Street SmART 2011

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C r e at i v e E x p r e s s i o n s By H o m e l e s s N a s h v i l l i a n s

TWO STORIES A R T I S T U N K N O W N Game Board, Tape, Glue 9”h x 7”w x 8”d

A rt E x h i b i t i o n

S e p te m b er 2 0 1 1

People gain self-esteem t h r o u g h t h e c r e at i v e p r o c e s s . — To m Se ig e nt h al er


brown bag drawin gs Brown Paper Bags, Oil Pastel 54”h x 38”w O n T h e C o ver

Poet U nknown A rtist Candle Wax, Ink Wash 17”h x 12”w 2

Street SmART: Creative Expressions of Homeless Nashvillians is the inaugural art exhibition of the Artist-In-Residence Program sponsored by the Thomas P. Seigenthaler Fund for Creativity. And it is the culmination of a simple but profound premise: creativity feeds the soul. Tom Seigenthaler nurtured this premise. He believed that art, manifested as creativity of any kind in any endeavor, must be kneaded into life ­­— every life. Aware that daily existence for Room In The Inn’s guests could be, in his words, “pretty thin soup,” Tom was determined to throw some meat into the pot. A visual artist and writer, he began teaching art classes at



our campus in 2000. His objective was to introduce concepts of color, shape, texture and light to participants, encouraging them to express — and perhaps even soar beyond — their own stories. The artistic works of Tom’s students were evidence of the power of the creative process. Breathtaking outpourings of pain, joy, sorrow and hope. Miniature monuments to individual integrity in the face of daily degradation. Tom died in 2004. In his memory, his wife — my sister, Veronica — and his daughters Katie, Beth, Amy and Maria established the Fund to encourage Tom’s passion for infusing every endeavor with imagination. Fittingly, the Fund’s first initiative is the Artist-In-Residence Program at Room In The Inn. We could not have asked for more thoughtful, respectful and wise leadership from our first Artists-In-Residence: Delia Seigenthaler (Tom’s niece) and Emily Holt, both art teachers at University School of Nashville. As you will observe throughout Street SmART, Delia and Emily’s choice of found materials as the basis for weekly exercises gave our guests subliminal permission to feel at home in the classroom. Consequently, everyone who participated eventually dropped their guard and dove in. The works that came out of this environment are spectacular tactile expressions of time well spent. This is remarkable when you consider that most of our guests must spend the majority of their time simply struggling to survive. Yet those who participated in the Artist-In-Residence Program during the harsh winter of 2010 were given warmth and nourishment — by their teachers, by their fellow students and by a realization of their capacity to create. Street SmART demonstrates that their work also has the power to nourish us, their fellow travelers. I want to express my deep appreciation to Tom’s family — my family — to Delia

C h ar l es S tr o b e l

and Emily, to my colleagues at Room In the Inn, and most of all to the students.

Founding Director/Room In The Inn

By crossing the threshold of a classroom, they showed the courage to enter an

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unfamiliar world and explore their place in it. I also strongly encourage other visual artists in the Nashville community to apply for the Fund’s Artist-In-Residence Program. It is a rare opportunity to fully understand Tom’s credo that, in moments of creativity, we all become more than we believe ourselves to be. 3

About The Artists-In-Residence

W e h av e b e e n n o t i c i n g t h e i r h a n d s w h i l e t h e y w o r k . S o m e a r e c a l l o u s e d , g n a r ly, w o r n , b r u i s e d a n d s c a r r e d . O t h e r s a r e e l e g a n T w i t h e x p r e s s i v e , l o n g f i n g e r s .

W e w o n d e r w h at s t o r i e s t h o s e h a n d s h av e t o t e l l .

The quotes throughout this catalogue were SELECTED from the journals of artists-in-residence Delia Seigenthaler and Emily Holt.

When I think about the best teachers that I’ve transfixed by their work. Pride and laughter ever had and why, I remember those who were

replaced fear and anxiety. What emerged by

not necessarily the most brilliant but the most

the end of each hour was hope, a renewed

sincere. As the Thomas P. Seigenthaler Fund

confidence, and a sense that all of us were

for Creativity’s first Artists-In-Residence, Emily

experiencing something transcendent.

and I launched the program with a commitment, first and foremost, to be open, vulnerable and sincere with every student who walked through

We certainly came to the classes with more questions than answers. Could artistic expression provide a feeling of control for those

D e l i a S e i g e n t h a l er

remarkable exhibition. A Nashville native, Delia

the door.


