The Nashville Ledger

FLIGHT. 46 | NOPE. 24 | Friday, June 17, 2022

By Hollie Deese

Updated at 3:55 p.m.

At the Nossi College of Art graduation ceremony in Madison earlier this month, the school’s founder Nossi Vatandoost, 88, was on stage to present diplomas to the dozens of students who graduated graduating this year.

It’s what she’s done every year since 1973, having founded the school two years earlier in a friend’s spare room, pregnant with her son Cyrus – now the school’s CEO – to only three students.

The Persian-born artist first came to the country to attend UCLA’s art program before meeting Cyrus’ father, Iraj, who had come to the country from Iran to attend college. Baptist in Texas.

She went with him to Texas, and soon the two were married and transferred to Western Kentucky University together. Iraj and Nossi’s daughter, Lelah, was the first foreign-born child of a student in married accommodation there.

After graduation, they moved to Nashville, one of the few Iranian-Persian families in the area at the time.

“There was nobody like them around,” says his son Cyrus Vatandoost.

After many years of teaching in the Metro Nashville school system, Nossi was frustrated with the lack of money and support for arts programs, so her husband encouraged her to take advantage of her children and start teaching by herself, in her own way.

“She traded with a friend of hers who had an extra room in her house that she could use as a studio, if she promised to teach her child for free,” Cyrus says. It was 1971 and she was charging each student $3 an hour.

Gradually, the effort expanded until Nossi moved to a studio in Madison, then to a location in Hendersonville.

“She worked hard, and it grew,” Cyrus says. “And then the parents started saying, ‘Well, I want to learn to paint.’ Some of my earliest memories were when she had her studio right next to my elementary school, so I could walk there after school.

Cyrus remembers children and adults all coming to learn, as his mother went from room to room, here helping a 10-year-old child with a still life, there helping an adult with an oil painting.

“It was just amazing, the best memories I had,” he says. “I remember watching how she interacted with people of all ages and helped them at all levels. I didn’t go to daycare; I grew up in art school.

Nossi continued to teach while Iraj worked to gain accreditation for the school, steering the business side in a way that helped create a program that translated into jobs for creatives after school. graduation.

Nossi College of Art in Madison began in a room in a friend’s house in 1971.

— Photo by Ed Rode

“It’s about aligning the needs of the community so you can send the graduate who can go out and work,” Cyrus says. “So coding, front-end, web development, it’s necessary. In Nashville right now there are jobs in graphic design, social media, content creation… those kinds of things exist. And people need it right now.

More recently, Nossi opened a culinary arts program due to the current need for chefs in Nashville.

“It’s really difficult to bring these people to Nashville from Chicago or Miami because of the salary structure,” Cyrus says. “They need local talent in a pipeline, and that’s what we’re building. It’s just common sense.”

Over the years, the school grew well beyond that free room and three students, renting space in Rivergate until it got to the point where a campus was needed to continue. to grow and provide students with a better experience.

They found the property in Madison near Ellington Parkway in 2008 and spent two years designing it and another year building it.

The project was initially delayed by the stock market crash which ruined their funding, a situation that ended up working in their favor as contractors whose work had dried up were suddenly price competitive.

“You can never touch it again for what we spent building it, so we were really lucky,” he says. “We moved in and kind of suffered from the recession, which hurt Madison a lot.”

But Cyrus knew Madison would make a comeback, and now he’s in the middle. He was approached by developer Keith Samaroo, who had purchased the property across the street, and they began talking about the school’s vision for the future.

For Cyrus, that meant creating housing for students, and it aligned with Samaroo’s vision for Creative Way Village, a mixed-use commercial and residential development that could provide said opportunity.

“I’m really grateful that Keith saw the vision as well, because he could have done a lot of different things with this development, but he saw the potential,” Cyrus says.

Now, Cyrus says it’s time to reintroduce the school to a changing community that may not even realize that an art school about to celebrate its 50th anniversary is not only 10 minutes by carpool from the city center.

“Nashville was such a small town that everyone knew us,” he says.

The school’s namesake resigned and officially retired in 2021, leaving the school staff to instruct working creative professionals drawn directly from their respective industries.

“We kind of back off,” Cyrus says. “We’re really good at finding people who have the right personality to teach, the right behavior, and then turning them into teachers.”

So not only can students see what the life of a working creative is like – and that there are jobs available – but teachers are inspired by their students’ engagement.

“It’s a community,” Cyrus says.

About Pamela Boon

Check Also

UCLA to welcome sitar legend Shujaat Husain Khan

For more than four decades, Shujaat Khan has been recognized as one of the foremost …