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Workshop Two: Phoenix Savage

McGruder Creative University (M-CRU), is a partnership among Fisk University Department of Art, Tennessee State University Department of Art, and Vanderbilt University Department of Art, in collaboration with Berea College and Tougaloo College. 


Tougaloo College art professor Phoenix Savage led M-CRU 2. Savage is a multi-disciplinary artist who has exhibited around the U.S. and taught throughout the South. In Savage’s studio work and community-led work, American and African Diaspora history often acts as a jumping off point to explore human interaction through sensory experiences. Her workshop asked participants to consider how sound can lead to a greater understanding of place. Savage reflects, “The workshop was aimed as a family friendly engagement with the North Nashville community via listening to the sounds of the community. As a group we traveled to five to seven locations where demographical changes were visible; however, the goal was to tune in and hear these changes. Sound is generally perceived as benign, ubiquitous noise that is the backdrop to city life. Participants were asked to differentiate between sounds emanating from the different locations.”


Joined by Chris Parsons, the artist-in-residence at the Space for New Media at Tennessee State University, participants recorded what they heard on their journey and then returned to gather sounds around the Center. They convened in the auditorium to digest the information collected. There, they listened to the recorded sounds, compared notes, discussed the sensory experience, and after contemplating each sound, ate a community lunch. Afterwards, Savage led the group in expressing what they heard visually. Using black chalk and white paper, each centered or decentered themselves on paper and began to move in directions intuitive to their interpretation of the day’s sounds. Savage encouraged participants to consider what sound might that look like, using their hands and drawing instruments to mimic the aural gestures. Or, Savage suggested they simply doodle what came to mind based on their aural experience. These exercises provided participants with the opportunity to practice slowing down as a way to acknowledge, create, accept, and bond.

“The workshop was a method to allow the community that was changing beyond the control of many of the participants an opportunity to reclaim some agency in their experiences with these changes,” said Savage. 

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