• Elena Cawley

See art everywhere in Bell Buckle, town for artists, writers, creative minds


Bell Buckle draws visitors from all over the country and the world with its charm, history, shopping, and dining experience. The town also attracts creative minds and has become a hub for artists.


One of Bell Buckle residents is poet Margaret (Maggi) Vaughn, 83, who inspires readers with her words of wisdom and positive attitude. Vaughn has been the poet laureate of Tennessee since 1995. Vaughn has written many books of poetry, including “You’re Laughing, Ain’t Ya God?” (Bell Buckle Press, 2006), “The Other Sun of God” (Bell Buckle Press, 2010) and “Foretasting Heaven: Talking to Twain at Quarry Farm” (Bell Buckle Press, 2001).


Vaughn was born in Murfreesboro in 1938. She lost her father, a firefighter, when she was only 9 months old, and moved to Gulfport, Mississippi, along with her mother and brother. She spent several years working in Nashville. Wanting to write full time, she moved to Bell Buckle in 1882 to pursue her writing career. She purchased a home and opened a publishing house, the Bell Buckle Press.


“I moved to Bell Buckle in 1982,” she said. “There were a lot of writers and artists here – this is an artist’s town. It’s amazing what you can do if you step out on faith. I had a career going, working for the Nashville Banner and The Tennessean.”


After a trip to New York City, she decided to move to Bell Buckle and focus on writing.

“When I went to New York City, I saw a world going around and I wasn’t in it,” Vaughn said. “I met artists and writers and they hung out in the cafes, and there were all the museums. I came home, and the Fourth of July was coming up. I thought, ‘I am going to declare my independence on the Fourth of July.”


I quit my job and moved to Bell Buckle. Bell Buckle had called me through the years. When I was 5 years old, my aunt brought me here, and I loved the name – Bell Buckle – I thought that was a fun name.”


Years later, Vaughn visited an arts and crafts show in Bell Buckle and fell in love with the town.


“Bell Buckle is full of artists, creative people,” she said. “It’s family.”


One of the first artists in Bell Buckle was the late Anne White, potter and owner of Bell Buckle Crafts. White died in 2020.


“Anne started the art movement in Bell Buckle,” Vaughn said. “She was teaching art at the Webb School. Most of the directors were men then, and they needed something to entertain the wives, so Anne started the arts and crafts fair. And it grew tremendously. Anne knew a lot of artists in Nashville, and they helped.”


Billy Phillips, owner of Phillips General Store in Bell Buckle, continued the efforts in developing the arts in Bell Buckle.


“Billy Phillips was a young boy when I moved here and he worked for Anne,” Vaughn said. “He is a great painter. He picked up the pace of Anne when she moved to Florida. Billy has continued the art tradition on.”


Among Bell Buckle residents are other artists, including Russ Faxon and Sherri Hunter.

Faxon is a sculptor. After teaching in the Metropolitan Nashville School System, in the 1970s, Faxon traveled to Italy pursuing his love of sculpture. He moved to Bell Buckle in 1979 to serve as resident artist at the Webb School. He established his home and business, Selah Studio, in Bell Buckle, where he continues to develop his limited-edition bronze figures.

Hunter’s artwork includes large-scale public commissions, personal art pieces, and community-based art projects. She offers workshops at her studio, SWH Art Studio.

When you visit Bell Buckle, you’ll see art everywhere, from the quilt painted on the parking area in front of Bell Buckle Café to the art pieces on the walls of the shops.

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