By Sandra Long Weaver
Tribune Editorial Director
It is rare to have more than one artist discuss his or her work at a gallery. But on Sept. 25, four of Nashville’s Black artists paid tribute to Nate Harris, the owner and founder of Woodcuts Gallery, on Jefferson Street. Harris was celebrating his 34th anniversary in North Nashville.
“They have upheld a standard of excellence not only in their framing but in the artists they have exhibited here at this facility,” said native Nashville artist James Threalkill.
He said he still cherishes the memory of having his name the marquee as artist of the month at Woodcuts. “You don’t know how much that meant to me. This gallery thought enough of me to put my name on marquee. I still have picture.”
Woodcuts is an institution,” Threalkill said in his tribute. “They have put quality Black art in the Black community over the years.”
As artists, he said, “we are recording for history what the times were like during this time.” He said he was “honored and proud for artists to have such a quality venue for showing their work.”
“You honor me by inviting me to be here today,” Threalkill said just before unveiling two of his newest works. “This place is special and our community needs to let everyone know how special it is by continuing to support it. It’s impacted my life in a special way.”
Other artists that have been mentored by Harris also talked for a few minutes about what they had learned from him and how it has benefitted their careers.
Michael McDonald, who also teaches at Tennessee State University, said he was proud to have his work displayed at Woodcuts. What he learned at Woodcuts helped him open his own studio a few years ago.
And Omari Booker also unveiled his newest work. “They’ve given you the behind the scenes realities on what it takes to get your work ready to show,” Booker said. “I am extremely grateful.
He said he worked at various jobs for 17 years before becoming an artist. And he worked four or five years at Woodcuts to hone his skills.
“We’re all small businesses. If you are an artist, you are a small business. And you can’t be afraid to ask for your money, the worth of your work. I learned it from great business people here,” he said.
Artist Ashley Seay, who helped organize the session, talked about her craft of creating paintings through wood blocking. “It is the oldest art form goes back to Africa,” she said. She unveiled a piece that recognized how North Nashville has recovered from the tornado of March 2020 and is surfing the pandemic.
Since starting to work at Woodcuts, “it has been nothing but love,” Seay said. “I wouldn’t be at this level if Woodcuts hadn’t opened their doors and said you could work here.”