If I ever thought planning a mural festival that spans 10 cities in one very long and spread out state was going to be easy, I’m now laughing at myself hard. Despite this idea being in the works for a year, Walls for Women is basically all SVV and I have been working on since January. And while the pandemic sure didn’t make the execution of a Tennessee-wide public art initiative any easier, we’ve made it! It’s actually happening!
Here’s a bit more about who helped us make our dream a reality, as well as what artists will be painting where when.
Our Walls for Women partners
I did a tally the other day of how many people are involved in this project, and it exceeded 50, not even including the various media who have supported us (thanks to USA Today, American Way, Style Blueprint, AAA, the Maryville Daily Times, Knox News, Parade and so many others for covering our cause!). Fundraising for a project of this scale is definitely the most time-consuming and stressful part of running a nonprofit, but our team of amazing partners is one of a kind. Various city governments, chambers and CVBs stepped up to fund public art as part of this 19th Amendment centennial project that we (DMA-events) announced at the beginning of the year, and several business owners were more than eager to host a female-designed mural and let a woman leave her own piece of history behind.
We are so grateful to brands like Cycles Gladiator, a wine company out Paso Robles, Calif., for coming on board early in the process and ensuring we had some funding to expand our footprint. I love that their logo depicts a flying lady on a bicycle, which dovetails so nicely with the Walls for Women concept. Their partnership has enabled us to do two extra pro-bono murals for communities that could use a little more art. Their wine is also delicious and available in many states across the country, and we’ve been sipping on it for the past month in this sticky Southern summer.
Sunbelt Rentals stepped in to provide all the lifts for our artists, which is amazing as they have sturdy equipment we have personally rented in the past, and we’re all about safety and efficiency here at DMA-events base camp. Lifts are a big line item in our budget, so Sunbelt coming on board enabled us to use the funding for equipment to curate an additional piece of original art in a rural community. Sunbelt has more than 875 locations across the United States, which is really handy as there’s at least one Sunbelt outpost in all of the counties where we’re painting.
And lastly, the Tennessee Arts Commission awarded us another Creative Placemaking that has enabled us to incorporate additional rural locations in Walls for Women. These grants are almost entirely funded by Tennessee’s specialty license plates, which cost an annual fee of $56.50, so if you love public art and want to see more of it in Tennessee, I highly encourage you get yourself one!
Meet the artists and where they’re going to paint
Now to the fun part! While a few of our locations are still pending—I’m not kidding when I say the process of securing a wall can take anywhere from one day to one year—and there will definitely be a last-minute addition or three, I can finally reveal who is painting where.
July 18-27 — McMinnville, Security Federal Savings Bank
McMinnville is one of the leaders in rural tourism in Tennessee, and its Tourism Development Board—an entity of the City of McMinnville—is backing the opening Walls for Women mural. One of the board members who is also the executive vice president at Security Federal Savings Bank was able to get us one of the bank’s walls that also serves as a backdrop for McMinnville’s Friday night music series. Such a perfect spot for a gorgeous new piece of art!
And the artist, Jenny Ustick, is one we met while in Cincinnati last year and were smitten with her portraiture and geometric designs. She’s got an insanely impressive resume, and her mark is all over Cincy.
Jenny is Assistant Professor of Practice and Foundations Coordinator in the School of Art at DAAP. She holds an MFA from the same program and a BFA from the Art Academy of Cincinnati. A Cincinnati native who was determined to become an artist as a child, Ustick has become one of the most prominent muralists in the region, completing over 10 projects with ArtWorks and several independent projects that include commissions from the US Soccer Federation, 21C Museum Hotel Cincinnati, 3 Points Urban Brewery, Tokyo Kitty and La Ofrenda Tequila. Her Mr. Dynamite mural in Cincinnati has earned her international attention.
Outside of Cincinnati, Ustick has created murals in New Mexico, Illinois, Kentucky and Florida. One of her proudest accomplishments was being invited to paint outside the United States in Argentina in 2017. The following year, she was invited to paint in Sicily and continues to expand her reach. Ustick is also an interdisciplinary solo and collaborative studio artist with a practice based in drawing and painting, with expansions into multimedia textile and time-based installations.
Ustick’s solo and collaborative works have been exhibited in numerous galleries and museum venues that include the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, the Dayton Art Institute, the Cincinnati Art Museum, New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art, and Redline Contemporary in Denver, among others. She has participated in multiple international art fairs including ArtPrize in Michigan, Governors Island Art Fair in New York, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Ustick is also a published critical art writer, contributing essays to The Cincinnati Anthology and Still They Persist: Protest Art from the 2017 Women’s Marches. Ustick and her collaborators have been featured in American Quarterly, the Huffington Post, Hyperallergic, La Sicilia, and numerous local publications and broadcasts.
