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Bennetta Nelson West

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Information about Bennetta Nelson West

Profile image of Bennetta Nelson West

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Nonprofit Chief Executive
Academic Administrator

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Black
Favorite Food:
Shoko
Favorite Time of Year:
October
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Favorite Quote:
Everyone Has A Purpose.

Birthplace

Born:
10/19/1944
Birth Location:
Memphis, Tennessee

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Nonprofit Chief Executive
Academic Administrator

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Black
Favorite Food:
Shoko
Favorite Time of Year:
October
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Favorite Quote:
Everyone Has A Purpose.

Birthplace

Born:
10/19/1944
Birth Location:
Memphis
See how Bennetta Nelson West is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Bennetta "Bennie" Nelson West has used her business acumen and passion about the value of African American arts and culture to help celebrate and nurture the arts in her community. Born on October 19, 1944 in Memphis, Tennessee, to Benjamin H. Nelson, letter carrier and entrepreneur and Jeannette Brown Nelson, an educator, Nelson West is the founding executive director of the Memphis Black Arts Alliance, Inc.

Nelson West earned her bachelor's degree from Tuskegee Institute (now, Tuskegee University) in Tuskegee, Alabama in 1962. She later received her M.S. degree from Columbia University in New York City in 1979 and pursued both a doctorate in higher education and an executive masters in business administration from the University of Memphis between 1986 and 1988. While living in New York City between 1968 and 1978, Nelson West became active in the black arts movement where she studied and participated in the theatre, dance, and visual arts industry, settling on a part-time career as a potter operating ClaySpirits Studio in Manhattan. Seeking to merge her arts and business interests, Nelson West received additional training in Arts Management from the New School of Social Research in New York City and the Arts Management in Community Institute through the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund and the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts.

Upon return to her hometown in 1978, Nelson West joined the Continuing Education Department of Shelby State Community College, where she organized the First National African American Crafts Conference & Jubilee and edited a companion book with noted African American artist and scholar Dr. David Driskell. This conference became a precursor to the National Black Arts Festival. In 1982, while continuing as a college administrator, Nelson West organized artists and arts groups to found the Memphis Black Arts Alliance, Inc., the city’s first regional arts and cultural organization which celebrates and nurtures artistic excellence and black heritage, headquartered in the historic 1912 fire station restored as the FireHouse Community Arts Center.

Under Nelson West’s leadership, the organization introduced the Greater Memphis region to nationally recognized black artists in touring theater and dance companies, writers and art exhibitions as well as supporting the development of local talent with the FireHouse Community Arts Academy, the FireHouse Little Theater and the FireHouse Gallery. Additionally, in 1999, she conceived and organized the annual FireHouse Community Arts Festival at Soulsville, USA in Memphis.

Nelson West is the widow of visual artist Leonard D. West and the mother of three.

See how Bennetta Nelson West is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Bennetta Nelson West's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Bennetta Nelson West lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her father's occupations, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her father's occupations, pt. 2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Bennetta Nelson West describes the stories her father told
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her father's organizational involvements
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her mother's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Bennetta Nelson West describes how her parents met and her mother's occupations
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her parents' personalities
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Bennetta Nelson West describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Bennetta Nelson West describes the neighborhood of Orange Mound in Memphis, Tennessee where she grew up
  • Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her experience at Lutheran Cooperative School, Melrose High School, and Hamilton High school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her childhood experiences
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Bennetta Nelson West talks about her experiences in ballet class and church plays
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her experiences at Melrose High School in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Bennetta Nelson West describes the influence of her Girl Scout leader, Arvon Thigpen
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her involvement with the Civil Rights Movement and the NAACP Youth Council, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her involvement with the Civil Rights Movement and the NAACP Youth Council, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her involvement with the Civil Rights Movement and the NAACP Youth Council, pt. 3
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Bennetta Nelson West describes enrolling at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama to study food service administration, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Bennetta Nelson West describes enrolling at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama to study food service administration, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Bennetta Nelson West describes becoming interested in the arts in New York City
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Bennetta Nelson West describes moving to New York City, New York to attend the Teachers College of Columbia University in 1968
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her experience as an assistant administrator of the Head Start training program in 1966 in Tuskegee, Alabama
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her experience working in Southern California in the summer of 1968
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her introduction to the cultural scene and civil rights movement in New York City, New York in 1968
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her involvement with the Civil Rights Movement at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her experience in the arts scene in New York City and Newark, New Jersey
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her introduction to making art from clay
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Bennetta Nelson West describes the African American artists she met and saw in New York City, New York
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Bennetta Nelson West describes the African aesthetic in the visual arts
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Bennetta Nelson West describes how African American spiritualism is related to African survivalisms
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Bennetta Nelson West describes how African American arts, traditions, and perseverance are related to African survival
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Bennetta Nelson West describes the aesthetics of the art community in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Bennetta Nelson West describes the political influence of African American arts movements
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Bennetta Nelson West describes how black arts create pride and community
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Bennetta Nelson West lists some of her favorite African American artists
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Bennetta Nelson West describes moving home to Memphis, Tennessee and planning a symposium of African American crafts
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Bennetta Nelson West describes founding the Memphis Black Arts Alliance
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Bennetta Nelson West describes the diverging missions of the Memphis Black Arts Alliance in the 1980s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Bennetta Nelson West describes reviving the Memphis Black Arts Alliance in 1996
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her hopes for the future of the Memphis Black Arts Alliance
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Bennetta Nelson West describes the difference between the Memphis Black Arts Alliance and other Memphis cultural institutions
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Bennetta Nelson West describes her hopes and concerns for the African American Community
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Bennetta Nelson West talks about the artists who are on faculty at the FireHouse Community Arts Academy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Bennetta Nelson West reflects upon her legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Bennetta Nelson West describes how she would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Bennetta Nelson West narrates her photographs