Artist James R. Threalkill is a native of Nashville, Tennessee. After being alerted of his budding art talent by his first grade teacher, James began painting at the age of 13 with an oil painting set purchased by his mother who was the biggest supporter of his development as an artist. After graduating from East Nashville High School, James was offered an athletic scholarship by legendary football coach Bill Parcells to play football at Vanderbilt University where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Fine Arts.
Upon graduating from college, James returned to the public housing communities where he grew up to conduct neighborhood art classes for youth while serving as an instructor for the Metro Nashville Board of Parks and Recreation’s art department. He taught classes in painting, drawing, and batik at the Centennial Art Center for youth, adults, and seniors.
James would later become the Community Services Director and art instructor for the old South Street Community Center which later became known as the Edgehill Center, Inc. It was during his seven year tenure at Edgehill that James developed an award-winning mural program for disadvantaged youth living in the Edgehill public housing community. His work was recognized in 1994 when he won an Emmy-Award for a mural produced with his students for the Viacom Cable Network. James and the students teamed with fellow artist Michael McBride to create murals in downtown Nashville, the Nashville International Airport and the Vanderbilt Pediatric Clinic.
James became the first executive director for the 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee where he developed programs for young African American boys in elementary school.
James would later be appointed by then Mayor Phil Bredesen to his cabinet as the Community Affairs and Arts Liaison for the City of Nashville, Tennessee. James was designated as a founding Board member of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and also served as a commissioner for the Metro Nashville Arts Commission and the Tennessee Arts Commission.
After his work with Mayor Bredesen, James went on to become an art instructor at Montgomery Bell Academy before accepting his current position as the Senior Director of Diversity for Skanska USA Inc., a global construction management firm where he promotes opportunities for women and minority-owned businesses.
James collaborated with fellow artist Michael McBride and Metro Nashville schoolteachers Gracie Porter, Claudette Mitchell, and Patricia Cousins to develop a groundbreaking children’s book series entitled; “Visions: African American Experiences” which later was featured on Sesame Street. James’ creation “Gulf Coast Sunset” was featured in the Disney Movie “Snow Dogs” with actors Cuba Gooding, Jr. and James Coburn. His work has also been featured on the television series “The Jamie Foxx Show” and “Living Single”.
James was one of 12 artists selected from the State of Tennessee to participate in the new millennium collection for the Gannett Foundation.
In 1995, James was invited to travel to South Africa to coordinate a mural project with students in Soweto, South Africa. It was during this trip that James had the experience of a lifetime when he met face to face with President Nelson Mandela. The mural featuring images of Mandela, Steve Biko, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and singer Miriam Makeba would later be permanently displayed at the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto where Mandela and Biko first started planning the freedom movement to protest the apartheid regime in South Africa.
James’ painting “Guitar Solitude” featuring one of the South African youth he worked with won the “Best of Show” Award in the Central South Art Exhibition in 1996.
James traveled to Columbia, South America in 2010 to participate in an artist’s residency program for the Centro Columbo Americana. He spent a month painting murals and lecturing to students at local schools and universities. He returned in 2012 as a guest of the U.S. Embassy in Bogota’ to travel to the Columbian cities of Barranquilla, Bogota, Cali, Cartagena, Medellin’, and Quibdo to participate as a guest lecturer to students.
James’ artwork is included in numerous corporate and private collections including; Fisk University, Meharry Medical College, Tennessee State University, The Dollar General Corporation, The Tennessee State Museum, Columbia State Community College, Governor and First Lady Phil Bredesen and Andrea Conte’, Cal and Maggie Turner, Actress Kim Fields, Musician Kirk Whalum, NFL stars Eddie George, Marcus Robinson, Kevin Carter, and radio personality Tom Joyner.
James R. Threalkill’s artwork represents a passion for the beauty of life and the vibrancy of color and movement. His images capture the essence of individuals and their various lifestyles. His appreciation for the spontaneity of jazz is clearly evident in his musical creations. His textured abstracts display the freedom of creativity that he balances with his expressive realism.