My first stop was the Cleft Studios building at the corner of Humphreys and Brown, where longtime Nashville's Dead photo-documentarians Bekah Cope and Julia Bee exhibited black-and-white prints in the building's gallery. The long, narrow space, framed by two stories of glass paneling and fronted by a wide multilevel deck, was packed with well-wishing local musicians and artists; for a minute, we wondered if we'd stumbled into a house show. Cleft honcho Loney Hutchins, already prominent as a booster of local music via his record label (also called Cleft), eagerly showed off the development schematic, including the spacious finished art studio upstairs, the meticulously-planned and as-yet-unfinished basement recording studio, and the location where a suite of smaller artist studios are set to be built out.
I was thoroughly psyched to get a peek inside the Merritt Mansion across the street. Despite the Italianate grandeur and 20-foot ceilings, the historic building felt like a home, as kiddos played with their Hot Wheels while artist Kelly Williams discussed her technique with their parents. Art hung and lit in a conventional gallery is appealing enough, but seeing it on a wall in someone's house breaks down a kind of barrier, making me wonder if the Rolling Stones tour poster over my bed could use some company.
Down the hill at burgeoning creative lab Fort Houston, half of Jen Uman's canvases showcased unfinished figures and broad strokes, complemented by finely detailed illustrations that drew plenty of eyes and conversation. The rest of the space was also open, letting curious patrons check out the wood shop, the moped garage, and Grand Palace Silkscreen, who had printed up a special commemorative poster for the occasion.
Going around the corner and over the railroad to Track One was a bit of a trek, but worth the trip. Molly Sue Gonzalez and The Mean, Mean Men were kicking off a set of old-school soul and rockabilly on one side of the enormous subterranean lair. At the other end, the Bring Your Own Beamer projector show, organized by Theatre Intangible's Tony Youngblood, delivered on its promise to immerse patrons in "an alien world of moving light," as a dozen video artists showcased their work in a two-story corridor made of translucent plastic sheeting, which rippled gently in the breeze from industrial fans. There were also projections on the walls of a tent and on the floor, presided over by a giant oil-projector presentation from the Dig Deep liquid light show. Check out the cool time-lapse walkthrough by Skipp Frazier below!
Depending on your perspective, the substantial distance between event spaces can be a positive or a negative. I didn't mind an excuse to get some exercise (and wear my geeky head lamp), but those who enjoy stepping out to the Art Crawl in evening-wear may be uncomfortable unless they bring a spare pair of sneakers. Inclement weather could also put a heavy damper on this event. Overall, I found the DIY/DIT atmosphere engaging and inspiring, and I left with a burning desire to get my hands dirty on a project. With a slew of multi-use spaces a stone's throw from each other, encouraging a range of creative activities from visual art to music and more, the contagious enthusiasm seems bound to catch on.