Meet the Periscope Class of 2023

The Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville proudly announces the selection of the 2023 class of Periscope: Artist Entrepreneur Training (Periscope Nashville), an annual business development intensive that empowers working artists to see their creative practice through an entrepreneurial lens. In 2023, we are celebrating Periscope’s 10th year of creative entrepreneurship! This year’s class consists of 25 artists working in an array of disciplines including visual art, fashion, music, jewelry, and more.

The artists were chosen for Periscope Nashville through a competitive application process and scored by a panel of community reviewers that includes leading artists, curators, musicians, and creative entrepreneurs in Nashville’s arts, culture and business sectors. They will participate in eight weeks of entrepreneurial training followed by six months of individualized mentorship by high-caliber business mentors.

The program culminates at the Periscope Pitch + Artist Entrepreneur Showcase in September where artist entrepreneurs unveil their creative businesses to the community.

Meet the Periscope Class of 2023:

Alexa Lipman 
Visual Art

Alexa Lipman (she/her/hers) is an emerging visual artist based in Nashville, TN. She creates abstract art utilizing mixed media, often incorporating recycled & unlikely materials. A lover of fashion & interior design, her art often reflects texture and dimension. She believes people are not one-dimensional beings thus neither is her art.

Her work is constantly evolving and more recently she has been exploring ways to create dialogue around the effects of technology, innovation, the environment, and our society. Alexa’s art has been featured in Prima Signa Gallery, Nashville Lifestyle Magazine, Wedgewood Houston Artwalk, RE/MAX Homes And Estates, and Cole’s restaurant.

Ariel Bui 

Ariel Bui (she/her/hers) is a Nashville-based musical artist, activist & educator. American Songwriter has said her music “pushes all sorts of boundaries” while Ann Powers of NPR Music has called her a “psychedelic cowgirl cool rockabilly queen”.

Ariel is the founder and owner of Melodia Studio, a music school and collective of teaching artists offering lessons in Nashville, NYC & worldwide online. In addition, she has worked with many social, racial & environmental justice organizations and is in the process of building an off-grid, self-sustainable, Earthship-inspired studio in Taos, New Mexico.

Asia Pyron

Asia Pyron (she/her/hers) is a freelance choreographer and the director of PYDANCE. Asia is originally from Atlanta, GA but received most of her early training at Interlochen Arts Academy in Northern Michigan. After graduating high school, Asia attended the Boston Conservatory at Berklee where she received her B.F.A. in Contemporary Performance and Composition in 2020.

During her time in Boston, she formed her dance collective, PYDANCE, and performed in local dance festivals such as the Boston Contemporary Dance Festival, Onstage360, and the Boston Conservatory WinterWorks concerts. Asia has been commissioned as a guest artist at institutions and companies such as the Boston Conservatory at Berklee, URBANITY Dance, DanceLab NY, and Nolte Academy.

After moving to Nashville, TN, Asia directed and choreographed an original PYDANCE production, “POOL”, created for the 50th Anniversary of the Centennial Art Center. Asia has been awarded various grant and residency opportunities such as the Metro Arts THRIVE Grant, South Arts Cross-Sector Impact Grant in partnership with Creative Parks Nashville, and the Mare Nostrum Elements: Emerging Choreographers Series. Asia currently resides in Nashville, TN, where she continues to create work for PYDANCE and other dance organizations throughout the country.


Beth Barnard
Visual Art, Sculpture

Beth Barnard (she/her/hers) has traveled a winding path to sculpture. Born in Alton, Illinois, she enjoyed drawing pictures of faces while her mother poured molds, painted and glazed to fire in their household kiln. Barnard continued exploring her creative side in high school art classes, and fell in love with photography.

She moved to Nashville and graduated from Peabody College, majoring in Biology, and became Nuclear Medicine Technologist at Vanderbilt Hospital, scanning pictures and running blood tests on almost every structural and functional part of the human body. The work patients and their families then awakened an interest in social work, in which she earned her Masters, followed by a career as a psychotherapist. But in 2017 her daughter helped out at a summer camp run by Nashville sculptor Alan LeQuire, and on a whim Barnard attended an Open Studio to try sculpting herself.

Those open studios awakened her passion, and sculpting became a way to express her observations of humanity in a more tactile way, focusing on expressions and body language in the pieces she created. After an inspiring trip to Italy with her daughter to see The David and works by Bernini and Rodan, Barnard used the Pandemic lockdown to study sculpting more seriously, studying artistic anatomy, taking a number of on-line courses, and attending a number of portrait and figurative workshops across the country. This study and focus helped her begin to map out her creative journey.