July 19-24 — Tullahoma, Memories Antiques
While the city government in my hometown unfortunately has not shown any interest in supporting public art—which is why we’ve now funded the creation of five murals with a half-dozen more in the works—this was a mural we made happen thanks to the contributions from Cycles Gladiator and the Tennessee Arts Commission as part of our ongoing effort to develop a walkable area downtown that ties in various mural projects; this wall will be adjacent to the one Nathan Brown painted for us last fall and across from Forbecks’ LEGO Man. It’s also been amazing to work with the husband-wife team who owns the building and completely understood our founding mission of giving an artist full creative rein. And on top of all of that, we were able to bring in one of our dream artists whose work hangs proudly in the great room of our home.
JUURI 従理 is a Tokyo-born muralist currently working from Oklahoma City, where we first encountered her work. Her vibrant, figure-driven work fuses traditional Japanese and modern pop motifs. Her work is highly valued for clients desiring a colorful global feel. Her work is popular for hospitality, restaurants, overseas nonprofits, and revitalization efforts in cities. JUURI’s murals can be seen in Oklahoma City; Newark, NJ; Orlando, FL; Lynn, MA; Houston, TX; Virginia Beach, VA; Lafayette, IN; San Diego, and overseas in Israel.
Aug. 1-10 — Knoxville, Printshop Beer Co.
When we told Visit Knoxville our plans to produce a mural festival commemorating the 19th Amendment centennial, they signed on to sponsor a mural almost immediately. Then, it became a huge team collaborative effort for us to locate a space, which proved challenging in a city as booming as Knoxville. In the end, my friend Hannah referred us to Printshop Beer Co., which has been one of my favorite Knoxville breweries since it opened a few years ago, and one of the owners said yes without pause. You know how excited I am that we get to add a brewery to our WFW lineup, right?
The artist we hired for Knoxville is one I’ve loved for years. Paris Woodhull designs some of my favorite illustrations, and I own a few from Porter Flea and also the Knoxville shop Rala. But I had no idea if she did murals, so I reached out and asked. Turns out she’s never done an outdoor one but it was high on her priority list!
Paris is a born-and-raised Knoxvillian who sells a line of products, including apparel and paper goods, Paris also offers a range of freelance illustration services. “I grew up around lots of art, lots of free-thinking and lots of different types of people. I always like to joke that my parents were destined to get at least one artist child,” Paris says. “That being said, I was proclaiming from about age 6 that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up—and I did!”
Paris received her BFA in 2D art with a concentration in Painting & Drawing from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She loves bold color, pattern, pop culture, portraiture, fashion, and all genres of music and is fueled by copious amounts of coffee.
Aug. 3-19 — Maryville, Bike ‘N Tri
We’ve worked with Blount Partnership for nearly five years now on multiple marketing projects and for the past two on a consulting basis. The county lays claim to Maryville, the Peaceful Side of the Smokies (i.e. Townsend, et al) and Blackberry Farm, in addition to many other treasures. I was so pumped when their tourism arm, Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority, was among the first to jump in on this project and even more excited when tourism director Kim Mitchell connected us with Bike ‘N Tri, which owns this massive wall in Maryville’s downtown Main Street district that already needed a fresh coat of paint.
Tackling Maryville is Nicole Salgar, a visual artist of Latin descent. Growing up in Miami, Nicole has always had a passion for traveling and learning about other cultures. She believes it has undeniably influenced her style. Through artist residencies, she has traveled to Cuba, Europe, the Middle East, South America and the East coast working with the local communities painting with adults and the youth.
When asked about her craft, Nicole says that “art and design are both something I see as a powerful, transformative force which can elevate the practitioners, the people and their communities.” Self-expression has always been instinctual for Nicole, and she found her way to communicate that through art.
Aug. 6-10 — Nolensville, Williamson County Recreation Complex (back outpost, building 4)
This was a project I honestly thought would never come to fruition. A member of the Nolensville economic development commission, Ross Muirhead, reached out to us last fall, and we’ve been in talks since November about helping him and Debbie Schreiber Brown with a public art project. But there were many city hurdles to cross—that’s the understatement of the year!—and the original location was voted down by the Historic Zoning Commission (here are my thoughts on that). But the Williamson County county commission came through, and just this Monday voted unanimously (23-0) to approve putting the mural on a parks and rec building instead, which I love because it will impact so many youth.
This project was also entirely funded by Nolensville residents and supporters; 93 individuals and local businesses contributed to the Kickstarter campaign to make it happen. Ross and Debbie are complete champs for seeing this through, and I couldn’t be more pleased that we get to add my favorite county to our Walls for Women roster!
Nashville-born Kim Radford is our Nolensville artist; she moved away from Tennessee then married a musician who brought her back to where it all started. She’s now one of Nashville’s more prolific muralists. “My mom is an artist, and I loved watching her paint,” Kim says of her artistic influences from an early age. “She often volunteered to decorate for events and taught me a lot about painting and thinking BIG.” Kim recounts her greatest victory as an artist as pushing through the slow times and making the very most of the opportunities in front of me, “putting in the overtime to leave a mark of excellence.”
