Nashville Symphony Announces Inaugural Visual Artist in Residence

photo by Jim Wood

The Nashville Symphony has announced local artist doughjoe as its inaugural Visual Artist-in-Residence, a yearlong appointment that examines the synergy between visual art and music. doughjoe’s residency will officially begin with a FREE open house and artist talk on Saturday, January 13 at 3:30 PM at Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Nine original doughjoe works–many of which were inspired by the Orchestra’s season-long celebration of the centenary of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue–will be on display in the Schermerhorn’s East and West Lobbies and atria until June 30, 2024. One of the paintings, “Chevalier de Saint George,” was commissioned by the Nashville Symphony and will remain on permanent display at the Schermerhorn following the installation. Additionally, doughjoe’s painting, “Rhapsody in BlueGreenFuchsia,” has been reproduced as a limited-edition print to be given away as a subscriber and donor gift.

A major part of doughjoe’s residency will be education and community events including student workshops at community centers, public schools, and after-school programs in Davidson County; the January 13 meet-the-artist panel and open house at the Schermerhorn; and panel discussions with museum curators and musicians for university students discussing the connectivity between art and music.

“When the Nashville Symphony was engaging the community for the production of The Jonah People, Professor/Historian Dr. Learotha Williams, Jr. presented me with an opportunity to join him on a panel at Tennessee State University, where I shared my work and experience in elevating Black stories through visual art in response to the forgotten side of Nashville’s true music legacy,” said doughjoe. “I was then hired by the Symphony to collaborate with the opera’s composer and producer, Hannibal Lokumbe, to lead the community art project gathering “Prayers for Humanity.” The work and collaboration has grown to be more than I imagined with the opportunity to be the inaugural Visual Artist-in-Residence! I look forward to connecting further and more intentionally with the Nashville community. I look forward to sharing more deeply from my perspective and bringing light to all of those in our Music City! I appreciate walking the halls of the symphony during the 100-year celebration of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (an homage to American culture) and seeing this quote by him: ‘True music must repeat the thought and inspirations of the people and the time. My people are Americans, and my time is today.’”

doughjoe first came to the attention of the Symphony through community-wide art projects and activations at Symphony Center dovetailing with the April 2023 world premiere of The Jonah People: A Legacy of Struggle and Triumph. Among the other activations they staged in the Schermerhorn lobby was the project “Prayers for Humanity.” In the months leading up to the premiere, doughjoe and co-curator Lexander Bryant staged pop-up events spanning several days at Archive South, Fisk University Gallery, and the Nashville Black Market, inviting the community to contribute prayers for humanity on cotton fabric. After collecting the prayers, doughjoe further collaborated with local artisans to dye the fabric using a natural indigo process, revealing the prayers. The fabric was then hung at the entrance to Laura Turner Hall and lit from within during The Jonah People performances.

“We are thrilled to welcome doughjoe as our pioneer Visual Artist-in-Residence,” said Nashville Symphony VP of Education and Community Engagement Kimberly McLemore. “From the very moment we met doughjoe, we knew we had found a true partner and colleague. For his art installation at the Schermerhorn, doughjoe invested countless hours observing rehearsals, listening to concerts, and looking into the lives and music of Florence Price, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, guest artist Esperanza Spalding, George Gershwin, and several other luminary composers and musicians. His resulting canvases demonstrate a fresh, contemporary, and relevant response to the work that came before him–furthering the ideas of those artists, and propelling the conversation forward. This is exactly the point of what any of us are trying to do–make sense of the world around us through artistic experiences. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with doughjoe.”

Much of doughjoe’s work stands to elevate Black experiences and stories while engaging individuals in artmaking and restorative communal practices. As a native Nashvillian, doughjoe is committed to creating experiential learning opportunities for people living in and visiting the city. He describes art as a universal language that can be an effective tool in promoting connectivity and telling a more complete, inclusive, and accurate history. doughjoe continues to focus on site-responsive work that extends to Fort Negley, a Civil War fort built by freed, escaped, and enslaved Black laborers and recognized by UNESCO as a “Site of Memory.”

He has been on staff at the University School of Nashville and taught youth through multiple community-based organizations including the Oasis Bike Workshop, the McGruder Family Resource Center, and Opportunity Now. He has participated in artist residencies in Tennessee, Texas, and California, and has been included as part of a series of talks at Fort Negley focuses on the histories of Fort Negley from Reconstruction to the present day. doughjoe has presented his work around the fort as a model for public art activations during the Cases for Culture Conference at Harvard University in 2022. His work has been on view at Fisk University Galleries, Frist Art Museum, City of Ink Gallery, the Julia Martin Gallery, Hotel Preston, Woodcuts Gallery, and other venues and includes work with Slim & Husky’s, Genesco, and the Tennessee Titans.

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