For The Culture | of the culture |
A VSNR Gallery in North Nashville

 Evan Dale  // June 23, 2021 

An occasional Protect The Culture tee shirt maneuvered half-fluidly through the crowded space of VSNR’s latest exhibition event at Cë Gallery in North Nashville. So did a few No Roads trucker hats à la Reaux Marquez. Amongst the tees and the truckers, too, were other expressions of the city and the scene’s cultural mosaic. A fluttery of stylish flexes from artist, to musician, to photographer, to every(wo)man spectator, the exhibition – For The Culture – was very much also of the culture; very much also bleeding with worn support for the other creators without whom the night could not have existed.


The culture on particular display – greater Nashville’s emerging renaissance of audio, visual, audiovisual, and community creatives – also put on a display of collaboration and harmony underneath an all-encompassing banner of all-encompassing cool. It’s why the Protect The Culture shirts – from the organization launched to celebrate and uplift multicultural communities + spaces in an effort to create a more loving and accepting society; why the No Roads hats – which were sold at a Perfect Plant Company event in the aftermath of Reaux Marquez’s February album release – felt so in place at an event that in most creative communities, in most cities, would feel like an out-of-place brand check. But here, in Nashville, it felt like a part of the larger gallery night. The photographs on the walls from a collection of esteemed local lenses, the messages of community on the tees and album streams on the hats, and the babushka adorning experimental rapper and all-around vibe curator $avvy’s head were interconnected. They were all Nashville. And they all spoke to just how far beyond Nashville, the city's renaissance is destined to reach.


To explain the scene itself would be unnecessary here. If you’re new to what’s happening in Nashville, we’ve got plenty of reading and exploration for you to check out. Just know that there is a wide-ranging cultural Renaissance happening in Nashville’s hip-hop and Soul centric undergrounds, and that those undergrounds are decidedly Black and bound to emerge from the underground in short order. As for this space – as was the case with the For The Culture gallery – we’re exploring depth in the scene, and thusly exploring where culture at large is headed by the steady hands of Nashville’s web of not-so-underground-for-long creativity.


Deeply, VSNR has been a fundamental platform of creative influence for a couple of years, and its central creator, YoBreezye, a visual mastermind whose own work vibrantly transcends his photography and his magazine into living, breathing examples of it. For The Culture, after all, felt like his VSNR magazine brought to life. Musical artists admiring photos of themselves and their peers, shot by a collection of visual artists who curated an event, hanging on the walls of yet another artist’s gallery, while standing breathing the heavy, wet air of Nashville surrounded by seemingly no one but other artists. Meta. Metacultural perhaps in its deeply talented collection of individuals acting as one communal unit, For The Culture may not have had the budget of The Met, but I’d rather be in Nashville than New York if this is where culture is headed.


On the lower floor, the gallery itself. Two-and-a-half walls dripped with prints from a collection of local photographers who make up the VSNR team, while what can only be described as a mini-greenhouse, too, overflowed with photobook sized miniatures of even more work. One wall was blank. On it, about halfway through the evening, local director, Seck, who may very well come to be the next Spike Lee in stature of cinematically raw experimentalism, debuted his new short film, free. In it, fellow Nashvillian creative, freethei (@beshootin) existed. Outside of it, standing tall and probably obstructing a few others’ views, he also existed, an artist within his art watching his existence as art. More meta.


Upstairs, the mingling half of the gallery and mixer mixed like liquid. Conversations on creativity bled into everyday talk because, after all, a lot of these artists may not work together necessarily every day, but they are everyday engaged with the creative nucleus of Nashville. At some point in artistry, business and pleasure are the same thing, and at the Cë Gallery, there just happened to be a dedicated space for each. A DJ duo overlooked the gallery floor, playing only hits in a way that few DJ’s elsewhere can actually curate. The vibe, from the audio, to the visual, to the audiovisual was polished. And the community tied it all together.


It wasn’t the art on the walls or the photos in the plastic greenhouse; it wasn’t the curated DJ set or the conversation pit upstairs; it wasn’t the breaks for reposado in the truck or a smoke break outside; it was instead, the confluence of it all. VSNR’s For The Culture beamed with a self-awareness of the scene it represents, where artistry and community are tethered to one another in a delicate dance of creative experimentation and emerging genius that at times, because of its prominence, is easy to overlook. In the meta aspect of a metacultural event like For the Culture exists the truth of a Renaissance that there shouldn’t even be this many talented individuals in one place. But, with artists uplifting artists to inspire new art; at an artist’s gallery brimming with impeccable photos of emerging global names in music and visual art, anyone at For The Culture felt the perhaps indefinable special something that one finds in a small city undergoing a world-class all-encompassing cultural Renaissance. And that’s rare.


What’s rare, too, is not just to have these events, and not just have not only people, but artists – nearly all the local artists – attend them. Instead, what’s maybe most rare is having the leaders within such a staunchly talented creative community to pull these kinds of events into reality in the first place. For that, VSNR, with YoBreezye, Seck, 1dot, and Jovon Wilson at the helm, have brought a deeper layer to an emerging scene whose heights will grow so tall, that their foundation – in the roots of collectives like VSNR and events like For The Culture – needs to grow equally as profound.


For The Culture. of the culture.