody.”

Source: http://nashvillearts.com/2017/01/alex-lock...

Nashville Scene

Alex Lockwood Mines Tragedy to Create a Fun, Horrifying Installation

Written by Laura Hutson - Feb 9th, 2017

"Eviscerated Yellow Man," Alex Lockwood

"Eviscerated Yellow Man," Alex Lockwood

There’s a phenomenon called pareidolia that causes people to see faces in ordinary inanimate objects — like Jesus in a grilled cheese or E.T. in a Cinnabon. With hisAwful Things, currently on view at Zeitgeist Gallery, Alex Lockwood has utilized his ability to visually anthropomorphize objects, but the faces aren’t your saviors or your cuddly alien friend — they’re the dead and dying, the tortured and the torturer.

The first thing you’ll notice about the sculptures is the superficial — they’re enormous, with torsos fashioned from industrial-size trash bins and heads made from the visibility balls that mark power lines. They’re brightly colored enough to be right at home in a child’s playroom, with the vibrant yellows, blues and pinks of a Fisher-Price toy. But these figures are far from playful — one has been strung up and bisected, its colorful guts sliced and spilling out onto the floor. Another is impaled on a spike, with blood and feces streaming out of him in curlicues made from strings of the red, brown and yellow plastic lids you might see on a jug of milk.

They say pareidolia is a neurosis, and if that’s true, then there must be a complementary neurosis that describes the nightmarish lens through which a grieving person sees everything. The closest thing, maybe, is post-traumatic stress disorder — Lockwood relied on his experience with PTSD to create this body of work. His trauma comes from 2008, when his partner died suddenly and unexpectedly. She had a seizure while the two of them were driving to a wedding, and within days she slipped into a vegetative state that ended, Lockwood says, when the decision was finally made to take her off life support and allow her to starve and dehydrate until she died. It took three weeks. The fact that Lockwood found solace in the blood, guts and terror of horror movies might be surprising to someone who’s never experienced the debilitating drain of grief — its unsubtle gore was a comfort, and is evident in the work here.

"Bisected Man," Alex Lockwood

"Bisected Man," Alex Lockwood

Greeting you as you enter the gallery is “The Perpetrator,” which is posed in a way Lockwood described to me as “Burt Reynolds in Playgirl” — all that’s missing is the bearskin rug. The subject’s face is made from an assortment of plastic pieces Lockwood found at thrift stores. Four Tupperware cups are arranged to make a nose, and eyes are made from yellow cereal bowls that have been flipped over and bolted together with white, blue and black pieces. Red PVC tubing creates cartoonishly evil eyebrows that have been placed in a V-shape. The giant seems to practically make eye contact with viewers as they enter, as if welcoming them into his den of despair.

Sharing the gallery space is another installation of paintings by Nashville art-scene stalwart Richard Feaster. They are stunning, opalescent large-scale canvases, but anything placed alongside the massive Awful Things works would be diminished by comparison. Similarly, Lockwood’s three smallish sculptures — made out of the plastic tabs that close a bag of bread — look like studies for something else, like the tediously constructed sculptural version of a hastily drawn sketch.

Lockwood may have relied on a personal tragedy to inform this work, but Awful Things arrived in the gallery at a particularly opportune time — the world seems to be spinning out of control so quickly that it’s hard to tell whether you should laugh, cry or shit yourself. If the sculptures are half as therapeutic to view as they were for Lockwood to create, all of Nashville should be lining up at Zeitgeist’s doors to exorcise their own horrors, and revel in the face of how funny, absurd, terrifying and awful life can be.

Source: http://www.nashvillescene.com/arts-culture...

The Callaway Report


Written by Libby Callaway/All photos by Andrea Behrends

Is it possible to have a crush on a building? Because that’s the way I feel about 1411 Buchanan Street, a cinder-block commercial space that might be described as non-descript were it not painted a vibrant green and white and home to a dynamic group of artists, designers and creative entrepreneurs. The 1411 crew came together under the stewardship of building owner Alex Lockwood, a self-taught sculptor from Seattle. Alex moved to Nashville via Brooklyn five years ago with his wife Genie, a native. In New York, Genie worked predominately as a vintage textile curator; today she runs Arcade, the excellent children’s boutique in Hillsboro Village.

In addition to a studio where Alex dreams up his fantastical abstract sculptures (more on those in a minute) and an office from which Genie runs Arcade, 1411 is home base for eight other creatives: visual artists Robert ScobeyJohn TallmanDuncan McDaniel and Lauren McDaniel; pastry chef and writer Lisa Donovan of Buttermilk Road; jewelry designer Carolyn Burgess of Acorn & Archer; and ceramicist Jessica Cheatham of Salt Ceramics. Christie Craig of The Farmer & The Florist sells locally and organically grown flowers and produce from the storefront, punctuated by large plate glass windows.

