Brittany Murphy first came across my plate two years ago when I received this email (paraphrased): “I’m a Nashville-based designer, artist, and arts enthusiast beginning an interview project focused on local creatives. After seeing your Creative Mornings talk about not letting others discourage you, I am wondering if you’d be willing to offer words of encouragement. My hope is to document Nashville’s creative community and end up with a portrait of our collective identity at this moment in time.”

I mean, how could I say “no” to that?

Thankfully I did because while Murphy didn’t begin with a clear cut vision of how she would assemble these conversations, her resulting book and posters are stunning—testaments to the care and thoughtfulness she injected into her project. The support of Nashville’s creative community has been instrumental in my own success, which is why I loved that Murphy created a composite linking nine very different artists all attempting to impact their city and elevate one another. While I wish that her project was for sale, the fact that it is not proves that she pursued her passion for the right reasons: to learn more about the city that she lives in and loves. As Nashville grows and changes, she reminds us of the pure artistry that is both palpable and intrinsic to it. May we retain what made this city great.

Where did the idea for this project stem?

I had my own dinky blog previously where I interviewed creative types. A lot of the conversations were email-based. This book was a way for me to engage with the community on a more personal level in real life.

What do you find interesting about in-person conversations?

Pre-interview and post-interview conversations are rich. I always think, I don’t know you and am about to record you! How strange. (Laughs) I love paying attention to body language and different people’s cadence. The way people speak in person is so much more poetic than in writing oftentimes. Email is highly edited, tight, and maybe not as revealing as in-person conversations.

Can you tell me a bit about your background?

I moved to Nashville in 2007 after growing up just outside of Memphis, Tennessee. I went to Lipscomb University my freshman year and was a business major. Then I moved back to Memphis where I pursued an art degree. After I came back to Nashville, I enrolled at MTSU where I studied fine arts with a concentration in graphic design and a minor in book arts. From there, I worked as an in-house designer on a small marketing team, which taught me how to produce work very quickly. Now I do UX design where I make interfaces and am a manger.

I find it fascinating that you wanted to create something tangible even though you work in the digital world day-to-day.

Exactly! The tech world pays well, and is satisfying, yet I also enjoy making and building tactile objects. This project was a good blend of my graphic design background and love for bookmaking, which is about producing something you can see, touch, and experience over and over in a very permanent way. It was a nice contrast to working in the digital sector.

What did you find in talking to nine different artists?

I asked the same questions in every interview because, I believe, that still elicits unique answers. What I found most interesting was my subject’s thoughts on Nashville, especially those who had seen the rapid growth in recent years. Like myself, most people still see Nashville as a very collaborative place versus cutthroat. There isn’t a lot of hierarchy in terms of the creative scene here. The biggest complaint is that it’s more expensive.

What was one thing you found surprising about this project?

I got a lot of “no” replies, which is maybe indicative of the city becoming more closed off or the fact that it takes blind trust to let a stranger record you.

In your eyes, what makes someone a successful artist?

In my own life, success is being proud of my projects. Having a stable day job is satisfying in terms of the skills I am honing and team that I work with everyday. It frees me up to do what I love on the weekends because I don’t have to make money off of my creative endeavors. My own artistic goal is to make good stuff with good people until I die.

Here is a list of the other eight subjects that Brittany interviewed for her project: Colin Pigott, Kashia Miller, Ellie Caudill, David Hellams, Janet Yanez Decker, David Walker, Kaleena Sales, and Megan Kelley. The State of the Community Letter was written by gallery owner Lain York.

Learn more about Brittany Murphy here

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Lily C Hansen

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