Fredonia native finding success in Nashville’s growing art culture

Submitted Photo Pictured is work from Fredonia native Joe Sorci.

During the late 1970s and early ’80s, when urban development in the south was beginning to boom, Fredonia native Joe Sorci was balancing on steel beams 70 stories high in Atlanta working with a welding torch and hanging steel.

Despite the good pay working on the skyline, Sorci decided to ground himself, and to use his business degree from Austin Peay State University (Tennessee). He took a job as a salesman for a building company in Nashville, and a few years after that, he bought his own shop where he began designing and building custom water piping systems. It was in that shop that he began to realize his ability to create objects that were not only functional, but also original and unique in terms of design and appearance.

During his spare time, he began to dabble in oil painting. A self-described “closet” painter, he finished 20 works before drawing the attention of a gallery owner, who invited him to do a one-man show. Sorci sold all 20 of his paintings at that show, securing for himself reputation as an up-and-coming artist in the Nashville area. About that initial success, he jokes, “That was the kiss of death. It has been an uphill climb ever since.”

With that success as incentive, he got more involved with the creative process, turning his metal shop into a studio where he would experiment with painting along with sculpturing. Also encouraging for him was a growing interest in the arts throughout the city. Public funding, via tax dollars, was now available, and Nashville was ready to promote itself as not only the birthplace of the Grand Ole Opry, but also home to a National Football League franchise and a player in the American art scene.

Sorci tapped into Nashville’s ambition. He was commissioned to create numerous works in and around the city, perhaps most notably his eight sculptures that adorn the East Bank Greenway near the Tennessee Titans football stadium.

Sorci recalls the day he was challenged to create something out of two permanently grounded Boeing 727s. He remembers driving home from a meeting with high-level corporate and public officials after assuring them he had a plan for the jet, when in fact he was clueless. However, his muse soon came to his rescue, and the result was the removal two of the horizontal stabilizing tail wings of the jet, which would be stood on end and positioned to form a fully functional 37-foot high sundial. “Clear for Landing” remains a popular landmark on the grounds of the Hermitage City Library.

Sorci describes his artistic style and purpose as somewhere between representational and abstract. His goal is to discover a “seamless path” from two-dimensional to three-dimensional art. The paintings and sculptures speak for themselves, yet he employs visual motifs and other “thumbprints” that serve his own personal narrative throughout the artistic process.

In light of his personal success along with the evolution of the arts in Nashville, Sorci is a big promoter of public involvement: “Tapping into the artistic resources of the community allowing artists to be more involved is essential,” he said.

He cites the 1% state tax dedicated to the arts as contributing to the rise of cities like Nashville and Seattle. It is simple: enhance the attractiveness of the city and there will be growth in all areas.

Today you might see Joe Sorci with a welding torch or a paint brush in hand, but he will not be up on a sky scraper. He might be on the outskirts of town rummaging through junk fields. Or he might be inside or outside the train station on Prospect Street in Fredonia playing with his latest stash of discarded pieces of machinery and miscellaneous scraps from local farms or factories. You can be sure that whatever he’s cooking up with all that stuff is something highly imaginative, and in a way indigenous to our area.

It would be great to see some of his work on display here. Perhaps such an investment would be an omen of better days ahead for Northern Chautauqua County.

For those interested in seeing some of Sorci’s work, he can be contacted at