Visual Effects


It’s been just over a decade since Metro passed a law directing one percent of capital-projects funding toward the creation of public art. In that time, the Percent for Art program has generated $6 million to fund sculptural elements designed to shape both Nashville’s communal spaces and its visual identity.

“We’re trying to strike a balance between large-scale iconic work that defines Nashville as a city and smaller scale works that create neighborhood gathering places,” says Jen Cole, executive director of the Metro Arts Commission, which oversees the city’s plan to install public art.

Expect the effect of Percent for Art on the physical landscape to become more visible in upcoming months as works are solicited, chosen and installed in neighborhoods across town. “We’ll have a call every couple of months for the foreseeable future,” Cole says, referring to public requests for proposals by artists.

While Percent for Art was launched in 2000, the program made its first large-scale visual impact in 2006, with the unveiling of Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks, the swirling red metal structure overlooking the Cumberland River. That project was followed by the 2010 installation at the Metro Courthouse of Citizen, a $450,000 interactive work comprising a pair of 30-foot glass torsos. Created by North Carolina artist Thomas Sayre, the colossal male and female torsos of Citizen can be reoriented by pedestrians on the Public Square below so the outstretched glass arms point at various landmarks. Also last year, a series of sculptural bikes racks — including microphones, corn, tomatoes and banjos — was installed across the city.

This spring, artist Ken Rowe’s three small bronze works representing Nashville’s role in the history of exploration and discovery were placed around the courthouse, rounding out public art surrounding the renovated Art Deco building.

Among the larger public art projects on the horizon is the 28th/31st Connector, which will link West End Avenue to North Nashville and is due for completion in early 2013. The pedestrian-vehicular bridge spanning the railroad tracks will incorporate Iowa artist David Dahlquist’s metal sculpture inspired by the tradition of African-American quilt-making. By December, the Arts Commission also will award commissions for six transit stops along the connector, which will incorporate art into the functional elements of transportation along the corridor.

In October, a mosaic pathway by local husband-wife team Dan Goostree and Paige Easter was completed, connecting the Goodlettsville branch library to Goodlettsville Middle School. The dedication of the pathway rounds out a project that also included the installation of an abstract sculpture by local artist Carrie McGee, suspended over the circulation desk at the library in June.

In November, an 18-foot kinetic bronze sculpture by Georgia artist Michael Dillon will be installed in Sylvan Park, at the intersection of the greenway, the new McCabe community center and the golf course. Inspired by the shape of an airplane wing and taking its name for a French term for wing, Aileron honors the history of Sylvan Park as an airfield.
Meanwhile, the Arts Commission is soliciting works for several upcoming projects. In October, a call was announced for six separate art projects to serve as focal points for small sacred spaces for reflection in a half-dozen neighborhoods affected by the floods of 2010. Collectively known as Watermarks, the works will be placed in Delray, Antioch, Bordeaux, Bellevue, East Nashville and Pennington Bend and are expected to be installed by late 2012.

In the next six months, the commission will request submissions for a public art project in Bellevue at Red Caboose Park, as well as five to 10 additional bike racks to be placed in neighborhoods and downtown. To sign up to receive information about these and upcoming calls for artists, visit

Photo: Microphone by Mac Hill


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