How do you capture the spirit of an entire city in a single image? That is, of course, the type of challenge that’s been tackled by visual artists for eons. They have rendered entire cities realistically from distinct vantage points, imagined distinct sections wrestling with historic events and shown representative inhabitants as embodiments of larger ideals.
It’s a challenge newly confronted by Will Schumm, a self-taught artist whose latest series of oil paintings is titled simply “Nashville.”
“I’m passionate about our great city, all of its nuances, activities, music, people and heart,” Schumm told Art of Nashville. “As such, I’ve elected to use Nashville as my motivating creative emphasis for the balance of my productive days. I’m attempting to paint the history of Nashville on an ongoing basis.”
To capture the full breadth of the city in his work, Schumm has created pieces inspired by Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, the presence of local musicians and Nashville’s explosively creative spirit, among other local points of interest. The series includes skylines, portraits and studies of musicians’ fingers as they play their instruments. Put together and even individually, the works capture something indelible about being here — Nashville’s history as well as its thoroughly contemporary energy.
Anything’s Possible, for example, presents the vitality of Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, one of its most significant tourist destinations today, in the context of its historic legacy.
The painting shows Tom Ryman, the riverboat captain and businessman who built the church-turned-auditorium, standing with Reverand Sam Jones, the preacher who inspired its creation and first stood behind its pulpit.
“My motivation to create the piece was the incredible story of Captain Ryman and about how he came to build the Union Gospel Tabernacle,” Schumm explained, using the original name for the building. “In short, Tom Ryman went to the Rev. Sam Jones’ revival knowing that a certain Sunday’s sermon was pretty much directed at him and business operations that involved gambling and booze, amongst other activities. Before he left the revival on that fateful day, he was saved by the power of the Holy Spirit and decided that he would use all of his influence and money to build a church worthy of the city and citizens of Nashville.”
To create the painting, Schumm conducted a photo study of the Ryman Auditorium, asking tourists to stand in front of its windows for reference. The result bathes the men in light filtered through the space’s infamous stained glass windows, anointing them with the auditorium’s lasting influence. Schumm believes this to be the only image in existence that features both men together and he hopes to eventually donate it to the Ryman.
“Very few buildings truly represent Nashville like the Ryman Auditorium,” Schumm said. “And … very few, if any, historic stories concerning Nashville are more powerful than the Union Gospel Tabernacle/Ryman Auditorium’s story.”
Anything’s Possible will be on display at the 100 Taylor Arts Collective on September 21, 2019, as part of the weekly Germantown Art Crawl.
The 100 Taylor Arts Collective is located at 100 Taylor Street in Germantown.