Metro Arts received a Creativity Connects grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, specifically aimed at lifting up the creative community and culture of Madison. As the events of 2020 barreled down upon Nashville and Davidson County, Metro Arts realized the best way to put this grant into action was a community-wide project that would not only shine a light on Madison, but also direct financial support to the artists who live there.
Metro Arts enlisted artist Kristen Chapman, a master at connecting community through storytelling, to lead and coach artists through their projects, and the concept for Madison On My Mind was born. Inspired by an article she read about a Tennessee café owner's worries that closing his business for COVID meant cutting off his Syrian-refugee community from a much-needed space to gather, Chapman wanted to connect Madison artists with places that held special meaning for them.
In late summer 2020, the call for Madison On My Mind went out: we wanted artists’ tributes to their favorite places, spaces, people and historical facts about their beloved Madison, especially ones they missed because of pandemic closures or restrictions.
From the responses we received, Metro Arts knew that the best way for the Madison community to experience them was together. Chapman and the public art team, led by Project Coordinator Atilio Murga, worked to create a COVID-safe artist showcase at FiftyForward Madison Station, utilizing the organization’s parking lot as well as their popular “beep-and-greet” drive-through event model. Artists and their projects were in tents spaced throughout the lot, visitors chatted and viewed from the safety of their cars, and everyone remained masked.
Above: Madison On My Mind Showcase event recap video from John Hamlin, let 'em fly productions. See John's Madison on My Mind project below.
Rachel Baiman is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Madison. Her June 2017 label debut Shame was featured on NPR Music's “Songs We Love,” called a “Rootsy Wake-up Call” by Folk Alley, and described by Vice's Noisey as “flipping off authority one song at a time.” Her background in touring and producing musical events made Rachel the perfect Performance Director (and performer) for the Madison On My Mind Drive-thru Artist Showcase. www.rachelbaiman.com
(2018 performance of John Hartford's "Madison, Tennessee" is not a Madison On My Mind project)
Kayla Jenkins’ Rich History is an abstract painting celebrating the rich history and diversity of the Madison community. Composed around the aerial view of a map, the artwork highlights historically significant locations throughout Madison, tying them all together with a cacophony or colors, textures and materials that signify the cultural diversity that thrives throughout Madison today. kaylajenkinsart.work
Modern country-swing songwriting and performing duo The Farmer and Adele (Farmer Keenan and Grace Adele) created an educational health show series, “Saddle Up with the Farmer and Adele,” featuring characters inspired by Madison’s musical past that educate children on health, nutrition and local history. Meet Elvis Parsley, Hank Snow Pea, and Tater Swift!
Artist Beth Reitmeyer painted lanterns inspired by the nature that surrounds her in Madison’s Peeler Park, like the Cumberland River, beautiful open skies, and swallowtail butterflies. The lanterns will line the pathway for a community Meditative Lantern Walk at the park, where locals can reflect on life, their community and their love for Madison in hopes to help reduce the hardships of 2020. www.bethreitmeyer.com
Inspired by Madison's beloved Dee's Country Cocktail Lounge, Creative Director/Stylist and Seamstress Cybelle Elena designed and hand-made a custom western suit for her project, "Anchored in Love for Madison." instagram.com/cybele_elena linktr.ee/CybelleElena
Director John Hamlin relocated from Woodstock, NY to Nashville as a songwriter and musician. Recently, he chose filmmaking as an avenue for creative healing to not only survive but thrive after the passing of his daughter, Emily. Hamlin’s projects through his let 'em fly productions include documentary films, music videos and narrative short films, which have been selected by festivals. His new documentary shines a light on FiftyForward Madison Station’s mission to assist older adults to lead more active and fulfilling lives. View Hamlin's documentary, "Fifty Forward: A Magical Place":
In her photographic essay “Madison Helpers,” Ann Richardson captures Madison's own myths, legends and heroes, like Metro Nashville Police Department’s Sgt. Particelli, Madison and Rivergate Lost and Found Pets, Amqui Station, and Madison's very own dragon: a beloved mailbox sculpture at the home of Deborah Dorsey.
Madison-Rovergate Lost and Found Pets (photo captions)
Coming Soon: Richardson's Amqui Station photo essay. Visit AnnRichardsonBlog.com for more.
