It was a cold March day when 18 artists of various unconventional walks of life gathered in the meeting room at the Shoney’s in downtown Nashville – but they weren’t there to eat.
An Israeli-American tattoo artist offered a free tattoo to be raffled among the artists. A poet offered up a book of her poetry. A painter shared a print. They had joined together to form a sense of community among artists in the new Bohemian Nashville Artist Group started by out artists Judith Yates and Mairi Kirk.
"Mairi and I were sitting around talking, and we were saying that we wanted to meet other artists, writers, photographers, sculptors, and painters and we thought it would be interesting to have a group of people of all different backgrounds, ages, and nationalities that were dabbling in all different mediums to come together and bounce ideas off of each other and critique each other’s works," Yates said.
The women created the Bohemian Nashville Artist Group on meetup.com, the world’s largest network of local groups where a user can organize a local group or browse the thousands already meeting up face-to-face. Since then, nearly 50 people have joined the free Bohemian group, many of them students and working parents.
"A lot of the artists who have joined so far have said, ‘I’ve been looking for a group like this,’" Yates said. "We also welcome people who want to do art but for whatever reason are not [doing it]. In other words, this is a place to be yourself. One person told me that they went to work and their co-workers said, ‘I’m trying pottery,’ and everyone said ‘why not just go buy it.’ As artists we understand the need to create."
After recently moving from San Diego, Ca., Nick Navatta joined the Bohemian Nashville Artist Group to "expand his ability to create" by meeting fellow artists in the Nashville area.
"I think a Bohemian [person] is going to stick out a whole lot more in a place like Nashville, which has its roots in a longer Southern tradition, as opposed to a place like California," Navatta said. "The benefit of being a Bohemian [person] in Nashville as opposed to California is to open people’s eyes to different ways of living life. Everyone, regardless of how they live their life, should be able to find some type of community for the way they live."
Navatta expresses himself through oil and acrylic paints.
"The main thing that makes my paintings Bohemian is the way I approach them," Navatta said. "It’s all about my orientation to reality. The paintings are a communication for an outlook, and I guess being a Bohemian could be kind of like creating a life in the face of a circumstantial way of living."
A way of living, or simply a way of thinking, the Bohemian group was intended to attract people who create their own beat, and then march to it perfectly out of step.
"The Bohemian movement in Paris, for example, was a whole knew way of thinking, an eclectic way of thinking, just outside the norm," Yates said. "In other words, we’re not going to get around and paint t-shirts and make crafts. Everyone thinks that artists are odd, but they are the ones who are unafraid to bare their souls, and that’s what we are looking for here. It is more like a mindset. If you feel like you march to a different beat, and if you are unafraid to put your feelings on paper, then you belong with us."
To learn more about the Bohemian group, visit http://www.meetup.com/Bohemian-Nashville-Artist-Group.