Barnard’s instructors over the years have also been a great source of inspiration. Most recently she has been developing relationships with other artists at her studio at the Clay Lady Campus in Nashville. She has been able to participate in various shows and exhibits throughout the area, continues to develop relationships with other sculptors in classes in other cities, and has been able to take her first piece to be bronzed. She looks forward to seeing where her sculptures will evolve as she continues to pursue life with her art, family, and Standard Poodle, Odie.

Brooke Hoffert
Public Art/Creative Placemaking, Visual Art, Curatorial Arts

Brooke Hoffert (they/them/theirs) is a curator and writer based in Nashville, Tennessee specializing in LGBTQ+ visual and performing arts. They hold a master’s degree in History of Art from University College London located in London, England.

Inspired and intrigued by the depths of queerness, they explore themes of love, utopianism, trauma, and queer identity through writings and exhibitions. They started FEMME in 2022 to explore the vast community of queer artists in the United States South. They are a contributing writer for Floorr Magazine, an artist-run, London-based publication spotlighting emerging and established creatives. They are also a contributor and board member for Number, an arts journal of the USA South for over 36 years. Their curatorial practice goal is to create a space where inclusivity, connectivity, and thought-provoking art can thrive.

Bryson Finney

Bryson Finney (he/him/his) is the director and co-founder of the We Are Nashville Festival, an annual music festival in Nashville ,TN with a mission of building community through music. Passionate about working with children and the community, Bryson has served in education as an arts educator and instructional coach for the past 15 years.

He currently works as a district Instructional Specialist for Metro Nashville Public Schools, leading in the implementation of technology integration for all content areas, enhancing the student experience and increasing his avenue of impact.

Bryson has also served the Nashville community as the Nashville Symphony Accelerando Coordinator, supporting the development of students from diverse ethnic backgrounds for careers in music. He served as the Music Technology Content Lead for the CMA Foundation’s Unified Voices for Music Education Initiative in 2020, a 2022 Yamaha 40 under 40 in Music Education recipient, a 2022 Nashville Emerging Leader in the category of Education by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce and Young Professionals Nashville, and most recently selected as a 2022 Nashville Black 40 under 40 recipient.

Cassy Laessig
Visual Art

Cassy Laessig (she/her/hers) is an on-location beauty, creative and special effects hair and makeup artist who has been transforming the human canvas for most of her life. As a highly skilled, passionate and accredited young industry professional, she has worked various fashion shows, red carpet events, photo and video shoots, weddings and live events.

Inspiring brides to push the limits of tradition, Cassy strives to bring engagements, bachelorette parties, weddings and elopement visions to life with Nashty Bride. Owned and creatively directed by Cassy, Nashty Bride is the ultimate online shop and guide for premier local artists and businesses in middle Tennessee.

Cassy began her journey in Upper Michigan where she pursued a certificate in Cosmetology. She then relocated to Los Angeles, California to complete the Master Makeup Artistry Program at Makeup Designory. Cassy currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee where she continues to explore new passions and business ventures.

Dalia Garcia
Visual Art

“Music paints a picture, colors sing.” American painter and bilingual singer/songwriter Dalia Garcia (she/her/hers) grew up in Madrid, Spain and Irmo, South Carolina. She has lived in Nashville for over 25 years. She holds a B.A. in Art Studio from the University of South Carolina.

Dalia grew up in a U.S. Military family, like a modern nomad. She has many passions; music took her around the world, singing backup and a duet with Julio Iglesias.

Influenced by experiences in diverse cultures, she shares her dream world. Her expressionistic-style paintings are the result of exploration of the peaceful harmonious coexistence of nature, people, and the power of color, shape, and movement. “I choose to live in the now, and hone in on the optimism, playfulness and serenity of a simple, beautiful moment.”

Darius Montgomery
Fashion/Textiles, Visual Art

Often the question arises, does art imitate life or does life imitate art? As an artist, Darius Montgomery (he/him/his) understands both positions and how a conclusion can be drawn from both. However, the expansion and innovation of man must thrive from life imitating art. He believes the essential universe itself was created by an omnipresent spiritual creator. A direct spoken word of art, “In the beginning, God CREATED the heavens and the earth…” A masterpiece of humanity and life was formed.

Montgomery seeks to provide a small but major contribution to the world through his own primordial creation of abstract art taking a spiritual journey that explodes with matter, energy, space, and time. We all are human beings having spiritual experiences that bring us from darkness to light and from light to darkness cyclically, hoping to one day break through and maximize our potential. During this voyage we must not forget during this process we have a divine intervention and light comes from darkness. Art is forever.

