NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - When Cheekwood launches its first ever celebration of African American culture on August 14th, it will include an exhibit featuring the artistry of a Nashville mother-daughter duo.
The exhibit focuses on three paintings featuring strong, black women at different phases of their life. The work is by Brittany A. Mitchell, the daughter of longtime Nashville banking executive Rita P. Mitchell.
The elder Mitchell recently retired and joined forces with her daughter to launch a book two years ago. The launch was successful, but personal struggles and the strain of COVID made the pair reconsider their living situations. They decided to move in together and during the move, the younger Mitchell chose to create three large portraits on canvas as art for their new living room. The art elicited a creative response from mom, Rita.
"I told her ‘this is so weird, I'm inspired to write because this woman reminds me of when I was starting out ages 13 to 16,’” recalls Rita.
Rita found the same inspiration again when Brittany painted the second and third paintings.
“Mom said ‘I'm moved to speak I'm moved to write, I'm gonna write these poems,” recalls Brittany, who admits to not taking it seriously at the time. “The next day, [mom says] ‘it's also a book called Spoken Art and I put it in a Google Doc, and so I'm very serious.’"
The pair immediately stopped their work to create a cookbook and focused their intentions instead on building the book “Spoken Art: Too Brave to Back Down”. The book is intended for anyone searching for inspiration, truth or affirmation.
“Spoken Art is weaving words and art into meaningful messages that we hope will invoke inspiration and aspiration,” writes the pair in the Foreword of the book. “It’s about declaring your truth and your heart’s desire.”
After completing the book, Rita shared a copy with the leader of Cheekwood, who encouraged her to create an exhibit for the upcoming African American Cultural Family Celebration. Rita serves on the Board of Trustees for Cheekwood and had been part of the planning for the event for nearly three years.
“It was such a blessing but it was totally out of left field,” says Rita. “We had no idea that we would have an opportunity to debut this book.”
Spoken Art is Rita’s second book and follows her first work “Own Your Phenomenal Self," which was released in January 2019. Rita is also a certified John C. Maxwell Coach, Trainer, and Speaker. Currently, she serves on the boards of the YWCA USA, Cheekwood, Leadership Nashville Alumni Association, the Founders' Advisory Board of Studio Bank, and is past Board Chair of the YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee.
The duo admits that while working together is fun for them, they become more creative, too.
"We've noticed when we have fun and share it, it changes people's lives,” says Brittany. “When people read our book, they say ‘Oh, I can write a book or I can paint a picture or I have a blog I want to turn into a travel site.’”
In addition to the poems inspired by the three main portraits, the book also features art you can wear. Brittany has turned her creations into tote bags, dresses, pillows and bed comforters among other things. You can order a customized piece here.