The expression of that transcendence is this

Seigenthaler has been a member of the art faculty at University School of Nashville since 2001. She earned her

whose lives are often random and chaotic? In

B.F.A. from Middle Tennessee

their lonely struggle with homelessness, would

State University and her

the students find meaning in anything we had

M.F.A from The School of

to teach them? Could our time together promise

the Art Institute in Chicago.

more than a welcome escape from street life?

A ceramic artist and sculptor,

The students, with worn hands and bodies — gentle and gracious — were open to new ideas, yet skeptical and afraid of failure. Soon, however, lines in faces and weary eyes were

she also has taught at the Sarratt Student Center at Vanderbilt and was an adjunct faculty member with Belmont University’s art department.


E m i ly H o lt

Collage, Comics, Stamps 12”h x 9”w

One of the joys of

Jeff was giggling as he worked. I overheard

Originally from Memphis,

being an art teacher

him say, “This is actually fun!” At the end of

Emily Holt has been member

is watching students

class he restated how much fun he’d had. “I

of the art faculty at University

lose themselves in

turned into a kid again for an hour,” he said.

School of Nashville since

making something. I

Jeff’s statement had a profound impact on me.

have witnessed this with my students of all

I couldn’t comprehend or pretend to understand

2003. She earned her B.F.A. from Middle Tennessee State University and her M.F.A.

the life he led day to day. But I could relate to

from the University of North

his delight in creating a horse from bits of scrap.

Carolina at Chapel Hill. In

And so I could relate to Jeff. We both knew the

addition to teaching, she is

feeling of losing oneself in the moment and

a working artist — primarily

finding the simple joy in making something.

an oil painter, as well as a

I will never forget the day I witnessed this while

We knew what it was like to be a kid again.

sculptor and book artist.

teaching at Room In The Inn. The assignment

If only for a brief moment, we were together

was to make a horse out of scraps of wood, wire

in a place where possibilities and imagination

and string. I noticed that one student named

are endless.

ages. Transported to a magical zone, ideas and possibilities begin to pour out of them, leading to even more ideas and dissolving inhibitions.


About The Students

They came because they had something to say with their hands, even if they did not know how or what. In this respect, they were like people the world over who want to do more than simply live in the world. They want, instead, to interpret it. And they often start by taking an art class. Yet as much as they had in common with others

A few came week after week. But most came

who gravitate toward making art, the Room

only once, despite promises to return. While

In The Inn students were different. The few

creating, they were utterly immersed, unhurried

precious possessions they brought to the class

and unaware of time passing. They had no

were all that many of them had: their memories,

place else to go.

their hopes and their singular perspectives.

And when they left, they almost never signed or claimed their work. They seemed content to spend time creating something worthwhile, and genuinely pleased with the outcome. They did not want or expect anything else.

That was enough. 6

What if I cast the students’ hands in beeswax? It smells good, comes from nature, varies in color from block to block yet is neutral. If I hang the casts on the wall, will they recognize their own? Will the position of their hands tell a story or show emotion? Will their hands reveal anything about their past? I put the hands in pairs, repetitive patterns throughout the classroom. The pairs become a community where everyone is equal — the same yet so unique. And no one is rich or poor.

Hands Tog ether d e l ia s e ig e nt h a l e r

Beeswax Castings


He was wearing glasses. The magnifying kind that make your eyes look huge. He said he was not an artist. He was a perfectionist. ‘No one will ever want what I make,’ he said three times. ‘That’s not true,’ I told him. ‘We’ll see about that. I have high expectations for you.’

Mu s tac he Man C h ar l i e C . Cardboard, Graphite, Glue 11”h x 12”w x 3”d 8

We ask the students to cut cardboard and make a three-dimensional face. They don’t understand. ‘How can I?’ one asks. ‘What am I supposed to do that for?’ says another. We backtrack. We explain again, but their faces are blank. Finally, we ask them to just get started. ‘C’mon,’ we urge, ‘try something.’” They try. They do it. Soon, all are happily working.

Self Port rait W i l l i e R . Cardboard, Graphite, Glue 12”h x 10”w x 3”d

Lady E l ora C . Cardboard, Graphite, Glue 12”h x 10”w x 3”d 9

They do not question drawing on paper bags. Not one person even asks, ‘Why?’ It seems to them to make total sense to draw on a paper bag.

Profi le T yron e M . Brown Bag, Oil Pastel 17”h x 12”w 10

C olored Penc i l Seri es #1 R ob e rt S . Colored Pencil, Paper 18”h x 12”w

He was very shy, quiet. He did not want to do the project we’d planned for that day. He asked if he could just draw a picture. We gave him paper and he made the most beautiful drawing. We gushed over the quality of his line and his subtle, sensitive style. He said he used do some mechanical drawing, and is comfortable with a pencil.


