Memphis Artist Nancy Cheairs Wins $10,000 Emmett O'Ryan Award

Memphis Artist Nancy Cheairs Wins $10,000 Emmett O'Ryan Award

MEMPHIS, TN (October 1, 2019) – ArtsMemphis is pleased to announce local visual artist Nancy Cheairs is the recipient of the ninth annual Emmett O’Ryan Award for Artistic Inspiration. The award, known informally as "The Emmett," is given annually by Renasant Bank to a distinguished visual artist in Shelby County. It is named in honor of Emmett O'Ryan, a founding Board Member of Metropolitan Bank, which merged with Renasant in 2017. Cheairs is known for her deeply-hued oil paintings with narrative landscapes that shift between abstraction and realism.

Nancy Cheairs, right, 2019 Emmett O’Ryan Award for Artistic Excellence recipient, pictured with Renasant Bank Memphis President, Dan Reid, and Ruthie O’Ryan, daughter of Emmett O’Ryan and member of the ArtsMemphis Artist Advisory Council.



The Emmett is the largest unrestricted cash award given to a visual artist in Shelby County.

“Renasant Bank is pleased to partner with ArtsMemphis and honor the memory of Emmett O’Ryan,” said Renasant Memphis President, Dan Reid. “The O’Ryan family has been very involved in the visual arts and we are excited to be a part of the legacy.  Renasant works closely with the arts community and 501(c)(3) organizations through financing and various bank provided services, to help support the good work in our community.” Reid concluded. 

As the recipient of this prestigious award, Cheairs receives $10,000. Nominees for The Emmett are selected by a committee comprised of artists, curators, and members of ArtsMemphis' Artist Advisory Council.  Nominating committee members this year included Kimberly Diana Jacobs, independent curator, Beth Edwards, University of Memphis professor and 2017 Emmett Award recipient, and Ken Hall, Intrepid Arts.


Emmett O’Ryan Award finalists for 2019, (l-r) Lester J. Merriweather, Nancy Cheairs, and Greely Myatt.



“The Emmett Award finalists are all deserving and accomplished artists,” noted ArtsMemphis President and CEO Elizabeth Rouse. “This year’s finalists represent the best of our city’s visual art community. While pushing the boundaries of contemporary art in Memphis, they have advanced the work of other artists and the artistic landscape of our city.” 

“The decision process is not easy due to the level of talent within the community. Nancy was selected this year in recognition, not only of her body of work, but also for her commitment to ensuring others find the joy in creating art through classes provided at Flicker Street Studio which offers art instruction for people of all ages and employment opportunities for other visual artists,” Rouse said. 

Nancy Cheairs is a native Memphian. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The Memphis College of Art and a Master of Fine Arts from The University of Memphis. Her work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums throughout the country. 
In 2010, Cheairs founded Flicker Street Studio - an art school that provides programs that differ from existing degree-focused schools. Cheairs believes that an art education should be accessible to all ages and all skill levels. 

Cheairs is currently working towards a solo show at the Mississippi University of Women that will open in February 2020. “With humility and gratitude I accept the Emmett O’Ryan Award from ArtsMemphis and Renasant Bank. This honor carries a name recognition for a man who was dedicated and passionate about the arts that I will uphold by my continued commitment to share my vision through my paintings.”  

Since its inception, $52,000 has been granted to 9 award winners and 4 finalists. 

About ArtsMemphis:
For 56 years, ArtsMemphis has worked to sustain Memphis's world-renowned cultural vitality and strengthen local communities through the arts. ArtsMemphis achieves this mission by amplifying awareness, driving support, and building capacity and connections of artists and organizations through grants and services. ArtsMemphis distributes more than 160 grants per year, to more than 70 local arts groups and artists, totaling more than $2.5 million in annual funding. For more information, visit


Posted by Kelsea Lewis at 11:10
Share |

One Gift Helps 80 Arts Groups and Artists

Donate Today