Aug. 6-18 — Nashville, Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery
I’ve been friends with the Nelson brothers since I moved back to Tennessee, and I could not love their distillery, their product and the people behind it more. Not to mention, the roots of their company and the fact that the distillery was once run by a woman. When I saw Andy at an event last fall, he casually mentioned he had a wall. That was an understatement! He had the wall: the biggest one we’ll be tackling for Walls for Women. When I saw him in January, he mentioned it again, and we started discussions for Walls for Women. Nelson’s is funding this mural themselves, and we were able to hire a pair of artists to tackle it, because it’s quite the undertaking for a single muralist. Our friends at the Tennessee Whiskey Trail have also stepped in for PR support, as well as making sure we’re all well-hydrated with spirits from the trail.
Cymone Wilder is a Nashville-based brand designer, lettering artist and photographer. Since 2013, she has collaborated with amazing clients such Netflix, the Elizabeth Warren Campaign, Cosmopolitan and Random House to create custom lettering artwork for established brands, books, apparel and much more. Cymone is fiercely passionate about producing meaningful and long-lasting work, drawing inspiration from the Black experience. In her spare time, she enjoys pretending she’s super outdoorsy and laughing with friends around bonfires. She doesn’t enjoy running, but does it a lot anyways.
Cymone will be teaming up with Sarah Painter for this collaborative piece; neither of them had met before, but they absolutely knocked the design concept out of the park. I cannot wait for this to be our grand finale piece, symbolically ending on the centennial of the 19th Amendment just a mile or two from where that tie-breaking vote was cast 100 years prior.
Sarah, who painted for us in Manchester last year, is a figurative painter and graduate of Florida State University’s College of Fine Arts. With most of her work residing in the public realm as murals, community proves to be a necessary component in Painter’s work. Having painted internationally, her style is constantly evolving as she creates site specific work in social consideration of the setting and community. Also addressing a socially conscious agenda, her studio practice falls somewhere in between abstract realism and contemporary surrealism, touching on more personal themes of feminism and identity as a woman. Process is a fundamental aspect of Painter’s artwork, where the means of making the artwork are equally as important as the finished piece itself. Based in her hometown of Tallahassee, Painter lives and works alongside her boyfriend and fellow artist Cosby Hayes.
And finally, Tara Aversa will be painting for us, as well, in a currently undisclosed location (hey, we have to keep some surprises to ourselves!). She’s the same brilliant artist who created the American flag mural and octopus for DMA events. Though she wasn’t classically or professionally trained, she has painted ever since she could hold a paint brush and learned a lot of technique from her mom. That encouragement got a little bit of attention when she was 12 years old, but she really just painted for herself. Tara continued painting mainly landscapes in nature and different types of architecture. Since then her work has evolved over time and now has a much wider range of artistic ability and style.
It wasn’t until 2017 that she painted her first semi-public mural at Sinking Creek Farm in Murfreesboro, but it was her eye-catching floral work outside Walden Bar in East Nashville that really got Tarabella noticed by other businesses and communities in the middle Tennessee area. Her work tends to be bold and very vibrant in color but also loves painting simple line work for a timeless look. With over 40 murals accomplished in just 3 years, she has continued to keep her passion alive by exploring new ways to give life to blank walls all over the south and eventually outside our boarders.
We are also possibly doing murals in a couple additional small towns, which we’ll be keeping the locations a secret thanks to all the issues our Martin business owner encountered from a corrupt Historic Zoning Commission. Don’t want to go through that again, that’s for sure!
And that’s the tea! Can you believe this thing is finally going forward?!
So much great art coming our way! Thanks for this extensive list. I can only speak about Paris Woodhull, but, if her current work is any indication, her mural will be one of the best in our city! She is sooooo talented. Again, thanks for this round-up. I’m thinking I need a Tennessee city tour soon.
She truly is one of a kind! We could not adore her more, and her mockup is fantastic. I can’t wait to see it go up at Printshop! You’ll have to stop by and say hi while we’re all there making this happen, Rusha 🙂
FANTASTIC! Congratulations !Very inspiring.
Thank you, Melissa! It’s definitely a whole lot of moving parts and perhaps a bit crazy on our end, but I’m so excited it’s all finally happening 🙂
Fantastic to see so much art/murals appearing on blank walls and revitalising the urban spaces. I appreciate your frustration in dealing with some people who don’t see the potential for tourism in this. In Melbourne,street art is a huge thing and has reenergised our city centre with people from all over the world wanting to see murals and the artists at work.
Keep chipping away!
It’s maddening, right? Not only is there the tourism benefit, but murals are proven to drive economic investment and far more, both from people visiting the neighborhood they’re in and spending money, as well as businesses seeing them as a potential place to relocate their operations. It’s win-win all around; I wish my hometown would see that.
I run the county animal shelter on Paws Trail. If you need another wall we would love to have a mural. We are trying to be more involved with the community