by Jim Ridley
Nancy Saturn, who died at her Whitland Avenue home Tuesday after a long bout with recurring breast cancer, is being remembered by friends, colleagues and artists across the city as one of the pivotal figures in the development of local arts. Those whose lives she changed will honor her memory today at West End Synagogue, 3810 West End Ave., in a service at 1 p.m., with burial to follow.
A Detroit native who moved to Nashville in 1969 with her husband, attorney Alan Saturn, she was perhaps best known for her artisanal crafts boutique The American Artisan, which she operated for nearly four decades until last year. The American Artisan Festival, which she founded (and which celebrates its 40th event this June in Centennial Park), blossomed into one of the premier arts and crafts festivals in the nation, according to Anne Brown, owner of The Arts Company.
"She pulled us up to a different level," said Brown, who knew Saturn personally and professionally for more than 35 years. "She used the term 'artisan' deliberately, because it means someone who brings beauty into function, and art into craft.
"I don't know of anyone else who could have come in and set that [festival] up. She had lots of humor, lots of savvy. She was just ... delightful. She was one of my artistic heroes."
She also used her considerable energy and connections to aid cancer sufferers and survivors. Through the American Artisan Festival, she raised almost $1 million for Gilda's Club, which provides networking and support resources for people living with cancer. She helped launch the Tennessee Breast Cancer Coalition -- an organization whose need she knew well, as a breast-cancer survivor since 1995.
Saturn was preceded in death last year by her husband Alan. She is survived by her daughters, Rachel, Jacqueline and Samantha; her sister, Lori Adelson; her brothers Sheldon and Robert Adelson (Diane); and five grandchildren. A full obituary will appear in next week's Scene.