Skip to main content

Turn History Into Art as the Metro Archives Artist-in-Residence

May 4, 2020

Submit Your Proposal by Friday, May 15

How would you make history come alive through art?

That’s the challenge that the staff of the Audio Visual Heritage Center (AVHC) of the Metro Archives, housed in Nashville Public Library (NPL), is issuing to artists in Nashville with their second annual artist-in-residence program.

The initiative joins one artist with the staff of the AVHC to create an original work of art using archival footage of Nashville within the Metro Archives. The AVHC’s mission is to preserve and provide access to this footage.

“Our goal is to allow artists to use the full expanse of their creativity to create a compelling, original work using the footage we have,” said Kelli Hix, the audiovisual archivist for the AVHC.

The AVHC is accepting applications for the artist-in-residence program until Friday, May 15. The artist will be chosen and notified Wednesday, May 27.

How to Apply

Artists interested in applying should visit the AVHC’s webpage for detailed instructions and requirements. At a minimum, applicants must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Be actively producing art, and demonstrate a record of exhibition work and ability to carry out an artistic concept.
  • Be a resident of Davidson County or demonstrate strong ties to the region.
  • Provide their own technical hardware and software to create the piece.

What You’ll Be Working With

Even though the selected artist may be required to provide some equipment depending on the nature of their work, the AVHC has a wealth of other resources to help them realize their vision. 

The Archives is home to a collection of more than 5,000 audiovisual assets on film, audio tape, and video, dating from the 1920s to the early 2000s. Topics in these assets include everything from construction of new structures to the annual Nashville Arts and Crafts Festival. 

Aside from the material assets at their disposal, artists will enjoy the full support and encouragement of the AVHC and Archives staff, who are prepared to assist applicants with the process.

“We want applicants to have the best proposal they can,” Hix said. “I’d be happy to work with them to help fine-tune their application so that it’s the best it can be.”

“We want new materials from new people, and to show it to as many people as possible,” said Ken Fieth, the Metropolitan Government Archivist. “We’re not here to shoehorn them into something specific — we want them to realize their vision using our assets.”

What You Get in Return

Being selected as the artist-in-residence brings some unique perks that any working creator will find invaluable, especially in times when the COVID-19 pandemic has placed additional hardship on artists.

“We are one of the few organizations offering some financial support for local artists who are impacted. This is one of the parts of the program that I am most proud of,” Hix said.

The selected artist receives a one-time $1,200 stipend to support them during their tenure with the AVHC. In addition, the center will receive $800 to aid in the preservation of endangered analog materials in the collection. The artist will collaborate with the Metro Archives staff to determine how the funds are used.

In addition, the artist will collaborate with local composer Benjamin Chakoian Jones, founder and curator of the Nashville Chamber Music Series, to score their original work.

The artist’s project will premiere at the Parthenon, tentatively scheduled for October 11.

Finally, the artist’s work will be preserved as part of the Metro Archives, ensuring that it will be available to view for many years to come.

Aside from the tangible benefits of the artist-in-residence program, it presents the chance to preserve some of Nashville’s most significant moments, and become a part of that legacy.

Brian Siskind, the first ever artist-in-residence, can attest to that fact. His 2019 project, “Time Out of Mind: Early Hindsights of New Nashville,” marries historic film with modern-day drone footage to create a beautiful look at Nashville through the years.

“The opportunity to work with unseen and rare film archives to create new art was an honor as an artist and as a part of our Nashville community. Most important to the cause, I was encouraged and supported to create what I was most compelled by, and the process was as valuable and rewarding as creating the piece,” Siskind said. “What may seem mundane or, at best, ephemeral footage to many is actually the sacred material of our collective past. When put through the prism of the present, it becomes something more, anew.

“This program will continue to become an essential path for artists to extend these precious archival artifacts into the community to make new assertions artistically and collectively.”

Wizard avatar


Ed's a proud member of NPL's Marketing and Communications team. Some of his favorite books include Dracula, Once an EagleNeuromancerStarship TroopersThe Black CompanyBerserkBlade of the ImmortalBlame! and Vampire Hunter D. When not at the Library, you'll find him spending time with his wife and son, doing interval training, reading, or waiting for the next FromSoftware game.