In the 21st century, Nashville’s population has undergone significant transformations. New residents coming from other parts of the United States and elsewhere have set the stage for dynamic cross-cultural interactions, from music and food to art, religion, and business. The Frist Art Museum education and outreach staff celebrate this blending of cultures through Exquisite Nashville, a project that brought participants together in a spirit of exchange, with the hope of inspiring our visitors to see their world in new ways through art.

Participants at the Frist for Refugees and Immigrants of Tennessee, Conexión Américas, the Edmondson Pike Branch of the Nashville Public Library, and Room in the Inn worked with teaching artists Kaaren Hirschowitz Engel Sisavanh Houghton, Meghan O’Connor, and Jamaal Sheats to create artworks inspired by the Exquisite Corpse game. This game was conceived in the 1920s by Surrealist artists and writers, who collaborated to create expressions that were the product of the group’s collective imagination. The game would begin with a participant writing a phrase or drawing an image on a section of paper. The sheet was then folded so that the phrase or image was almost completely concealed. It was then passed to the next person, who would take the small visible portion of the existing work as the inspiration for an imaginative extension of the drawing or phrase. After everyone in the group had made a contribution, a surprising hybrid image would be revealed when the paper was unfolded, demonstrating that the input of many people could result in a more imaginative work than that produced by a single artist or writer.

In the spirit of the Exquisite Corpse, each participating organization initiated a work that traveled to the other three groups for their respective alterations. Additionally, each organization created two collaborative works without the involvement of the other organizations. The teaching artists also collaborated to create their own Exquisite Corpse. Blending individual expressions, these collaborations reflect the dynamism of Nashville’s diverse communities. They embody ideas of relationship, mutual respect, and diversity.

Exquisite Nashville was organized by the Frist Art Museum.


The Frist for Refugees and Immigrants of Tennessee (CRIT) provides opportunities and resources that make it possible for refugees and immigrants to build happy and productive lives in their new home. Teaching artist Sisavanh Houghton worked with children in CRIT’s Refugee and Immigrant Students Empowered (RISE) program to create several works that celebrate the diverse cultures represented within their group.

Conexión Américas assists families and individuals in achieving goals such as buying homes, starting businesses, improving their conversational English, helping their children succeed in school, and bettering their lives through nationally recognized services and programs. With the help of teaching artist Jamaal Sheats, participants used a metalworking technique called repoussé to emboss personal memories and cultural images into copper and aluminum.

The Edmondson Pike Branch Library serves a diverse population in southeast Nashville. Teaching artist Meghan O’Connor worked with a small group of dedicated individuals to create Exquisite Corpse–inspired works on linoleum. Each participant contributed whimsical images of family members, food, and landscapes, as well as iconography representative of both Nashville and their personal backgrounds.

Room in the Inn provides emergency services, programs, housing, and long-term support for Nashville’s homeless community. Working with teaching artist Kaaren Hirschowitz Engel, participants contemplated the general theme of home by focusing on specific ideas such as personal memories, the spiritual meaning of home, what it means to be without a physical residence, and the ways that one’s personal dwelling can be a place of comfort and restoration. The importance of home—its associations with memory, well-being, and family—is recognized in all cultures.

Presenting Sponsor: Nissan Foundation

Supporting Sponsor: U.S. Bank Foundation

Exhibition gallery

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