Artist, curator, historian
Sitting at the Welcome Table, 2018
Mixed media, site-specific installation; variable dimensions
A native of North Nashville, the artist and curator Thaxton Waters is well known for his former Art History Class Lifestyle Lounge, an art gallery and community space on Jefferson Street dedicated to presenting the lifestyles of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and the neighborhoods that birthed them. “The stories in all these communities are the same,” says Waters. “They blossomed, they were destroyed, and now they’re being gentrified.” Waters describes the ongoing gentrification of Nashville as a process of “cultural extraction,” which he aims to counter with Sitting at the Welcome Table, a project intended to “help current residents of North Nashville appreciate what they have and help new residents to respect what’s been there and how it was made.”
Waters’s project is hosted by the Susie Brannon McJimpsey Center, a nonprofit inside a 1930s home that was built at the dawn of the Jefferson Street economic and entertainment boom. The house will be divided into separate rooms for Waters’s recent paintings, a series of history lessons led by Waters and guest speakers, and food tastings. The history lessons will celebrate Black culinary traditions and examine social and economic influences on Black health through four periods and themes: early farm-to-table meals (1800s–1940s), canned and frozen postwar cooking (1940s–1970s), latchkey diets (1970s–2000s), and millennial dietary preferences (2000s–present). Viktor Le Givens, a Nashville-based chef and artist, will prepare foods inspired by each history lesson.
The Susie Brannon McJimpsey Center (2506 Jefferson St., Nashville, TN 37208) works to preserve the legacy of Susie Brannon McJimpsey, a beloved educator and philanthropist who lived in Davidson County. The Center confronts the societal problems of education disparity, addiction, and urban decay for the benefit of all God’s children.