A proposal awaiting the Metro Council’s consideration would change the city’s policy for public art by allowing the allocation of funds for the installation of statues, memorials and monuments that recognize individuals or historical events.
The legislation, sponsored by Councilwoman Vivian Wilhoite, comes as some in Nashville’s African-American community are advocating for the creation of city art to honor Nashville’s role in the Freedom Rides and lunch counter sit-ins of the civil rights movement, which the city lacks.
In making their pleas, proponents have discovered a hurdle: Currently, Metro law stipulates public art dollars aren’t to be used for memorials for specific people or historical events. Wilhoite’s bill, up for the first of three votes Tuesday, seeks to overhaul this restriction.
“The criteria does not allow for that type of dedication — in particular to remember history or a particular person,” Wilhoite said of the existing law.
In Nashville, publicly funded art originates via the Percent for the Arts program, a law passed during Mayor Bill Purcell’s tenure that channels 1 percent of all net proceeds of general obligation bonds issued for construction projects to public art.
Projects paid through the Percent for the Arts program are “Ghost Ballet” on the East Bank of the Cumberland River, “Citizen” at the downtown public square and, most recently, a set of bronze statues called “Exploration and Discovery,” erected at the square.
Jen Cole, executive director of the Metro Arts Commission, declined to comment on the legislation until she has adequate time to review it.