Hannah McCarthy's dance film "Madison Moves" incorporates dancers performing a single phrase of choreography in different locations across Madison. Socially distanced and wearing masks, the dancers also incorporate their own improvisational choreography based on their emotions or physical reactions. "I feel fortunate to have this opportunity to continue working as a dance artist in a time when studios and theatres are not as accessible," said McCarthy. I was surprised to find creative freedom through what I thought would be limitations. The masks, the distance between bodies, the rugged dance spaces all brought new life to the way I think about expression, contact, and choreography in general. This project deepened my relationship with a place that I thought I had known for much of my life, allowing me to really sit with it and share in its beauty." hannahmccarthydance.wixsite.com/MadisonOnMyMind
For twenty-six years, Smitty Bowers has watched the changes in Madison from a unique perspective. Due to challenges with vision, this Nashville photographer walks almost everywhere he goes. To walk is slow down, to come into contact with others in a way that is much more deliberate. Bowers documented his encounters with Charles, a street paper vendor along Madison's busy Gallatin Road corridor.
In a normal year, Teresa Baker creates commissioned, award-winning dance costumes for dancers all over the country. But as we all know, 2020 was not a normal year, and her year's worth of commissions disappeared in a matter of days.
Inspired by a 1950s dance called "the Madison," Baker's project, Madison Dance Craze Costume, demonstrates the work, thought and artistry that goes into creating a custom dance costume, from considering the choreography it will be used for, to bringing the artistic vision to life through sewing and hand-beading. View Baker's work at SeamsExclusive.com
Abigail Dempsey, a songwriter and musician, lost her tours when the virus hit. Before that, she had been on the road with Low Cut Connie and Big Freedia. Like many of us, she was searching for something during these long months of isolation. Abigail laced up her rollerskates and began skating in Rivergate Mall parking lot. The song, “Skate The Gate” was born. Dempsey paired her original song with a video that captures the isolation of the pandemic along with the joy of finding a physical outlet.
Additionally, all of the tie-dyed garments in the video are Dempsey's work. Find her on social media at @abthemusic.
Miriam Speyer is a multidisciplinary artist who moves effortlessly from one medium to the next. SHe has toured the country (and beyond) as a bass player, and has released several albums of her own original music.
As a visual artist, Miriam’s unique illustrative style is immediately recognizable and can be found under the moniker “Gino’s Girls”. With the use of clean lines and bold colors, she uses a minimalist approach to create whimsical imaginary characters and scenes.
For her project, Speyer painted four bold, beautiful tributes to favorite Madison businesses: Grams Coffee, Smeraldo's, McGaugh's Donuts, and Tacos y Mariscos.
Photographer Sam Angel began carrying a 4x5 large format film camera to photograph portraits of those she encountered during routine walks at Peeler Park: "While walking greenways and trails we often experience quiet fleeting encounters in these open spaces. This project is an attempt to build a sense of community through the act of engagement with this type of photography and documenting those who visit the park. The project explores vulnerability in asking a person to take time for a portrait, in navigating the fears of social distancing, and in honoring the spaces of subjectivity."
View the entire project at http://www.samangelphotography.com/peeler.
Acoustic duo Danika & the Jeb wrote and performed "Concrete Dragons," inspired by Deborah Dorsey's beloved dragon mailbox, a Madison icon. The sculpture, says Jeb Hart, "is a great metaphor for musicians in Nashville. We are dragons, trying to set the world on fire. Unable to be slain, even by COVID, our dreams will persist... firm, like concrete." Find them at www.danikaandthejeb.com and at facebook.com/danikaandthejeb.
Musical duo Gage and Ashley Sharp wrote and performed the song, "Christmas in Madison."
Singer-songwriter and producer Kristen Ford collaborated with musicians in her Sky Factory studio space to create Madison On My Mind album of original music. Find Kristen at KristenFordMusic.com and Sky Factory Studios. Madison On My Mind from Sky Factory Studios
Rhythm & Revue Dance Theatre in Rivergate is a theatrical dance program that encourages youth's creative exploration within the arts through technical dance training. Inspired by Beyoncé's song, "I Was Here," owners Rhiyma Hassel and Tapeka Primm choregraphed an original performance for their students that reflects self-empowerment during a difficult time in the world. Like the challenges faced and conquered by this minority-owned business in a global pandemic, the performance evokes the strength we all collectively gain when we lean on each other.
Check back! We are uploading/editing projects as artists complete or add to them!
Madison On My Mind was made possible with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.