Derrick Adams is pictured at Artville After Dark, an event of the first iteration of Artville in Nashville on Friday. Photo by Adam Schrader
NASHVILLE, Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Derrick Adams, a New York-based artist who recently debuted with Gagosian in Los Angeles, kicked off a new art fair in Nashville with a talk held in the neighborhood of Wedgewood-Houston.
The talk topic was his personal art practice and Black collage but it devolved into a conversation on the importance of community building, civic engagement and how to support Black artists.
Adams has been buying property in his hometown of Baltimore, that he has been converting into spaces for artists. Called The Last Resort, the artist retreat supports Black creatives through the concepts of rejuvenation.
"It happened so organically with the whole initiative," Adams said Friday of Last Resort. "I purchased a property. It's about an acre of land. It's like an eight-bedroom house near Johns Hopkins and when I purchased the property, it was pretty inexpensive."
Adams said he would spend time at the property himself when he returned to his hometown to visit friends and family.
"I also allowed a young artist from New York who was going to school in Baltimore to stay in the house as it was being renovated. And when I would come there, I just thought it was too good to keep to myself," Adams said.
"I started inviting people, just having dinner like three or four people and everyone was just so blown away that they had so much space outside that property in the city to walk around."
People asked Adams what he planned to do with the land as some suggested he rent it out as an Airbnb.
He said when he realized how much he spent on turning it into an artist hangout, he was advised to form a non-profit so others could contribute to something beneficial for the city of Baltimore.
"We're in the process of including a workspace on the property but my vision was not to work. I want people to hang out, have good meals and meet other creatives," he said.
He said he brings in experienced chefs and people to lead meditation or yoga, financial advisors, life coaches, and accountants to teach artists about tax structures and business matters that a lot of artists don't have access to.
"I know that if I'm able to build up this particular demographic of the city, the city will be better for everybody, not just for the Black people of Baltimore," Adams said.
"You know, the thing about New York I think is successful, they make sure that they count every cultural community when it comes to output."
He said some people might visit New York only for Chinatown and the Chinese New Year while another only comes in for Little Italy and its festivals.
"It's important we build up these pockets of communities for everyone to have the best form of representation and support in order for the city to get the economic structure that people want to have," he said.
"That's why I'm focusing on this particular group of people in Baltimore that I know from my experience growing up. The reason I moved to New York is because I had no opportunity for me as a young Black artist in Baltimore. So I left."
Adams hopes young Black artists won't feel the need to leave Baltimore, or Nashville, or wherever their home cities might be because of initiatives like his.
"Everyone can't be in New York, everyone can't be in Miami," he said. "Let's try to keep our kids here by creating resources that will help them stay and want to be here. New York isn't this mystical magical city."
For communities beyond Baltimore and Nashville, Adams said those without a budget can learn from how Black churches built congregations.
"I grew up in church and, for a Black person, that was coming out of the enslavement of the history of America. That was the way that Black people formed community. And so that's why you see so many churches in Black neighborhoods," he said.
"People put their dollars together and they bought a building and then they did the food. ... As long as you have the building, then you have possibilities.
"If that could happen in these communities where you see these small, makeshift churches existing and functioning for 20 years with people in the community putting their $2 together to pay their rent -- it could happen in the creative community," he said.