Client: Salahadeen Center of Nashville
Location: Nashville, TN, United States
Completion date: 2019
Artwork budget: $10,000
Artist / Leader
Sobota Creative Studios
Artist / Collaborator
Nabeel Al Yousuf
Artist / Calligrapher
Rafif Al Saleh
This project was initially commissioned by the Salahadeen Center of Nashville through a Metro Arts Thrive grant. The artist initially responsible for the mural wasn’t able to do the project, so they brought me in to complete the project successfully. It involved a large-scale mural with traditional Kurdish themes, including a view of the unofficial capital city of Kurdistan, Erbil, Iraq. I enlisted the help of a local Iraqi-American artist (Nabil Al Yousuf) and several of the local Kurdish youth, along with Arabic calligrapher (Rafif Al Saleh). Although I designed and painted the mural, I need to mention I had to keep my own style and imprint out of the project for the most part, considering a very specific style and set of themes were requested by the Salahadeen Center. Given the constraints of the project I’m extremely happy with how it turned out, and glad to have met and made so many friends in the process. The project was later featured on NPR and along with my Kurdish bus shelter, stands as two of the most visible markers of Nashville’s thriving Kurdish community.
Although I would have loved to use more of my style and design aesthetic in this project, the goal wasn’t to create a ‘stunning Tony Sobota original,’ but to honor traditional Kurdish culture and create a sense of place for our under-recognized Kurdish neighbors. Putting my style aside, I’m still proud of what we were able to create together, and the mural still stands as a visible marker of our beloved Kurdish population, as well as a sort of gateway for the rest of Nashville to begin to meet and understand this special people group.
The design process came from a very specific set of themes from the Salahadeen Center, managed by Hardy Adham and in collaboration with Nawzad Hawramy, then the director of the Salahadeen Center. My job was to take these specific design elements and paint them as a traditional Kurdish painter might, with few exceptions. Once the design was approved I got to work, leading a team of collaborators. When complete, the community was able to enjoy this 115-long mural, the largest Kurdish-themed mural in Nashville.
To reiterate one point: although I’m very proud of this project and the placemaking impact it has had on the community, it doesn’t necessarily represent my distinctive style and what I’m able to do with my own hand. I would love the opportunity to work on a project where my decades of experience, unique aesthetic, and use of my full artistic potential in order to create something with even greater visual appeal.