Gina Sicilia
Music, Culinary Art

Gritty soul and blues singer Gina Sicilia (she/her/hers) is a Philadelphia born, Nashville based, Italian dual citizen who has established herself as a creative entrepreneur for the better part of two decades. Songwriting and singing are second nature to Sicilia, who has released 10 internationally acclaimed studio albums to date, many of which have landed on the Billboard Blues chart along with receiving worldwide press, radio play, and acclaim.

In addition to opening for such artists as Joe Bonamassa, Joan Osborne, Beth Hart, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Johnny Winter, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Sicilia has toured internationally and is currently in the studio working on her 11th release, which will be a tribute to soul legend Sam Cooke.

In 2021 Sicilia launched an Italian food business called Gina’s Italian Cuisine and has found considerable success at farmers markets, pop-up/catering events, and creatively combines this passion with music as a unique offering to her audiences in Nashville and beyond.

Grace Chee
Visual Art

Grace Chee (she/her/hers) is a Nashville based photographer who specializes in food and lifestyle photography. Originally from South Carolina, Grace attended Vanderbilt University to complete her Bachelors and Masters degrees and, ultimately, remained in Nashville to start her career in higher education. During this time, Grace created a food blog and began to cook and take photos of her meals at home.

In 2022, Grace officially launched her part-time photography business, Photographed by Grace, and has since collaborated with local culinary business owners, chefs and restaurants to capture delicious food on camera. Outside of work, Grace enjoys watercolor painting, illustration, attending live concerts with her husband, and enjoying time with her kids—two mini dachshunds.

Kayleigh Walder
Public Art/Creative Placemaking, Visual Art

Kayleigh Walder (she/her/hers) is a multimedia artist living and working in Nashville. She has an equal love for photography and painting. Duality is a recurring theme in her work regardless of medium and she draws inspiration from a life split between the deep south and the west coast.

While her current photographic body of work primarily focuses externally on the relationship between subject, viewer, and artist, her paintings come from an internal place, typically exploring color, texture, and shape as a means to convey movement and emotions. When she is not making art, she runs a pop-up art market here in town called The Wicked Market with 2 of her best friends.

Kristin Wiens Keyes
Public Art/Creative Placemaking

Kristin Weins Keyes (she/her/hers) lives in Nashville with her husband, three daughters, and a very furry cat. Kristin holds a B.A. from Stanford University and an M.Ed. from Harvard University. Prior to launching Kristin Keyes Interiors, she was a school leader and relentless advocate for education reform.

From those years, Kristin brings a strong sense of responsibility for her community and environment to both her interior designs and business practices. Kristin’s work embodies a broad knowledge of interior design principles, an eye for elegant solutions to difficult design challenges, and commitment to understanding and embracing the needs of her clients.

Leroy Ramon Dawson
Visual Art

Whether creating a composition for someone else or doodling to pass the time, Leroy Dawson (he/him/his) has always been drawn to drawing! His love of illustration started at a young age, admiring his cousins, cartoons, and comics. As he practiced and learned, pencil in hand, Leroy knew he wanted to draw for a living. It wasn’t until he returned home to Mount Pleasant, SC in 2008 that he really pondered an artistic career and began his studies in the graphic arts.

Since then, the goal has been to forge a life creating. He has done a multitude of assignments as a freelancer with no particular theme or style across his works. He knew he loved to draw things, and he cherished the feelings and reactions when he showed off a finished piece. In all he draws and paints, the end goal is the same – to have fun getting immersed in the process and share his love of drawing things with others.

Lisa Jennings
Visual Art

Lisa Jennings (she/her/hers) is a modern primitive painter & sculptor, celebrating 25 years as a full time artist, teacher and mentor. The heart of Lisa’s work is inspired by nature and a deep connection to spirit that offers an experience for the viewer to reflect.

Lisa gathers found objects from the woods and streams of TN and her many travels abroad as a source for her many multi faceted organic works.

She is a museum collected artist with sculptures and paintings placed in corporate, hospital, and private collections nationally and internationally.

Martha Morales Purucker
Visual Art

Martha Morales Purucker (she/her/hers) was born and raised in Mexico City, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts. Morales Purucker creates, designs, collaborates and teaches art in glass, mosaic, and sculpture. Spanish is her first language.

