In February, Amanda Dillingham was displaying works in the Visual Arts Gallery of The Renaissance Center as part of a reunion exhibition of The Secret Show series. Six months later she is directing exhibits in the Dickson facility's galleries after being named its new curator.

A Fairview native now residing in Nashville, Dillingham joined the center's visual arts faculty and was named curator following the departure of Armon Means, who took a position on the faculty of Kansas State University after two years at The Renaissance Center.

"We are excited to have an artist of Amanda's caliber and talents join the staff," said Bob Kucher, senior director of Fine Arts at The Renaissance Center. "We believe her experience and connections within the Middle Tennessee arts community will be a catalyst in the continued growth of our galleries as exciting and relevant venues for new and established artists."

Dillingham earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fine Arts from Watkins College of Art and Design in Nashville and in July received her Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art from Vermont College of Fine Art in Montpelier, Vt.

"I am very excited to be back in the community where I grew up," said Dillingham. "It's a wonderful thing to be able to graduate from school and come back with fresh enthusiasm and the opportunity to work at such an amazing facility."

Dillingham works in a variety of media, including drawing, video, sculpture and installation. She also recognizes the importance of a research-based studio process, making writing and reading integral to creating.

She has worked with such notable feminist artists as Judy Chicago and Faith Wilding and has exhibited and curated shows across Tennessee, as well as exhibiting in Detroit and New York City.

"I have been lucky to travel extensively to see art and work directly with artists who have lifetime professional careers," Dillingham said. "I feel that these occasions have opened my eyes to what can be considered art as well as how hard the life of an artist can be."

In 2004, Dillingham and Jason Driskill created The Secret Show Series, a series of quarterly shows originally intended to provide exhibit opportunities for Nashville-area arts students but grew to eventually include a slew of instructors and independent artists. The audience always was treated to diverse yet unified exhibits shown for a short period of time -- mostly one night. Once moving nomadically from location to location, the series would eventually find a permanent home in the old industrial area south of downtown Nashville on Chestnut Street.

"The Secret Show Series was integral in my development as an artist and curator. As an artist it gave me deadlines and allowed me to work with ideas of presentation," said Dillingham. "As a curator, Jason and I did everything. Besides just organizing the events we hung the artwork, dealt with the artists, handled the press and more. It was a crash course in curatorial duties."

Several of the artists who were regularly featured in The Secret Show Series, including Dillingham, reunited for an exhibit in the Visual Arts Gallery at The Renaissance Center early in 2008.

In 2006 Dillingham was the Session Chair for the panel Secret Shows: Keeping Art School Graduates Making Art at the Southeastern College Arts Conference and most recently was the assistant director of Watkins College of Art and Design's Community Education program.

"Continuing in the direction of the previous curator, I want to be able to bring in work that is challenging and stimulating in order to create a dialogue about art within in community," said Dillingham. "I also hope to involve the artists showing into the center more through future lectures, workshops and possibly eventually residencies."

To contact Dillingham or to learn more about art exhibits at The Renaissance Center, call (615) 740-5565 or email to The Renaissance Center is a fine arts education and performing arts center at 855 Highway 46 South in Dickson, just 35 miles west of Nashville on Interstate 40 at exit 172.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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