by Joseph J Bazelais
Two years of apprenticeship at the Art History Class, nine years of artistic service to the community of North Nashville, and more than four generations of harnessing the culture of a neighborhood are just some of the investments that gave root to the birth of a flagship event such as the Jefferson Street Art Crawl. Art and culture from the African American community in North Nashville has been acknowledged as a tour worthy venture since back in 1869 when the Jubilee singers set on their first journey to raise funds for Fisk University. Since then, each generation has seen a different flagship movement that has been woven into the fabric of the North Nashville community and help immortalized the legacy of this community as a source for art and culture. Throughout the Harlem Renaissance we saw artistic scholars traveling between Fisk & Harlem such as Arna Bontemps, Charles S. Johnson, Nella Larson,Carl Van Vechten & James Weldon Johnson.Through the mid 1900s, our community witnessed the rise of Deford Bailey, Jimmy Church, Fats Domino, Aaron Douglas, Nikki Giovani, Etta James, Greg Ridley and more. The turn of the century turned major heads with the rise of art giants such as Marion James, Michael McBride, James Threalkill, Jamaal Sheats, The Wooten Brothers, and Carlton Wilkinson. Thus it was inevitable that the legacy would continue through the rise of a new era.
The Jefferson Street Art Crawl rose from a need to highlight the art and culture that has continually developed in the North Nashville neighborhood. The crawl is a brain child of several leaders in the North Nashville artist community. Joining me are Omari Booker, Karl Carpenter, Elisheba Israel, Joseph “Doughjoe” Love III, Michael “Ol’Skool” Mucker, and Thaxton Waters. Each of these leaders have been actively building a name for themselves as individuals that shape community through their art, culture, and activism. Together, they were able to provide a platform for other aspiring artists of North Nashville to make a name for themselves, while simultaneously immortalizing the identity of a neighborhood that has been shaped by African American art and culture. Now the artists of Jefferson Street can consistently generate an audience for our work and not just on the occasions we are recognized in shows outside of our community. In addition to watching our current work thrive, the history of our roots here on Jefferson will live on.
The Artober Nashville Jefferson Street Art Crawl is going to be like no other month before! October marks the fifth month for the Jefferson Street Art Crawl and we have so many new features in store for our crawlers. We are very excited for the launch of several new sites including, Jefferson Street Sound and the Harambee House. There will be a new live art element involving dance and live musicians, a youth arts lab, and a canvas painting opportunity for the whole community. All crawlers are encouraged to get involved in the creation of the community canvas and register their young people in advance for the youth arts lab. In addition to these activities, there will be new exhibits from Omari Booker at Woodcuts Gallery and Thaxton Waters at the Art History Class. For more information email Jsactn@gmail.com or visit us at facebook.com/jsactn.
Joseph J Bazelais is the project manager for the Jefferson Street Art Crawls. Throughout the week he works as a Teen Justice Mentor with the Studio NPL. Joseph is the founder of Televise the Movement, a grassroots media company that is committed to sharing the untold stories of the communities of color from the perspective of those voices that are rarely heard. To reach Joseph directly email firstname.lastname@example.org.