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An established art director, prop stylist and production designer, Emily Buckner Pierce received a design degree from Belmont University and immediately put her talents to work on projects for such prestigious clients as Old Glory, Ruby Tuesday and Rachael Ray Magazine. Her most recent endeavor is as art director for Eamotion, a socially distanced, immersive experience that allows guests to drive through a high-tech course of light, sound, video and special effects. It debuts in September here in Nashville, and it might just be her most thrilling gig to date. Please welcome our newest FACE of Nashville, Emily Buckner Pierce.

Emily Buckner Pierce

Meet our newest FACE of Nashville, Art Director Emily Buckner Pierce | Image: James Pierce

How did you get into design?

I grew up in Tullahoma, about an hour outside of Nashville, and I come from a family of very creative people — like, Martha Stewart-level skills. I went to school to be a graphic designer, and I spent a long time behind the computer doing that and found it wasn’t enough for me creatively. I was always working with my hands, doing other projects, and taking on other freelance gigs that would enable me to become well-rounded, stay creative, and expose myself to all sorts of stuff. Over the years, it naturally guided me toward production design and art direction. It was so organic in how it happened, from working with photographers to doing commercial advertising.

Specifically, in the context of Eamotion and working with the guys over at Cour Design, I was at Nashville Design Week just going to see a panel, and both Erik (Anderson) and Gordon (Droitcour) were on it. I really loved what they were talking about, and I was familiar with their work and seeing it in the wild, and I introduced myself and said, “I’m an art director. I do production design here in Nashville. How do I get involved with you guys?” We hit it off and started working together on production design for some of their artists — for example, Lauv‘s tour. We found that we worked well together, and it snowballed into them asking if I wanted to work on art direction for other artists or installation projects. My background is primarily with commercial advertising, with entertainment industry stuff peppered throughout, but my favorite stuff has been within the past year and a half, focusing specifically on entertainment and tour production.

Art director, Emily Buckner Pierce, in her home office

“I love problem-solving, and that’s always something that makes our team work well together,” she explains. “We’re all wired and geared that way. It brings out creative rebelliousness, and I like that. I enjoy asking questions and pushing and growing in that way.” Image: James Pierce

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Can you tell us about the concept of Eamotion and what inspired it?

On a core level, the thing that inspired it was that everyone’s work got frozen because of the pandemic. All of these projects stopped in their tracks, and genuinely, no one was offering up a good solution. There are so many unknowns. We love what we do and miss it, and there’s the practical matter of so many people being unemployed — all of our friends, our whole industry. There’s also so much gear that’s sitting around, collecting dust and not doing anything. There are crowds of people who have plans and were looking forward to stuff, and they’re stuck in the mud just as much as we are. That’s what brought it about, but it aligned with the creative challenge. That was sort of the impetus for us chasing after this.

What can people expect when they attend Eamotion?

Our first experience is called “Tempo,” and it’s a driving experience. When people roll up in their cars, we’ll scan their tickets through the window — there’s no contact with anyone directly — and they will be guided along a course. It’s like a festival and a concert and a light show on steroids. The pure scale of animation and lighting and special effects, all of those things that you’re familiar with when you go to a festival or concert, all of those familiar elements are combined on a huge scale.

It’s something that can tour across America. The same model can be deployed in multiple locations at the same time across the country because we’re following a similar infrastructure that touring and production companies already use and do. We’re just re-doing it to match pandemic guidelines, and we’re also taking it on a scale that’s otherworldly. For example, in this first show, we have an over-50-foot-tall video pyramid. You can drive through this thing; it’s massive.

Emily Buckner Pierce's family portrait in white and orange

Emily is pictured here in this artistic family portrait with her husband James, son Harley, and their two dogs, Bitty and Mr. Beans. Image: Rory White

Have you been able to experience the completed course yet?

Digitally, yes. We have tools so we can preview our content and course maps, and there are architectural drawings for everything so we know everything that’s going to happen. It’s no different for us than a tour that we would put on for an artist. It’s a mash-up of different technical tools for us to visualize it, and we’ve taken a lot of traditional, familiar elements that we already operate as touring crews who go all over the globe. It’s the same model where it’s designed, programmed and done in advance, but people show up on-site and they build it in two days.

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What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

It’s actually pretty practical: “just show up.” So much of the work is just showing up and doing it. I found that to be incredibly valuable in my own career. You don’t need to know the answers; you just need to show up and be prepared to learn and follow through.

Emily in her home office

Thus far, Emily has only been able to experience the Eamotion course digitally. “We have tools that we use so we can preview our content and course maps,” she says. “There are all sorts of architectural drawings, so we know everything that’s going to happen.” Image: James Pierce

Outside of faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?

I definitely can’t live without my computer. I don’t know what I’d do without it. On the flip side, I also don’t know what I would do without vacations. When you’re tied to technology as much as I am, getting away from it, not answering the phone, and taking a timeout gives me the most creative power — even if it’s just two hours of sitting on my porch staring at the abyss, going on a hike, or going overseas. Checking out is essential. And then, I can’t live without my critters: my dogs.

Thank you, Emily! Learn more about her work HERE. Eamotion takes place at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway on September 18-22, 2020. Learn more about this experience and purchase ticket at eamotion.com.

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