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Past Lectures

June 15, 2016 - Nancy Vienneau, Shakerag speaker on Wednesday, June 15, is currently a Nashville food educator and activist. She is a self-trained chef and retired caterer who writes, "Considering that I spent my youth as a sulky, picky-eating waif, this turn has been a source of amazement to my family and should give comfort to parents of such children: palates can change!" After 25 years as a caterer, Nancy sold her catering company and began devoting her time to teaching healthy, affordable cooking to children and adults, promoting fresh, seasonal foods from local farmers.

Nancy cooks and teaches at Second Harvest Food Bank's Culinary Arts Center and at Magdalene House through Green Fork Academy. She serves on the board of Walk Bike Nashville, a non-profit dedicated to making Nashville more walkable, bikeable, and liveable. She is a member of the Community Food Advocates and Les Dames D'Escoffier International, and a food writer, contributing articles for several magazines, reviewing restaurants in a weekly column for The Tennessean, and writing poetry and prose for Alimentum, the Literature of Food.

June 22, 2016 - The UNFoundation is a grassroots giving circle based in Chattanooga, TN. It was launched in January of 2012, and the founders are heavily involved in non-profit organizations and civic space use in Chattanooga. As Ben Garrison says, "we noticed a gap in the grant space in Chattanooga: an individual couldn't apply to any of the large foundations in town, since only 501c3 organizations were eligible for grants. We decided to start a grassroots organization that was capable of making micro grants to individuals from the community - thus the moniker 'The UNFoundation'."

"Trustees" of the group get together once a month, review grant applications, and contribute $100, which is then pooled towards a monthly micro grant. Since inception The Unfoundation has awarded over $50,000 to 46 different projects and causes. The UNFoundation has been described as "angel investors for civic good." Visit their website here to read more about what they've done to make Chattanooga a great place:

Speakers: Ben Garrison and Melanie Silva

Ben Garrison is an entrepreneur involved in the commercial real estate business in Chattanooga. He pitched the initial idea of the UNFoundation to a small group of young emerging community leaders in 2012, and together they entered the 48 Hour Launch start-up event in Chattanooga. Two days later they launched The UNFoundation website (not to be confused with the United Nations Foundation), attracted 12 Trustees at the presentation, and won a $17,000 services package for winning Crowd Favorite.

Melanie Silva joined The UNFoundation as a trustee shortly after it began in 2012. She donated the required $100 a month and voted for the winning grant applicant for 2 years before transitioning into an advisory role. She has since played an integral role in running the organization and taking it to the next level. Her passion was rooted in giving people the opportunity to give back to their community through being a trustee in a way not ever previously offered. As she says, "there wasn't a platform out there that engaged young folks to be philanthropists and cultivate the spirit of giving.The UNFoundation funds cool ideas and also fosters philanthropy." Melanie works to "present possible grant ideas to the community, keep trustees fulfilled, and spread passion for the two-fold awesomeness that is The UNFoundation". When not volunteering with The UNFoundation Melanie is the Vice President of Sales for Smart Furniture and tries to spend as much time outdoors as possible.

June 17, 2015 - Kevin Wilson is the author of the collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth (Ecco/Harper Perennial, 2009), which received an Alex Award from the American Library Association and the Shirley Jackson Award. He is also the author of the novel, The Family Fang (Ecco, 2011).

The Family Fang has been published in more than 15 countries, was a New York Timesbestseller, and was listed as one of the best 10 books of the year by Time magazine, People, Esquire, and Booklist. It is currently in production as a feature film.

Wilson's fiction has appeared in Tin House, One Story, Cincinnati Review, American Short Fiction, Oxford American, Ploughshares (one of 10 fiction writers in the Emerging Writers Issue) and elsewhere, and has appeared in four volumes of the New Stories from the South: The Year's Best anthology as well as The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2012. His story "The Choir Director Affair" was adapted for the stage by Heiko Kalmbach and performed at the Theaterhaus Jena in Germany. Wilson has also written nonfiction for the New York Times Magazine, as well as the introduction to the Penguin Classics reprint of Shirley Jackson's The Bird's Nest.

June 24, 2015 - Nashville-native jazz-vocalist Annie Sellick has performed and recorded with most of her heroes (including Joey DeFrancesco, Belá Fleck and Mark O'Connor), enjoyed stardom in her hometown and toured nationally and internationally. Her performance style is to conjure joy and sincerity on the stage and share that with an audience, hooking them into the stories of the songs she sings. Rounding out the duo, Pat Bergeson is as versatile a harmonica player as he is a guitarist. Bergeson has performed and recorded with a long list of chart toppers and cult favorites including Lyle Lovett, Madeleine Peyroux, and Wynonna Judd.

Together, The Babbas cover much musical ground with jazz standards, soulful originals, and cabaret classics. The pair brings a high level of skill, confidence, ease, and charm to each show gaining fans and followers wherever they perform. The music is jazz-based with acoustic guitars, harmonica and some percussion but draws upon many styles creating a show that grooves, soothes, and tells stories.

