A few weeks ago, a headline from my neighborhood magazine caught my eye:
Nashville Artists Collaborate About Money
Sounds interesting, right?
“Everything is For Sale, a Music and Art Show” features four visual artists, three bands, and a poet. The goal is to have a different kind of conversation about money.
“Many of us are concerned about gentrification and income inequality and how it affects the lives of Nashville artists,” Mikah Stuible of Everything is For Sale Promotions told The East Nashvillian.
‘It City' For Whom?
Conversations about gentrification are now common in Nashville.
When I moved here in 2006, I bragged about the city's affordability to my Northern friends and family.
It didn't matter that I wasn't earning a lot. Nashville's cost of living made pursuing a creative career more attainable. Purchasing a home in East Nashville in 2009 for $166,900 further supported my claims.
Everything changed after that.
Inner city neighborhoods were once an affordable option for musicians and artists. But now, working creatives look for housing elsewhere.
J.R. Lind described these neighborhoods in a 2014 Nashville Scene cover story:
“And as they get less affordable, they get less cool — priced out of range of the street-level creative class, the urban pioneers and the working families who gave them their initial energy and character.”
Recently, Nashville has worked on several affordable housing proposals to address the issue. But is the city doing enough?
Thriving as an Artist in Nashville
Lindsy Davis is a 25-year-old artist from Mahwah, NJ who has lived in Nashville for about two years.
She's currently earning about 20% of her income from her art. She works as the front of house manager at Sky Blue Cafe to help cover her bills. She also runs the papermaking department at Platetone Printmaking, Paper and Book Arts.
Lindsy stresses the importance of building a niche, hustling non-stop, and showing your work constantly. She says you need to prove you have something to add to the conversation.
“Find mentors, never burn a bridge, do work, and stick around. Opportunity opens up as you prove you're not going anywhere,” Lindsy recommends for those considering a leap to full-time artist.
Jon Buko is a 32-year-old pop and graffiti artist from Brighton, MI.
He's currently earning 50-60% of his income through his art. During slower months, he also works as a sushi chef which he describes as “a rad, but a physically demanding job.”
Jon says one of the biggest challenges for Nashville artists is finding local buyers without gallery representation. But he urges others to “keep grinding to make opportunity happen.”
Jon also recommends staying current in the local scene by going to shows. He doesn't turn down any opportunities that are legit.
When it comes to making the leap to full-time artist, he says “it depends on the individual artist and if they feel comfortable enough to go full steam ahead towards art.”
Raising Awareness in a Different Way
Has Nashville's economic boom killed our creativity? No.
But that doesn't mean rising rents have been easy for artists.
Neighborhoods like East Nashville were once a haven for creatives with inconsistent income. This flexibility offered more time to devote to refining their craft. All that has changed.
Thursday's event is raising awareness about gentrification and income inequity. And they are doing it in a unique way.
Many of us become discouraged by new stories about our city's gentrification problem. But starting a conversation through paintings, live music, and poetry helps remind us why artists are such a vital part of our community.
“Everything is For Sale, a Music and Art Show” is on Thursday, July 28th at The East Room on 2412 Gallatin Road Nashville. The event is free! Learn more from the Facebook event.