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The last few years have certainly writ large the damaging effects of isolation. The stories we tell ourselves lose community cohesion and with it, empathy. Oddly enough, it seems that when I lose empathy for others, I also lose it for myself.
All this is to say, I’m proud of this issue. It leans into the various ways stories are told. In one example, “African American Modernism in America,” a long-overlooked and overdue story is finally being told. It covers the exhibit of the same name being shown at Fisk University’s Carl Van Vechten Gallery featuring mid-20th century African Modernist works. I know I learned a lot from these visually stunning paintings I previously knew little to nothing about. Each has a story to tell and has insight and meaning from which our contemporary community can learn.
In our cover story on Margo Price, “The View from the Mountain,” she observes what struck me as particularly poignant in the empathy department: “There shouldn’t be as much shame in this world in general placed on all of us,” she says. “Everyday things are coming at us and we’re just trying to cope. I did the best I could with the tools that I had at the time.” The conversation is centered around Maybe We’ll Make It, the candid autobiography Price released Oct. 4 to critical acclaim. What I like is the story it tells about the local music scene of the mid-aughts through the late teens. The kids are alright.
Which is the way Nashville has been for a very long time. Meaning, scenes rise and fall, but there’s a chord running through it, in nature both timeless and of the now, like the Cumberland River running through its heart. Tom Morales speaks to this in his guest essay, “Storytelling Town.” Read it after the cover story and you’ll catch my drift. It ties back into the exhibit piece in an interesting way, in that Fisk and the Jefferson Street corridor both suffered community-altering damage when I-40 built. Red lining was a real thing and the interstate enforced it.
The Ryman has long been a bastion of cultural commingling and continue this tradition with Rock Hall at the Ryman. This exhibit — in collaboration with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame — underpins the longstanding synergy between Country and Rock & Roll. Our feature, “Rocking the Ryman,” tells the show’s genesis, along with some surprises (at least for me) about the roll played by the Ryman in cross-pollinating rock with country — and vice-versa!
If you’ve lived in Middle Tennessee for a decade or three, you already know Bellevue sports some of the area’s finest scenery. It also remains a stronghold of middle-class suburbia with the accompanying conveniences. Which is a story all its own. “Look West, Young Nashvillian” takes a bird’s-eye view of this sprawling neighborhood and all it has on offer. It made me want to take a drive out Highway 70 after reading it.
My takeaway from the way things came together for this issue: The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and the community we live in are everything, shaping our world in ways no building ever could. We’re continually making them up as we go along. They directly affect our psychological well-being. It’s up to us to make them stories worth telling.