This conversation, as part eight in our weekly Nashville Quilt Project round-up, features Oasis Center client Marcos. 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. Sweet, soft-spoken, and altruistic, Marcos spoke to Nashville Quilt Project founder Jake Elliott about the power of creativity and community. After learning about the Oasis Center’s Teen Outreach Program from his sisters, the 15-year-old decided to follow in their footsteps by putting forth his own ideas, perspective, and personality. Through the center, Marcos discovered the Underground Art Studio, which allowed him to find himself as well as engage with people from different backgrounds and cultures. The Nashville native of El Salvadorian descent is proud to live in a city that appreciates diversity as much as he does. He knows the magic that a melting pot, such as Nashville, can have on one’s daily life.  

What do you enjoy about the Oasis Center Underground Art Studio?

Marcos: People tend to see community service as a waste of time but it’s been one of the most interesting experiences of my life. I love nothing more than meeting all kinds of people. Also, it looks great on a resume, which I think which will me get into a good college.

Do you consider yourself an artist?

Marcos: At first I didn’t until my teacher, Miss Carmen, told me her philosophy: “Art is anything that you put your effort into.” She made me realize that art is about finding your specific talent whether it’s singing, dancing or cooking. So I guess, yes I do.

Tell us a bit about your Nashville Quilt Project painting. 

Marcos: My painting represents the Central American culture. Not only am I am proud to be Hispanic but also, I don’t like that people tend to view Nashville as a “white” city. The Nashville that I know is a very diverse, melting pot of cultures.

What comes to mind when you hear the word community?

Marcos: Working together as one and speaking your opinions without fear that you will be judged. And vice versa. We should always try and listen to what others have to say about a certain topic—even if it’s different from your own point of view. The people in my community want to make their world a better place.

What do you love most about the Oasis Center?

Marcos: It’s a place where you can ask others for help, work together, and have fun, which is so refreshing.

How have you seen Nashville change over the years?

Marcos: Today, there’s a lot more construction, people, and noise pollution, which makes it a little less peaceful. However, I still love this city a whole lot.

What is Marcos going to do with his life?

Marcos: Attend college because my desire is to help my family. They have seven kids, as well as a disability, so my goal is to give them a more stable life. I waver between wanting to become a dentist, teacher or child therapist. All I know is that I want to help others. That’s my true passion in life.

What was the biggest learning curve in terms of the Nashville Quilt Project?

Marcos: Wondering what people would think of my work. I feel silly saying that, but it’s true. Then I realized that it doesn’t matter what others think. If I put my heart into the piece, was able to express myself, and create something beautiful then it’s a success.

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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