This conversation, as part ten in our weekly Nashville Quilt Project round-up, features 16-year-old Oasis Center student Dina. The Nashville Quilt Project is a 50-foot mural located on Charlotte Pike for which founders Jake and Hana Elliott, photographer Elizabeth Ratliff, and I partnered with four nonprofits to highlight their exceptional arts programming post-national budget cuts. Through the Oasis Center’s International Teen Outreach Program, which offers service projects to assist students in developing leadership and life skills, Dina discovered the  Underground Art Studio—a safe space for participants to tap into their creative energy. Dina, whose preferred medium has always been drawing, was the last participant to finish her piece. It was necessary for her to get the details right and contribute something noteworthy to Nashville, a city that continuously inspires and supports her. The Nashville Quilt Project expanded Dina’s mind by showing her how others think, feel, and conduct their daily lives.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey?

Dina: My parents are from Haiti but I was born in Nashville where they met. I am one of five children and my family is the most important thing in the world to me.

How did you find yourself involved with the ITOPS program?

Dina: My sisters attended ITOPS in middle school and then encouraged me to join it when I reached the same age. When I was approached about the Nashville Quilt Project, I immediately wanted to join because I saw it as a huge opportunity to showcase my work.

What does art mean to you?

Dina: As most people say, art is a great way to express yourself. I’ve always been a huge doodler and love filtering my emotions through my drawings.

What does the word “community” mean to you?

Dina: Community is when all types of people come together as one. Race and background just don’t matter. In this project, I was able to see how different people viewed the world. My favorite thing about the Nashville Quilt Project was connecting with an entirely new group of individuals.

Can you describe your Nashville Quilt Project piece and what it represents?

Dina: I painted my family, the building where my parents met, and the house we currently live in. For me, Nashville represents home, family and foundation.

What was your favorite thing about this project?

Dina: Learning about the lives of total strangers. I think that’s what keeps your mind open and engaged. Meeting new people makes me excited about life!

What is in your future?

Dina: I’ve always wanted to be an actress or pursue something in the arts. I also want to raise my children between Haiti and Nashville so they can understand that each country is part of their heritage.

Any last words?

Dina: I think exploration and doing what you love, and loving what you do, is the most important thing in life.

Conversation by Jake Elliott of WHAT.Creative Group // edited by Lily Clayton Hansen

Portrait by Elizabeth Ratliff

Learn more about the Oasis Center’s Underground Art Studio here

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Lily C Hansen

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