We showed the students images of Romare Beardon’s collages as inspiration, and asked them to recreate a scene from childhood or depict three people important to them. This opened them up. Most enjoyed talking about where they came from, and their families and friends. Though some told stories of leaving a bad situation and some talked of regret.


Fish in g T o m P . Torn-paper Collage 12”h x 16”w

We gathered boxes. Inside we placed styrofoam, string, fake flowers, small toys, buttons, toothpicks and broken objects. We asked the students to make a sculpture using the box and everything in it. They loved this exercise. In the end, we spray-painted their works silver. They called it ‘The Bling Project.’

LEFT K i t P r o j e ct Shi p Luis M . Mixed Media, Silver Spray Paint 21”h x 5”w x 6”d R IGH T K i t P r o j e ct Arm y J os e A . Mixed Media, Silver Spray Paint 12”h x 14”w x 6”d 13

This was an interesting class. The concept was to make heads, arms and legs of clay, then build a figure with a stuffed cloth body holding the clay pieces together. The interesting part was collaborating on the heads. Each student added a feature, then passed the orange-sized head to someone else. Make eyes. Pass it on. Make a nose. Pass it on. Mouth. Pass it. Ears. Pass it. And finally, hair for the head.

Man wi th Red C oat C O LL A B O R A T I V E W O R K Ceramic, Wood, Paper 15”h x 8”w x 3”d 14


Si mp le Man C O LL A B O R A T I V E W O R K Ceramic, Chair Parts 22”h x 6”w x 4”d R IGH T

Woman wi th Orang e Hai r C O LL A B O R A T I V E W O R K Ceramic, Glaze 11”h x 7”w x 4”d 15

The objective: to build a horse out of scraps of wood, wire, sticks and glue. Each student started with a simple geometric shape, and refined it by adding curves and details. Some added a bit more than others, but even the rough ones looked fantastic.


Pony A rtist U nknown Sticks, Paper, Glue 10”h x 13”w x 6”d R IGH T

H o rse J e ff Sticks, Wire, Glue, Steel Wool 11”h x 15”w x 5”d 16

Everyone will have a favorite sport, we reasoned. We asked the students to pick theirs and draw it from an aerial view — to think about the field, the court, the players, the stands filled with fans. It was a great way to teach abstraction without having to teach abstraction.

B e ach Vo l l e y B al l U nknown A rtist Paper, Oil Pastel 15”h x 22”d 17

The project today was poetry. We brought words randomly cut from magazines, newspapers and old children’s books. They quickly started working. One man told us he likes having a quiet place to go for awhile. Everyone says thank you and that they will be back next week. We know this will not be the case. But they mean it when they say it.

All i s Easy B rian H . Paper 18”h x 12”w 18

Woman with Co l l ar A rtist U nknown

Candle Wax, Ink Wash 20�h x 14�w

We experimented with a wax resist. The point was let go of any notion that the drawing should look a certain way, and just experience the process of drawing. The students drew one another, but could not see what they were drawing because they were using wax on white paper. Later we revealed the drawings by brushing ink over the paper. The results were compelling.


We asked around for board games and pre-cut them into shapes that could be made into houses. The act of building a house was sad for some. We had conversations about the days when the students had a place to live, and about what it would be like to have a house.

N o P l ac e L i k e H o m e U nknown A rtist Game Board, Tape, Glue 9”h x 7”w x 8”d 20

art life without art is pretty thin soup.

The Thomas P. Seigenthaler Fund for Creativity and Room In The Inn would like to acknowledge the invaluable support and in kind contributions of

Lee Ann Merrick Mickey Dobo Parking Management Company ColorStream Digital Trent Boysen

The Fund currently is accepting applications for the 2012 Artist-In-Residence Program, and encourages visual artists throughout the Nashville community to apply.

certainly, life can be sustained without art, but it will grow to be just a stunted, runty thing, small and feeble without the strength to: swim the deep seas of intellect or wade the swift streams of creativity a pitiful thing, limping along on the artificial crutches and props presented as reality: fashion, fame, flamboyance and investment. with art as a part of the mix, life becomes the yeast of individual and collective life, the thing and the people of which myths are made, fables formed future lives shaped and quiet nights with a glass of pleasure made to be much more.

J anuary 1 , 1 9 9 5

This event benefits The Thomas P. Seigenthaler Fund of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee,

Room In The Inn provides a continuum of care that addresses

which funds artists-in-residence

emergency and short-term needs as well as long-term goals for those

annually at Room In The Inn.

struggling with homelessness. 24