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Misc. VDS Events

What Inspires You? Panel 

Damien Durr


Damien Durr, 
minister, educator, and teacher, inspires, galvanizes, and promotes hope across the county from churches to barber shops to public schools.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, he attended American Baptist College (B.A.), and Vanderbilt University (M.DIV). As Presidential Scholar at ABC, and Kelly Miller Smith Fellow at Vanderbilt, he helped facilitate various initiatives and discussions involving childhood education, juvenile justice, the prison industrial complex, Black Church Studies, and cultural criticism.

He currently serves as the Youth and Young Adult Pastor at the Temple Church in Nashville, Tn.  He is a part of the Children’s Defense Fund Nashville Team focused on Dismantling the Cradle to Prison Pipeline and he serves as a facilitator in the Metro Nashville Public System.  

Lis Valle-Ruiz
Lis Valle-Ruiz
is a third year Ph.D. student in the Homiletics and Liturgics program researching the intersections of preaching, liturgy, performance, and gender studies. She believes that in community we can share the power of performing arts for healing, equality, and liberation. She is an actress and preacher serving faith communities to use performing arts to worship and proclaim. Lis was born and raised in Puerto Rico and has been hovering over theological institutions of higher learning in the continental United States since 2008. Currently, she lives in Nashville while pursuing studies at the Graduate Department of Religion of Vanderbilt University. Enjoy her work at  http://www.lisvalle.com .

Elisheba IsraelElisheba Israel was born and raised in Memphis, TN. She sold her first art piece in the 5th grade to a fellow student for $5. From there she has grown her fine art business exponentially. She has been a part of many shows and won various artist awards since childhood. She graduated from Memphis College of Art in 2006 with a BFA in Computer Arts.

Elisheba was a part of Nashville Black Artists Renaissance and has shown at Columbia State, The Ha Factory, Boheme Collectif, Ansbach Artisans, The Garden Brunch Cafe and other local venues. She has murals in various homes and businesses in Nashville and Memphis. She has done live art at events with the Goo Goo Dolls in Buffalo, NY and was a part of the Norf Wall Fest in Nashville. She was a New York Comic Con artist in 2010 and has also been in various music videos and commercials like Budweiser and Yelawolf.

In 2011, Elisheba started tattooing and opened One Drop Ink Tattoo Parlour and Gallery in Nashville, TN on Jefferson. She recently moved the shop to our current location across from Tennessee State University and it serves as her current fine art and tattoo studio.

Elisheba is now an Award Wining Tattoo Artist in many categories. She was also recently voted Indieville TV’s 2015 Nashville Tattoo Artist of the Year. She prides herself on being a hard working mother and artist everyday.

Thaxton Waters


Thaxton Waters 
is a Tennessee native working and living in the South. With an artist father and a teacher mother, Thaxton has been exposed to the arts as long as he can remember. Following in his parents footsteps as a painter and educator, his work focuses on the rise, decline, and reinvestment of historic communities surrounding Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU). On canvas He channels his love for history and art by primarily working with a collage of emblematic connections, chronological moments and narrative “stills”. In doing so Waters seeks to capture a part of the human experience that allows the viewer to participate in the ‘understanding’ of the sometimes marginalized communities in their own backyard. Waters strives to create work that is timeless while empathetically informing the audience. Currently outside of his personal work, Waters is the curator of the Nashville Public Library and is also founder and creative director of Art History Class Lifestyle Lounge & Gallery which exhibits emerging student artist from the nearby HBCU’s whiles creating educational programming for under-served communities in the Nashville area. The focus of this gallery is to not only provide a platform for young artist but to also serve as a library, antique museum, theater, private studios and meeting place which teaches the history of the surrounding community in a contemporary fashion.


Spirit/Place: Imagining a Creative Community of Art, Advocacy and Action is co-sponsored by: Vanderbilt Divinity School, Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender and Sexuality, Religion in the Arts and Contemporary Culture, Scarritt Bennett Center, Metro Arts, The Curb Center and The  Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership in the Professions.