This conversation, as part fifteen in our weekly Nashville Quilt Project round-up, features 16-year-old Oasis Center student Sozan. The Nashville Quilt Project is a 50-foot mural located on Charlotte Pike as part of Off the Wall Nashville platform. Founders Jake and Hana Elliott, of WHAT. Creative Group, photographer Elizabeth Ratliff, and I partnered with four nonprofits to highlight their exceptional arts programming post-national budget cuts. A collaborative effort every step of the way, the mural was funded by local business owners and community members, and created by a diverse collection of local artists—many of whom are in their teens. Collectively, the artists have said that their favorite part of the process was having the opportunity to build bonds with strangers over a shared interest: the fulfillment and emotional satisfaction they receive from creating. It is what allows them to channel their emotions in a world that oftentimes encourages us to suppress them. Through the Oasis Center’s International Teen Outreach Program, whose service projects help students develop leadership and life skills, Sozan discovered the Underground Art Studio—a safe space for participants to work on their Nashville Quilt Project pieces. She values having a space in which she could share her ideas and refine her social skills. 

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Sozan: I’m originally from Kurdistan and moved here four years ago because of my father’s job working for the army.

Why ddi you want to participate in the Nashville Quilt Project?

Sozan: I loved having an opportunity to tell others what Nashville means to me.

Do you consider yourself an artist?

Sozan: Yes, even though this was my first artistic project. My friends told me that I did a great job so I guess that I am. (Laughs)

Tell us about your piece.

Sozan: It has two hands shaking, one white and the other black, which represents the city’s diversity and different religious sectors. I wanted to show how I see everyone getting along here.

How would you define the word community?

Sozan: A group of friends who all come together around a positive idea. The Oasis Center is a place where I’ve been able to receive the help that I need in life. It’s helped me to become less shy and more open.

What is your favorite thing about Nashville?

Sozan: It’s provided me with an opportunity to learn English and also become a better person.

Can you give us some insight into your future goals?

Sozan: I want to be a policewoman to change the perception of the industry. I also care deeply about people and want to protect them.

What was the hardest part about working on the Nashville Quilt Project?

Sozan: Coming up with my idea and interpreting religious symbols in a respectful way. I wanted to be conscientious about that so I didn’t offend anyone. I loved this project because it gave me an opportunity to work with a really wonderful group. While it was tiring, the days were fun and went by really quickly.

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

Portrait by Elizabeth Ratliff

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

Read more about Off the Wall Nashville here

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Lily C Hansen

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