My first contribution to a huge collaborative effort! Read all about the poet/artist/organizer behind it all. I get a little mention toward the bottom. So thrilling!
Stephanie Pruitt takes poetry to new levels at OZ Arts
Sara Estes11:03 p.m. CDT July 18, 2015
(Photo: Kathleen Jones)
For the latest installment of OZ Arts Nashville’s TNT spotlight series, acclaimed poet and artist Stephanie Pruitt will organize an ambitious art experience that aims to immerse viewers in a single poem.
Titled “em·bod·i·ment: Poetry Through the Five Senses,” Pruitt has invited over 25 luminaries from across Nashville to participate in turning her poem “Close Reading” into a one-of-a-kind sensory experience that you won’t want to miss. The multifaceted, collaborative installation will span all 10,000 square feet of OZ’s main event space.
“I want to do things that are completely immersive,” said Pruitt. “For people who love poetry, they can be immersed in a poem on the page — I get lost in poems all the time. But realistically, I know that’s not the case for most people. I want to invite everyone into that complete experience.”
On Thursday night, Pruitt will transform OZ into a sensory candy land where viewers will be encouraged to freely roam among the various stations dedicated to taste, smell, touch, sight and sound.
“It’s essentially exploring multiple ways of reading,” she said. “Can you taste a poem? Can you smell a poem? Can you hear a poem?”
For this project, Pruitt gave each collaborator a copy of the poem and asked them to interpret the words through their own craft.
Chef Josh Habiger of Pinewood Social will create a special food installation inspired by the poem. Nashville-based aromatherapist Roy Hamilton of Aromagregory has crafted essential oil mixtures; every two lines have their own unique blend. Landscape architect Mike Kahnle has built a walking scape that snakes through the entire space and plays on touch, tactility and contrasts such as light and dark, high and low.
Fourteen visual artists will contribute new artwork inspired by the poem. Local artist James Threalkill will create a live painting during the event. Fisk University art professor Jamaal Sheets will debut an original large-scale copper repoussé piece that will include parts of the poem in Braille. Camilla Spadafino — known for her “coloring sheets for adults” in which she scans in her own paintings and removes the color leaving only black lines — will create custom sheets for participants to color and take home. Other artists include Vincent Herrera, Betty Turner, Carolyn Beehler, Randy Purcell, Charlie Huddleston, Alice Shepherd, Joseph Love, Erica Ciccarone, Megan Kelley, Larrie Brown and Kristin Llamas and Brendolyn Pruitt.
For the sound portion, Pruitt has arranged for three concert performances. Chatterbird, a 14-piece alt-classical orchestra, will perform a selection of music along with an original score, composed specifically for the event and based on the poem. Country singer-songwriter Joy Styles and Fisk graduate and former Jubilee singer Curtis Fields also will perform.
Pruitt wrote the poem “Close Readings” specifically for this project, knowing it would be transformed into a physical experience. “It’s a fairly short poem for me,” she said. “I’m interested in ranges of experiences — the shadow and shine. A lot of it is about perception and the different ways people read the same stimuli, concept or text.”
Pruitt is an award-winning, published poet and artist who has taught arts education and creative writing at Vanderbilt University, Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference, and as a visiting artist in numerous schools and community organizations. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize, and Essence Magazine named her one of its 40 Favorite Poets.
“This has been an important exercise in control and collaboration for me. It helps that I’m working with people who are really good at what they do. I respect them all a great deal.”
Pruitt feels collaboration is playing an important role in Nashville’s current growth and identity. “One person can only have so many ideas and visions,” she said. While she prefers to work alone when she’s writing, she sees an immense benefit in bringing others into the creative process.
“Loneliness and isolation can be detrimental for artists,” she said. “When you’re in there by yourself, it can be a really scary place. One of the best ways I know to get out of that is to let some other people in on the process, so it doesn’t become a rabbit hole that you’re in by yourself.”
Pruitt hopes “em·bod·i·ment” leaves visitors feeling more connected to themselves and the world. “Ultimately I’m trying to create a very pleasurable but disparate experience. It’s physical, it’s mental, it’s emotional.”
If you go
What: Stephanie Pruitt’s “em·bod·i·ment: Poetry Through the Five Senses,” at OZ Arts Nashville
Where: 6172 Cockrill Bend Circle.
When: 6-9 pm Thursday