June 11, 2014 - Debra Frasier spoke about the creative process and what she calls The Country of Lost:

"When your life demands continual creative solutions and the empty white page looms again, there are going to be moments of feeling lost: for ideas, for direction, for the right path. Debra Frasier names this place: The Country of Lost. After twenty-five years of creating award-winning picture books, she has invented practices that help navigate the creative person's landscape of doubts and questions. "Practical, passionate, and contagiously inventive," this presentation will expand and inspire your own creative process techniques."

June 18, 2014 - Jon Meacham is the author, most recently, of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, a New York Timesbestseller that has been named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, The Seattle Times, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Jon received the Pulitzer Prize for American Lion, his bestselling 2008 biography of Andrew Jackson. He is also the author of the New York Timesbestsellers Franklin and Winston and American Gospel. Executive editor and executive vice president of Random House, Meacham is a contributing editor to Time magazine, a former editor of Newsweek, and has written for The New York Times and The Washington Post, among other publications. He is a regular contributor on Meet the Press, Morning Joe, and Charlie Rose. Jon spoke to Shakerag participants and guests about the art of writing.

June 12, 2013 - David Haskell’s work integrates scientific and contemplative studies of the natural world. His book, The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature (Viking, 2012;, was described by E. O. Wilson as "a new genre of nature writing, located between science and poetry." A profile in The New York Times said of Haskell that he "thinks like a biologist, writes like a poet, and gives the natural world the kind of open-minded attention one expects from a Zen monk rather than a hypothesis-driven scientist" ( Haskell holds degrees from the University of Oxford and from Cornell University. He is Professor of Biology at the University of the South.

June 19, 2013 - Susan W. Knowles is an Independent Curator and Art Historian in Nashville, Tennessee. She currently holds a post-doctoral fellowship at the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University, where she received a Ph.D. in Public History in May 2011 with a dissertation on Tennessee marble in civic architecture. Knowles has worked in the museum field for over twenty years.

June 13, 2012 - Rosemary M. Magee serves as Vice President and Secretary of Emory University. In addition to her leadership in university governance and strategic planning, she chairs the university strategic initiative in Creativity and the Arts. In that role, she has sought to strengthen the role and visibility of the arts, and she has led a wide range of "creativity conversations" with artists as well as with noted scientists and scholars from across the disciplines. Rosemary is an artist-in-residence at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences and the Tyrone Guthrie Center.

June 20, 2012 - Hugh Acheson is the chef/partner of Five & Ten and The National located in Athens, GA and Empire State South in Atlanta, GA. Hugh's cookbook, titled A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen, will go on sale in October of 2011. In that cookbook Hugh creates Southern dishes with a new twist, focusing on Southern libations, seasonal vegetables, salads and soups, Hugh's prized sides, and fish and meats. Hugh's fresh approach to Southern food has earned him recognition from food critics, newspaper columnists, restaurant goers, and the toughest of critics, fellow chefs.

June 15, 2011 - Manuel Cuevas is a costumer and an artist who has designed clothing for presidents, athletes, dancers, artists, and movie stars. Often referred to as the "Rhinestone Rembrandt," Manuel says "I do for artists what they need - not what they think they need."

June 22, 2011 - Jeff Schmuki received his M.F.A. from Alfred University and was based in Gulfport, Mississippi until Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home, his studio, and the college where he taught. To this day he is still an itinerant, and moving about from place to place, with no fixed home, has become part of his creative practice. In response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, Jeff now specializes in using found objects and off-grid/renewable power technologies in his work.

June 16, 2010 - Natalie Chanin is the owner and designer of the lifestyle company Alabama Chanin, which produces limited-edition products for the individual and the home, made by talented artisans who live and work in communities in and around Florence, Alabama.

June 23, 2010 - Pam Dorr is the Executive Director of the Hale Empowerment & Revitalization Organization, Inc, (HERO), Housing Resource Center in Hale County, Alabama, working with local citizens to build energy effcient, innovative, cost effective homes for under $20,000 each.

June 17, 2009 - Frank Stitt, owner of the Highlands Bar and Grill and Bottega Restaurant in Birmingham, understands cooking as an art and recognizes the influence of his personal life on his art. Frank's first cookbook, Southern Table, was published in 2004, and he has been recognized by Gourmet and Food and Wine magazines as among the top chefs in America, in addition to receiving the James Beard award as Best Chef of the Southeast.

June 24, 2009 - Andrew Wagner, currently Editor of ReadyMade magazine and former Editor in Chief of American Craft magazine, is particularly interested in the decisions made in editing a magazine and what has gone into developing American Craft magazine into a leading magazine for American art and craft. Andrew was the founding editor of Dwell magazine and has been a leading proponent for celebrating the process of creating, in addition to recognizing the importance of the handmade object in today's society.