Before buying 1411 three years ago, Alex had a studio at 100 Taylor Street, a rundown building in Germantown that not very long ago was headquarters for some of Nashville’s most prolific artists (it was a not-so-well-kept secret that Harmony Korine kept a space there). At that time, 100 Taylor was managed by Kelly Bonadies, a creative and forward-thinking real estate developer. Kelly is widely credited with respectfully and strategically changing the commercial fabric of the Buchanan Arts District, the name given to the traditionally black neighborhood where Buchanan Street is the main corridor. Over the last few years, the neighborhood has seen an influx of fashion designers, furniture makers and artists. You can read more about this and Kelly’s place in the action in Alex’s interview.

But first, a bit more about his work

Alex makes art out of the items we throw away. His over-scaled abstract sculptures involve taking “trash” like shotgun shells, bottle caps and used lottery tickets and fashioning them into things of beauty. Masks are made from linked strands of bottle caps, bowls and other colorful plastic detritus. Large interactive mobiles (please touch the art!) constructed from longer strands of the same call to mind the tentacles of a cartoon sea creature.

The pieces that I find the most striking are his shotgun shell “tapestries.” A perfect specimen hangs behind the counter in the atelier of his Buchanan Street neighbor, Emil Erwin. It’s made from 16,000 shells in shades of red, blue and gold, many of them sourced by scavenging the grounds at local shooting ranges. If you stare at it long enough, the rolling asymmetry of the shells becomes hypnotic. It’s strangely calming.

Alex’s most recent passion project is his contribution to The Country Club at The Band Box, the nine-hole miniature golf course at the new Nashville Sounds baseball stadium. Called “Big Spinning Head,” the installation includes, yes, a large, rotating white sphere studded with colored light bulbs, as well as a variety of “faces” made from recycled plastic materials in primary colors displayed on vertical rods, like so many freaky lollypops. That barely does it justice. Click here to see what I’m talking about. 

Or take a closer look at the lead photos that accompany this piece, shot by the one and only Andrea Behrends, which also give a nice glimpse into Alex’s pop-y, happy aesthetic. Further down, there are portraits of the other nine denizens of this creative compound in their distinctive workspaces

Over the next few years, the neighborhood will inevitably change more – a product of Nashville’s record growth, which seems to leave no part of the city unaffected. 1411 is slated to go through some changes as well, which Alex talks about in our conversation, in which he also weighs in on Buchanan Street’s past, its future and its very vibrant present. 

TCR: How did you and Genie end up moving to Nashville?

ALEX: We went on a road trip. She showed me Savannah, Charleston, Memphis - places I'd never been. And we came to Nashville. We were just going to be here for four days, but my car broke down. We ended up being here an extra week.

We visited so many great neighborhoods that we could see ourselves living in. It just seemed like a city with a lot of possibility and a lot of interesting people. And Genie wanted to come back here.

But I'd been to cities that I really liked and thought I'd want to leave New York for before. So we talked about it and decided to go back to New York and see how we felt. And for the first time in 15 years, my feeling didn’t change when I got back. I still wanted to move here. I was relieved. It's hard to leave New York and it was great for it to become easy all of a sudden.

So we planned to leave. We got engaged. We thought maybe it would take a while to get pregnant. We got pregnant immediately. So we moved down here while planning a wedding and with her pregnant.

In the years before this, I had been teaching myself a lot of art making. I had a studio in Brooklyn. I remember thinking that maybe I'll stop making art. You know, when you move somewhere, you don't know what the environment is going to be or what your interests are going to be when you get there.

TCR: Moving presents a lot of wonderful opportunities for change. It’s always tempting to think about shaking it up and doing something completely different.

ALEX: Totally. And there were unknowns. I'm married. I’m going to have kids. Who knows what will happen? But what happened was I got more excited, interested and busy with art making than I had ever been before. I was working out of 100 Taylor, when Kelly Bonadies was there. And she told me about a neighborhood where she and (her husband) Aaron bought a house for peanuts.

The first time I saw Buchanan Street, I couldn't believe it. I mean, this is a beautiful stretch of commercial buildings right next to downtown, and there's just so much possibility for it, because it's so close and because it was being overlooked for some reason. 

I think that neighborhoods here are much more racially divided than other places I've lived. So for North Nashville, it was like, "Well, that's a black neighborhood, let's keep going south, east and west to develop. I think that’s why Buchanan Street has basically been left alone.

So Kelly showed me the 1411 building. It was built as a clothing store called Sam’s. Sam’s still exists downtown. I've tried to find the owners, but haven't gotten anywhere. I'm still hoping to make a connection. I want to hear more about the building.

But when I first saw it, it was a mess. It was painted this really disgusting green. It had bad carpet and leaks all over. It had what I think is called a mansard roof, one of those really ugly additions that you see on McDonald’s. And it had so many toilets - at least eight.

It was odd. But I could see it. It had cinder-block walls holding a pre-stressed concrete ceiling. It's just a box – a great cinder-block box. We also bought the lot next to it. This was three years ago.

