In late October and early November 2011 we celebrated Art House America’s twentieth anniversary. With three events — two in our home, the Art House, and one at The Village Chapel near downtown Nashville — we looked back over twenty years of Art House history; enjoyed amazing music, beautiful food, and the company of people from all eras of the Art House America story. Twenty years still seems quite extraordinary when we look back on our beginnings.
In 1991, with the help of our first Art House Director, Nick Barré, we kicked things off with a Bible study and lots of homemade cookies; a weekend seminar titled, “A Christian Perspective on the Arts;” and a foundational but small understanding of the work before us. In God’s faithfulness to lead, enable, and unfold things over time, we’ve had the privilege of participating in the shaping of many lives. Through artist retreats, educational events, mentoring relationships, one-on-one spiritual and vocational counsel, house concerts, writing and speaking, creating in the studio and the kitchen — the work of hospitality, spiritual formation, and culture-making has gone forward.
Over the three nights of celebration we heard testimonies and songs from special guests: Scotty Smith, Jay Swartzendruber, Nick Barré, Allison Gaskins, Matthew Perryman Jones, Ruby Amanfu, Anna Gilbert, Mark DiCicco, Jordan Lawhead, Jenny White, Josh Jenkins, Brooke Waggoner, Erika Attwater, Matthew Smith, Alli Dahlgren, Sara and Troy Groves, Aaron Fabbrini, Matt Slocum, Tyler and Jenny Somers, Sam Ashworth, Jim and Kim Thomas, Buddy Greene, Jeff Taylor, Dan Needham, and Steve Brewster. Andrea Howat rocked the party with her tap dancing skills. My husband, Charlie, and I hosted, and he played music, too — his much-loved song, “In The Light,” and a new one called “Death Trap.”
From left to right: Christina Lafferty, Alice Canlis, Andrea Howat, and Chris Canlis. Alice and Chris Canlis of the famed Canlis Restaurant in Seattle gave generously of their time and talent, and brought these fabulous aprons to the party!
Food and fellowship have always been important at the Art House. Alice and Chris Canlis created the gorgeous table of fruit, cheese, nuts, and Fran’s Chocolates. Nashville Chocolate Kitchen provided the beautiful and delicious cupcakes. My daughter, Molly, and I baked homemade cookies — classic and comforting.
The mugs were Alice's brilliant idea. Carly Ripp perfected the design. Aren’t they wonderful? We now start each day with one in hand. They are perfect for steaming cups of coffee, tea, cider, or cocoa.
Our dear friends, Ruby Amanfu and Anna Gilbert. If you watched The Sing Off this fall, you saw Ruby in the vocal group, The Collective, wowing the audience and the judges with her amazing voice. Anna is a singer-songwriter of great depth and beauty, who resides in the Pacific Northwest. Both artists have contributed greatly to the Art House story over the last few years.
In our early event planning conversations, I told Chuck that I’d be a happy girl if Matthew Perryman Jones would come and sing in our living room. Lovely man that he is, Matthew came both nights and added his achingly beautiful, soulful music to the evenings.
From left to right: Nick and Krista Barré, and Molly Nicholas. Nick was our first Art House Director. He’s now a member of the Art House America Board of Directors. Nick and Krista met at an Art House gathering many years ago, so we like to get a little credit for their good story. Krista is a contributing writer to this blog. Her specialty is nurturing creativity in children and she’s very, very good at it! Molly is our daughter, an incredibly helpful member of our board, and the Membership Director at Nashville Public Radio.
From left to right: Aly and Chico (Mark) DiCicco, Richie Biggs and Amy Roth. Both of these newlywed couples are an important part of the Art House Nashville story. A few years ago, Chico was our assistant in all things music business and Art House. He still volunteers today. Richie is the audio engineer on countless recordings made in our studio. He also graciously gives his time and talent insuring good sound at Art House events. Amy and Aly pitch in to serve in any way needed. Oh, and Richie and Amy met at an Art House concert. We’re all about the romance at our place!
Jordan Lawhead shares thoughts and memories of what Art House has meant to him. Jordan is a dear friend, a wonderfully talented singer-songwriter, and the co-founder of YouInspire.org: a social networking site where those with a life-threatening medical diagnosis and other serious life challenges can find support, hope, and inspiration.
Our son, Sam Ashworth, reflects on his years growing up in the Art House and later growing into a more complete understanding of the Art House story. Sam is a singer-songwriter, producer, and film editor.
Consummate artist, storyteller, and activist for social justice — Sara Groves. We are privileged to be in partnership with Sara and her husband, Troy, as they begin a new Art House work in St. Paul, Minnesota. Art House has been a place of refuge and reflection for them. Now they are growing the Art House America mission in their own unique and beautiful ways. We can’t wait to see how this new story unfolds.
Friday evening at the Art House comes to a close. A wonderful mix of faces — some new, some from twenty years ago. Just as it should be.
Art House America staff: Art House North — Troy and Sara Groves, Art House Dallas — Jenny White and Marissa Miller, Art House Nashville and Executive Directors of Art House America — Charlie Peacock and Andi Ashworth.
After the crowd dispersed on Saturday night, Allison Gaskins — contributing writer for this blog, member of the Art House America National Council, mother of five, and part of our events team — showed us she had a few more tricks up her sleeve. Who knew a person could split an apple in half with their bare hands? What a fun finish to two packed and beautiful nights!
Tuesday night at The Village Chapel, Andrea Howat gets happy feet and brings life to Charlie Peacock's new song, “Death Trap.”
The wonderfully musical Alli Dahlgren and Matthew Smith closed the evening at The Village Chapel by leading us in the lasting hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” We sang to our Creator — the Author of life and love — who holds all our stories and fills our lives with meaning and purpose. To Him be honor and glory forever and ever.
All images courtesy of Kristin Sweeting Photography.
Andi Ashworth and her husband, Charlie Peacock, are Co-Founders/Executive Directors of Art House America.