Nashville nonprofits come together to help city trees

One Nashville East art exhibition Fundraising at the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center will be open to the public through Sunday to benefit tree canopy restoration and the new Friends of Lockeland Springs park.

Mayor John Cooper spoke at the event’s opening reception Wednesday night, emphasizing support for local nonprofit leaders in their fight to conserve and grow Nashville’s green spaces.

The art exhibition, titled “Speaking for the Trees”, features paintings by members of The chestnut group, a collective of landscape painters who support land conservation in Middle Tennessee. The group is led by President Judson Newbern, who was inspired by community efforts to replant trees in Lockeland Springs Park after the March 2020 tornadoes.

This replanting effort, led by volunteers from the Nashville Tree Conservation Corps, has turned into a long-term investment by community members and nonprofit organizations in Lockeland Springs Park, which recently expanded by four acres after a coalition of nonprofits raised $1.6 million with support from the Metro City Council.

Mayor John Cooper addressed guests at the “Speaking for the Trees” Art Sale Opening Reception at the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center on April 6, 2022.

The art sale will raise funds dedicated to restoring the neighborhood’s tree canopy, removing invasive species, and forming an operational endowment for the Friends of Lockeland Springs Park.

Of the dollars raised at the event, 45% will go to the artists, 45% will go to the nonprofit fund, and 10% will go to the Chestnut Group to cover operational and event costs. There are over 175 paintings for sale, and 22 of them have been donated by artists so that 100% of the proceeds can benefit the fund.

The Nashville Tree Conservation Corps helped organize the fundraiser for the “Speaking for the Trees” art sale at the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center on April 6, 2022.

Newbern said he hopes people will not only buy the art, but also feel inspired when they encounter the beauty of nature through landscape paintings.

“I think it can be a channel,” Newbern said. “I hope they find in some of the pieces a trigger for what they enjoyed in an outdoor space. And if they want to take it home to live with, then the painter can feel connected and that ‘he translated something into someone else’s language.’

'Fallen Warrior' by Kathleen Sparkman was for sale during the 'Speaking for the Trees' fundraiser at the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center on April 6, 2022.

Newbern is also a board member of the Nashville Tree Conservation Corps, whose mission is to strengthen tree codes in Davidson County so that more trees are protected as development in the city continues to grow.

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Mayor Cooper echoed that goal in praising the Root Nashville campaign, which is working to plant 500,000 trees by 2050. Nashville’s trees not only face development, but are also threatened by the emerald borer. invasive ash as well as tornadoes and bad weather.

Cooper said he hopes to see other neighborhoods follow in the footsteps of the East Nashville Lockeland Springs area, and thanked the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center for helping host the art exhibit.

“Preserving land, protecting tree canopy and securing green space requires collective action,” Cooper said. “Together, our work will ensure access to green space for now and the future. This is how you build a great city. One great neighborhood at a time.”

Patrons watch as Mayor John Cooper delivers remarks at the 'Speaking for the Trees' Art Sale Opening Reception at the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center on April 6, 2022.

Contact journalist Molly Davis at or on Twitter @mollym_davis.

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