And we couldn't be happier there. I like working in that neighborhood. I like being in a black neighborhood again, like I was in New York. Yeah, I love life. I'm really, really happy being there.

TCR: Have you and the building been embraced by the folks in the neighborhood?

ALEX: Yeah. I think that taking an abandoned building that's half painted and is leaking water and then not only fixing it up, but also putting a flower shop in front… It's just like putting a bouquet in the middle of the neighborhood.  

I was lucky I didn't have to deal with people being in the building when I moved in. I think development and gentrification become a lot more complicated when you're displacing someone. It's easier when you're moving into an empty space, and you're able to fix and kind of beautify.

TCR: How did you find your tenants? Of course, you and Genie both work out of there. That's easy. 

ALEX: It all started with Jessica (Cheatham). She's such a great person, and a lot of great people are drawn to her. So when she comes to me and says, “You’ve got to meet Lisa Donovan,” I meet Lisa Donovan, and, well, of course, Lisa’s got to be in here. 

And Jessica introduced me to Christie (Craig, of The Farmer & The Florist), and she brought in Carolyn (Burgess, of Acorn & Archer jewelry). I met Robert Scobey through COOP, a curatorial collective we are both a part of. I met John Tallman at a gallery opening. Who else? Duncan and Lauren I met at 100 Taylor.

TCR: The first time I met Kelly was three or four years ago at 100 Taylor. I was there to visit (fashion designers) Han Starnes and Annie Williams, who shared a studio there. They were like, "Libby, you’ve got to meet our landlord." And Kelly whizzes around the corner on a pair of skates!

ALEX: [LAUGHS] Rollerblades.

TCR: Yes! And I knew immediately she was awesome. 

ALEX: She is awesome.  

TCR: And she's been such a force in the growth of Nashville’s creative community. 

ALEX: Oh, yeah. I wouldn't be on Buchanan Street without her. I wouldn't have found it. She's knows everybody in the neighborhood and all the people who own the properties. Her motto for a while (when talking to neighbors about real estate) was, “Sell smart or keep it.” She was telling that to everyone she was meeting with. She said, “If you want to sell it, I can help you. But if you want to keep it, I can really help you with that, too. And not just using my ideas.”

And there's the Make a Mark program that offers easy access to loans for artists or craftspeople. And they focus on neighborhoods like Buchanan Street, where they want to help people who own buildings stay so they can capitalize on the changes that are happening.

TCR: So what’s the personality of 1411?

ALEX: It's really friendly. It’s a good group. There's usually beer in the fridge. We don't party there or stay late, but we do have some afternoon beers and hang out.  

We all talk a little bit. People come into my space and talk to me while I'm working. I love having my door open and hearing what dogs are coming in with which people.

TCR: I love all the diverse work that’s coming out of 1411. It's like one-stop shopping for creativity. And there’s more to come, right? Lisa and John Donovan are great friends of mine and they’ve shared a little about their latest combined project, which will include a studio where John will operateTenure Ceramics and a kitchen where Lisa can host visiting chefs. Word is that it’s going in next door.

ALEX: We’re trying hard to make that work - to establish a home for both of their businesses in one building. I’ll do whatever I can to keep those two.

TCR: So John and Lisa’s building project is 1411’s phase two?

ALEX: Yeah, and I think it will be the last phase at that spot. I don't want to add more structures. We’ve got some nice green space there and I want to keep it that way. 

In the future, there are a few other directions I want to explore in the neighborhood. First I’d like to develop some kind of education center for kids in the neighborhood. We have so many great teachers in the building and they are all excited to share their skills. Maybe it will be a part of the existing building, maybe down the street. The neighborhood is filled with kids but they keep off of Buchanan right now - there’s nothing for them yet. 

I’d also like to develop more spaces for artists on Buchanan - and I want them to be able to stay for the long term. I actually got this idea from Kelly: I plan on having two different rent structures, lower rent for the artists, higher for other tenants. I’m not going to gouge anyone but at the same time I really want to avoid the cycle of artists being displaced right when a neighborhood starts getting attention. 

TCR: I think it makes sense. It's a great way of building the community and allowing more artists to eventually come to the area.

ALEX: I'd eventually like to create workspaces that I can then sell back to artists so that they can be permanently invested in the neighborhood. Especially here, right now. 

I was in Brooklyn for fifteen years. I didn't see change this fast. I mean, for artists who are struggling to find workspace, it’s scary. Maybe you'll find a place in a neighborhood, but in a year that neighborhood could be a totally different thing, and you're out of there. 

I don't have all the answers for that, or a totally clear plan, but I definitely want it to be a neighborhood where artists can work and live. 

I think I'm in a good position. I know I'm lucky. I know it's not common. This is always awkward to talk about, because artists are usually really struggling to find space, and we're not right now. In the Buchanan Street neighborhood, we can still make some things happen.  For Genie and I to be both creative and also be in a position to develop something is really exciting. It’s a position that a lot of people usually aren't in.

Source: http://www.thecallaway.com/thecallawayrepo...