Growing up hard of hearing and then becoming deaf was a challenge in every way. She became fluent in English while studying abroad as a kid. Morales Purucker earned her Bachelor’s degree, traveled and worked her internship in the USA. Morales Purucker was able to hear again after being implanted with a Cochlear Implant. This has shaped how she interacts, works and collaborates with people.

In 2014 Morales Purucker discovered kilnforming glass at This Little Light Creative Glass Art and Gallery. Since then, she has learned much through her work with several glass and mosaic masters and other art mentors. She has created art with different art mediums like kilnforming glass, stained glass, mosaic, paint and sculpting. Her art is currently on display at Arts at the Airport and TN Craft Midstate “Identity Crisis: Who are we becoming” “Marisol”, ABC x NSC 2023 Soundwaves Gallery at GEODIS Park exhibit “Nashville in Rhythm” “Dancing Flowers”. Cochlear Americas Headquarters Lobby “Inspire Us” “Mc Cochlear Implant”.

Princella Smith
Film/Television, Literary Arts

Princella Smith (she/her/hers) is a Regional Emmy-nominated director, producer, author, and media personality.

Princella formerly served as a political strategist having worked as a Communications Director on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC and for several high profile elected officials and political figures. Her political media experience includes numerous features on various national outlets as a commentator on current events and a primetime political speech at Madison Square Garden.

In 2016, Princella shifted her focus from politics to impacting culture through the arts by developing projects that unite Americans. She is the creator and co-author of the Beauty for Ashes (BFA) Book Series about survivors and first responders of the Oklahoma City Bombing. Two BFA books, Mother Goose and The Firefighter’s Hands are out for release on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Her book about blind bombing hero, Raymond Washburn, is titled Walk In The Light and set for release in 2023.

Princella wrote, produced, and directed an Oklahoma City Bombing-themed Public Service Announcement (PSA) titled “The World Watched” on behalf of Survive First, an organization promoting PTSD treatment in first responders. The PSA garnered a 2020 Boston / New England Regional Emmy nomination and a Communicator Award of Distinction from the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts. Princella holds a B.A. in Political Science from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas. She studied Counter-Terrorism and Cyber Security at the Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel which has since been renamed Reichman University.

Renea Weston

Renea Sings (she/her/hers) is a Native Washingtonian. She has a captivating way of gaining the attention of her audience and bringing a message of HOPE with her warm and transparent personality. As she invites others to share in her journey’s experiences from a teenage mom and head of the household at 17 years of age, to performing in Las Vegas; she will inspire “hope” in others to pursue their dreams as well.

Today, Renea uses her gift of song to encourage others. Regardless of where you are on your journey no one can take away your destiny because no one gave it to you. You were born with it. There’s HOPE!

She has performed with 2019 Dove Awards’ New Artist of the Year Aaron Cole in Nashville Life Music Video “Sing A Song”, BET’s Jeff Majors, Congressman Derek Davis, and have toured Washington DC, and Las Vegas with the Legendary William DeVaughn, you know him best for his 70’s hit “…diamond in the back, sunroof top, dig’n the scene with the gangsta lean…” song entitled; “Just be Thankful For What You Got”. Lending her talent to community events such as JAA Foundation with Vivica Fox, National Park Service Summer Concert Series, Radio One’s One Love Festival, Clancey’s Café (Room In The Inn Shelter), and the Nashville Rescue Mission. She is honored to have received Certificate of Awards for Outstanding Service for Tutorial Program, and Outstanding Volunteer P.G. Department of Family Services.

Stay tuned for her Debut Single titled “Destiny”! Destiny brings a diverse, timely and relevant message of HOPE at a time when so many have lost hope. She will leave you inspired to pursue YOUR DESTINY.

Sam Drapeaux
Visual Art

Tennessee is lucky to be home to the versatile visual artist Sam Drapeaux (they/them/theirs), who specializes in creating paintings, sculptures, and digital art. After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of South Dakota, Sam moved to Nashville in 2016 to work with the MetroParks Theater Division along with many other theaters. They work as a stagehand and technician, do graphic design work for shows, and they do lighting, audio, costume, and set/prop design.

Despite their busy schedule, Sam devotes what little free time they have to creating imaginative and magical artwork. All their life, Sam knew they wanted to make comics, and they recently began creating four different stories full of dark fantasy, love, and real life issues. Additionally, Sam is married, has 3 human children, 2 dogs, 3 cats, 2 bunnies, and a hamster.

