The Art of Connection

By Robert Jones

Photography by William DeShazer

When I opened Overton Arts in 2018, my goal was to create a picture framing and art consultation business geared toward the interior design industry. I wanted to build a platform where I could play a role in uplifting the arts community in Nashville and helping it to grow in a positive direction.

Over the next couple of years I connected with hundreds of local artists. While I was excited to find such an eclectic visual arts scene in the city, I was disheartened to learn how underfunded the infrastructure supporting the Nashville visual arts community is compared to many similarly sized cities.

The arts community is particularly vulnerable to displacement when cost of living increases, and Nashville’s growth over the past 15 years has presented artists with a number of economic obstacles to navigate. Our artists uplift Nashville by creating art from perspectives that are unique to the city, and I think it’s important to give our arts community a more prominent platform as Nashville continues to develop. When we buy from local artists, we aren’t just purchasing artwork — we are also investing in our art scene and the expansion of our cultural heritage.

My many conversations with people in the design community who are eager to connect with local artists have been motivating, but one problem continues to pop up: Finding the right artist takes a commitment of time and research that is often not possible in the available budget.

When I connected with Hollie Deese and Nashville Interiors, I discovered that we shared a strong desire to better support the arts community in Nashville, and we began making plans to collaborate on the Nashville Artist Guide. The guide will be an annual publication showcasing the diversity of the art scene in the city. Our goal is to create a go-to resource for designers and private collectors that will make it easier for them to find local artists for any project.

To generate some excitement for local artists, we decided to start with a list of the city’s 50 most exciting contemporary artists. This list will be curated by a panel of three people who will all be rotated annually to ensure fresh perspectives and uphold the integrity of the publication. Each artist chosen will have a full page in the guide that features a portrait photo, contact information, a brief bio and several images of their work.

The inaugural curatorial panel is made up of Stephanie Pruitt Gaines, Julia Martin and me. Stephanie, a poet, has been the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize. She has also been an active leader in the community, serving as the former commissioner for the Metro Nashville Arts Commission as well as serving on the board of directors for the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville. Julia’s artwork has been at the forefront of Nashville’s art scene for more than a decade. In 2013, she opened Julia Martin Gallery, which recently tied for best art gallery in Nashville in the annual Nashville Scene Readers’ Poll.

Hollie and I are excited to be putting this publication together, and we hope that the Nashville Artist Guide will become a valuable resource for the design community, providing artists with more opportunities to showcase their work as our city continues to grow. For more information, please contact me at