Doug Lehmann documents a
in Nashville, Tennessee
by Kate Mothes
“One of the things that made this project so special was that it was really about empowering people to be creative and what that can be in your lives if you let it be,” says Bryce McCloud in the opening of a new short film about Nashville’s Our Town. Founded in collaboration with the city in 2014, the project initially took the form of a bike cart that traveled to different neighborhoods and events, inviting the public to make self-portraits. Using geometric stamps as an accessible entry point—no artistic background necessary—people could trade in their own portraits for a letterpress print of someone else’s portrait in exchange. In the process, the accumulated portraits created a broader portrait of the community as a whole.
Nashville-based filmmaker Doug Lehmann began documenting the project as it evolved over time, and following its screening at U.S. film festivals throughout 2021 and 2022, the public release of his short film marks ten years since the idea for the project was first conceived. “The Our Town art project is remarkable because it frames these portraits in the citywide context in which they were created, creating a unique and authentic expression of Nashville that differs from the more traditional murals, monuments, or sculpture,” he says. Filmed over the course of four years, the documentary traces the artists’ journey and process as the project unfolded.
Our Town has expanded to embrace more cities, including a collaboration with The Bubbler at Madison Public Library for Our Town Everywhere, a series of residencies, exhibitions, and community programming in Wisconsin. Find more information about the original Our Town on its website.
All images © Doug Lehmann and Our Town Nashville