June 18, 2008 - William Keener is the owner and operator of Sequatchie Cove Farm in the Sequatchie valley of Middle Tennessee. He has long been a proponent of sustainable agriculture, and from his organic farm he sells meat and produce to regional restaurants and individuals. Bill is passionate about the place of the local rural farmer in today's primarily urban society and in the art of farming.

June 25, 2008 - William Christenberry is a photographer, painter, and sculptor who works with personal and somewhat mythical themes growing out of his childhood experiences in Hale County, Alabama. He has been photographying his home region of rural Hale County for nearly 50 years, documenting the changes that have occurred there over the years. He has become particularly well known for his photographs of the same structure taken over a period of years, showing the changes which occur through time. His interest in the Ku Klux Klan has also occupied him for many years, and he has an extensive collection of Ku Klux Klan materials - paintings, found objects, drawings, sculptures, dioramas, and fabric dolls of klansmen in their hooded robes.

June 13, 2007 - Jeanne Brady and Tim Hintz Jeanne Whitfield Brady has run the Fibers Program at the Appalachian Craft Center since 1999. Her broad range of experience is evident in a fibers program grounded in well-crafted traditional, functional, and exploratory contemporary fiber forms and processes. Her husband Tim Hintz makes traditional ladder-back chairs using locally grown raw materials. He splits pieces from an oak log and shapes them with a drawknife, after which he bends, dries, and assembles the parts into a sturdy chair frame, weaving the seat from hickory bark strips. Jeanne and Tim live and work in Smithville, Tennessee.

June 21, 2007 - Paulus Berensohn a renowned clay artist from Penland, North Carolina, describes himself as an amateur visual artist, a passionate deep ecologist, and a teacher of workshops in clay. He is a poet and a weaver, a philosopher and a writer. He speaks for clay's ecstatic, sensuous nature as the source of life on earth. As the author of Finding One's Way with Clay, he has influenced generations of artists in the basic technique of pinching clay. He describes his work as his attempt "to extend the expressive, to open for the receptive the physical, to include the energetic and the soulfull, to embrace the spiritual."

June 14, 2006 - Alan LeQuire is a sculptor from Nashville, Tennessee, who has become well-known for his public commissions and sensitive portraiture. LeQuire believes that the human figure is the single artistic subject to which all viewers inevitably respond. Monumental, miniature, or life-size, Alan's sculptures manage to achieve a living quality, which contributes to a long-standing career of public commissions and a consistent demand for private collections. Alan is best known for two colossal sculptures in Nashville: Athena Parthenos, the largest indoor sculpture in the western hemisphere, and Musica, one of the largest bronze figure groups in the world.

June 21, 2006 - Micah Sherrill is a self-taught painter living and working in Asheville, North Carolina. His mixed media wall works are filled with surreal and iconic images which he says "allow me to see a subject as I imagine God might see it." Micah has developed a unique palette and technique to use in expressing his artistic vision. Micah is the son of potter Michael Sherrill, under whom he apprenticed from 1999-2004.

June 15, 2005 - Akira Blount is a doll-maker from Bybee, Tennessee. Beginning as a mother making sock dolls for her children, Akira's mastery of needle sculpting has allowed her work to evolve over the years into a highly personal and recognizable style. With her husband Larry, she now combines cloth and natural materials in her figures "to personify the spirit of nature as images of the playful, creative forces of nature." Akira and Larry live and work on their 70-acre farm in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, raising goats and dogs in addition to making dolls.

June 22, 2005 - Dolph Smith is a book artist from Memphis, Tennessee. His home/studio of thirty years in midtown and the Memphis College of Art where he taught for thirty years were only ten minutes from where he was born. Until he moved with his wife Jessie to a new home/studio 50 miles away in the countryside in Ripley, he had, as he says, "not come very far in life." At Memphis College of Art Dolph taught painting and drawing in early years, and, in the late 70's, developed a Hand Papermaking and Book Arts program called "The Flying Vat." Dolph's art works ranged over the years from watercolors and drawings into years of paperworks and sculpture. Currently he is involved with creating one-of-a-kind handmade books.

June 16, 2004 - Sylvia Hyman, renowned clay artist from Nashville, Tennessee, meticulously crafts trompe l'oeil sculptures that reflect her own interests and personal history - letters, maps, scrolls of sheet music, and books - into stoneware and porcelain, and then screenprints them with text, symbols, or images. She places fascinating juxtapositions of these clay objects in a variety of ceramic containers, from berry baskets and wooden boxes to a faux alligator violin case. Sylvia's sculptures inspire both disorientation and delight when viewers realize that everyday objects that appear to be made of wood, cardboard and paper are actually superbly realized simulations made of clay. Sylvia has been a leader in the ceramic world for nearly fifty years.

June 23, 2004 - Andrew Saftel, painter and sculptor from Pikeville, Tennessee, primarily creates mixed media constructions on wood panels. In his work he chronicles his own personal and artistic journey while simultaneously evoking the passage of humanity within modern civilization. Often his work incorporates found objects that have an aura of historical significance. Andrew frequently works with public commissions as well as producing pieces which are collected by individuals and museums throughout the country.

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