If a steady influx of New Yorkers is a sign of a healthy arts community, then Nashville has never been better. With the opening of curator Susan Sherrick’s gallery Sherrick & Paul on November 14, the renegade art neighborhood of Wedgewood-Houston has put another star on its map. Sherrick brings 14 years of experience as a curator and art dealer. She began her career as assistant to Yve-Alain Bois at the Harvard Art Museums before working as an assistant at David Zwirner and Marian Goodman in New York, and then as sales director at Fraenkel in San Francisco and Howard Greenberg in New York. Her curatorial eye aims high and looks closely, seeking out emerging artists and staying abreast of established ones.
The inaugural exhibition features five painters and five photographers, including newcomer Damian Stamer of North Carolina, midcareer artists Rinko Kawauchi and Barry McGee, and giants like William Eggleston and Hiroshi Sugimoto. It also features photos by buzz-worthy Vivian Maier, whose prolific body of work as a street photographer was not discovered until after her death, and this might be the chance to see her work before it gets tied up in legal disputes. Sherrick already has her roster packed for the coming year, with solo shows by Stamer [Jan. 15-Feb. 28], Wendy White, and Katy Grannan. I’m hoping Grannan’s show will coincide with the release of her feature-length film The Nine, which chronicles her time living in gritty Central Valley, California.
Sherrick is smart to get on the Nashville bandwagon. Wedgewood-Houston sits just over a mile south of downtown and is quickly gaining ground as 5th Avenue’s unrefined – but brilliant – stepsister. The neighborhood is chockfull of affordable space, like warehouses and an old hosiery mill. Although artists and artisans have been practicing there for 25 years, the area has blown up in the past year and a half with the emergence of organized monthly art crawls and an unprecedented number of new gallery and studio spaces opening.
Sherrick has already enjoyed a warm reception from Nashville. In 2013, she hosted Joint Project, a series of three pop-up galleries that complemented other arts and cultural events in the city, where local artists were presented alongside those marshaled in from around the country. Joint Project 2, which was held in the space now occupied by David Lusk Gallery in Wedgewood-Houston, coincided with “Sensuous Steel,” an exhibition of Art Deco cars at the Frist Center for Visual Arts. The pop-up focused on artwork inspired by cars and motorcycles from the ’50s through the ’70s. To Sherrick , pulling off a show like Joint Project in New York would have been impossible: finding the space would almost be as difficult as paying for it. In Nashville, she not only found affordable space, but a willingness among the community to collaborate, something she had not experienced anywhere else. The support from the Nashville art community served as an impetus for Sherrick to open Sherrick and Paul, her first permanent gallery, and she couldn’t imagine doing it anywhere else.
Erica Ciccarone is a writer living in Nashville. She blogs at www.nycnash.com.