Sharita Henderson
Visual Art

Sharita Henderson (she/her/hers) is a Music Business and Public Relations MTSU graduate and a former Interim Promotions Director for 92Q Cumulus Media. She is an acrylic paint artist focusing on urban art and activism. Sharita’s work exists to bring culture to canvas to create a safe space for urban artists to thrive.

Sharita is a 2018 Antioch Waffle House Mass Shooting survivor. She became a social justice advocate who uses her platform to educate mental health and disability resources, champion victim and survivor rights, and eradicate gun violence.

Sharita is an American Red Cross global ambassador through her #SharitaStrong initiative. She hosted telethons and the largest African-American blood donation radiothon in the Southeast region’s history. She also testified in partnership with 24-7 The People’s Filibuster for Gun Safety before the U.S. Congress, which resulted in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act being passed.

Stephanie Graves
Visual Art

Stephanie Graves (she/her/hers) is a photographer and commercial retoucher. She is in recovery and recently began working in the treatment field. She is working to join art and recovery through products, content, workshops, and speaking engagements.

She recently began speaking and teaching workshops on all aspects of recovery and addiction, as well as creative tools of healing to college students.

She attended the Art Institute of TN where she earned a Bachelor’s in Digital Photography, and Eckerd College earning a degree in Human Development. She also utilizes social media as a form of service and creative expression, and hopes to bring more information about recovery to the masses through these different platforms.

Susan Thornton

Susan Thornton (she/her/hers) was born in Orlando, Florida, but has spent the majority of her life in the
Nashville area. “I have always found the greatest joy in the process of making things
since I was a small child.” Her great love of the arts and creative process led her to complete degrees in fashion design from Tennessee Tech and the University of Tennessee Knoxville with a BFA in Metals from the Appalachian Center for Craft.

Susan has been fortunate to have worked with some of the finest fashion and accessory design companies in the US prior to launching her jewelry company, Thornton Metals. In her studio outside Nashville in Lebanon, Tennessee she produces one of a kind and limited edition jewelry pieces. Her work is exhibited nationally and featured in the book Creative Metal Forming by Betty Helen Longhi and Cynthia Eid.

Thalia Ewing

Thalia Ewing, aka Muziqueen (she/her/hers), is a native of Nashville, TN and has an extensive career in the music business spanning nearly 20 years. It includes artist management, copyright, licensing, and royalties to name a few. She has worked for some of the biggest companies in music such as Sony Music Entertainment, Sony Music Publishing, EMI Music Publishing and BMG Rights Management.

Muziqueen is the founder of Nashville Is Not Just Country Music, a lifestyle brand dedicated to celebrating Nashville’s diverse music scene through community, opportunity, resources and education. She has a passion for music and aims to bring positive, life changing opportunities to the creative community. Her spunky and ambitious personality makes her a power player in Nashville’s music scene.

Tree Lily Butcher
Visual Art

Born in Nashville, TN, Tree Lily Butcher (they/them/theirs) knew what they wanted to be very early in life: in the words of 7-year-old Tree, “I want to be when I grow up I will be an artist and a mom because being a mom is the best job in the world. An artist is a good job too I think because I love to paint pictures.”

As a high school student at The Webb School in Bell Buckle, TN, Tree started her own zine Sheep Grenade which caused quite a stir in the small country town due to age appropriate obscenity. Through this experimental zine, they found her love of hand-cut collage.

In March of 2020, Tree Lily was 3 months pregnant, an unemployed server full of fear, anxiety and depression. So, they shut themself into their home art studio and ripped apart magazines while the world split at the seams. Change is at the very core of hand-cut collage and change is what inspired her to pursue art professionally.

Yamil Conga

Yamil Conga- the name says it all.

From his unique approach to playing congas that reminds you of a band playing in a back alley in Old San Juan, to being one of the very few to incorporate live percussion with DJ, Yamil Conga (he/him/his) is a true trailblazer on the music scene. A native of Puerto Rico and a current resident of Nashville, Yamil has benefitted from a vast array of musical influences.

Yamil was shaped into an extremely versatile DJ, MC, Entertainer, Drummer, and Percussionist, acquiring essential drumming fundamentals from his jazz instructor, Nick Forte, at the neighborhood school of music and the Educational Center for The Arts.

Yamil Conga has toured nationally and internationally as a Live Dj and Drummer. Yamil Conga continues to follow in the footsteps of his father Eladio Jimenez by bringing a dynamic musical flare to Music City USA. His out-of-the-box, emotional, and heartfelt approach to drumming is contagious. To Yamil, drumming is a lifeline and part of the essence that makes us human. Yamil can’t wait to see you out on the dance floor!