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May 232013
Fort Houston's woodshop

One of the many rooms in community creative space Fort Houston

Back in April, I wrote a blog titled “Fort Houston and the Nashville Art Scene Need Your Help!” The piece talked about the vitality of the Wedgewood-Houston arts community and vaguely discussed Fort Houston‘s difficulties in passing the city’s complex coding process. I entreated everyone to write letters to the mayor and city council reps. But I could only tell you part of the story — partially out of deference to Fort Houston while they attempted to resolve matters privately, partially because I didn’t know the whole story.

This morning the Tennessean published an article called “New artists warehouse Fort Houston runs into codes issues.” (In the print edition, it’s titled “Arts Space Seeks Zoning Variance.”) In the article, reporter Joey Garrison uncovers further layers of Fort Houston’s difficulties and reveals disputes with the Houston Street property landlord. The landlord’s arguments in the piece don’t make any sense whatsoever, and I’m convinced he’s not being honest about his motivation. Fort Houston’s lease runs out in November, and I don’t think it is likely that the landlord will renew it (especially after the Tennessean article). The only solution seems to be buying the property outright, but that would require a wealthy benefactor.

There are further layers of intrigue as yet unpublished … other players, other factors; but it would be irresponsible for me to discuss the rest until Fort Houston opens the dialogue. For now, Fort Houston needs your support like never before. Tour the facility. Talk with the staff. Ask what you can do to help.

Many a cadre of talented young people in Nashville have attempted to put together creative spaces like Fort Houston. It’s an incredibly-difficult enterprise. Most fail after less than a few years. But this one is special. Over the past three years, I’ve witnessed firsthand the Fort Houston founders’ high levels of professionalism, work-ethic, future-planning, business savvy and innovation. They are the best and brightest of Nashville’s creative up and comers. If this can happen to them, it can happen to any new arts organization. The question we really need to be asking our city leaders is this: “You have shown you are willing to support large commercial enterprises with questionable ties to the arts community. But are you willing to support young artists, new organizations, bottom-up development, the true future of Nashville’s art scene? Think hard on that before you reply. Your answer determines our future support of YOU.”

And before you read the Tennessean article, read Fort Houston Co-Founder Ryan Schemmel’s introductory remarks to the article here.