Councilman, commission at odds over public art

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 2:28am

An ordinance sponsored by At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard aims to distribute public art projects more equitably to all parts of Davidson County while accelerating the process by which new art is commissioned.

But the Metro Arts Commission opposes the bill, arguing it already intends to bring public art to areas besides downtown. The ordinance, its leaders say, would impede that progress.

Backers with competing viewpoints met Monday night at the Metro Council’s joint Suburban and Black Caucus meeting when Metro Arts Commission Chairwoman Jane Alvis stopped by for an informational gathering, one week before the bill is to be voted on second reading.

“Often when you have good intentions and you create legislation based on those intentions, sometimes you create more problems than you solve,” Alvis told Council members. “That’s our fear with this legislation.”

As part of the “Percent for the Arts” program former Mayor Bill Purcell signed into law in 2000, 1 percent of all net proceeds of general obligation bonds issued for public construction projects is dedicated to funding public art.

In nine years, the funding mechanism has produced one finished project, the Ghost Ballet sculpture on the East Bank, while two additional art projects are slated for the Public Square.

Tygard believes neighborhoods outside of downtown haven’t received their fair share of projects when he said the original intent of the law was to install art throughout Nashville.

“They’re receiving nothing,” Tygard said. “There’s nothing in what I would call suburban communities. There’s nothing in a school. There’s nothing in a community center. There’s nothing in a police precinct. There’s nothing in a fire hall.”

A project such as the new Cane Ridge High School building generated $455,000 in public arts funds, he said, but hasn’t received any art since it opened last fall.

His bill would require 75 percent of revenues generated from the “Percent for the Art” program be allocated for projects evenly among Nashville’s nine school districts. The remaining 25 percent would be reserved for downtown projects.

“Clearly, the intent is to incorporate the community’s ideas and thoughts and any public input, but it would still be the Arts Commission’s call as to what’s appropriate,” Tygard said.

Alvis said it takes considerable time to go through the “many, many steps” required to “do a project right,” a process that would be laden with more obstacles under Tygard’s plan.

As for delivering more art to neighborhoods, Alvis said the Arts Commission is using an ongoing bike rack project -- in which artists are designing special racks for areas such as downtown, Germantown and the Music Row Roundabout -- as a model for taking art throughout Nashville.

“We’re really set to go,” Alvis said. “We’re set to put the accelerator down, both in neighborhoods and continuing to do some work downtown”


7 Comments on this post:

By: bfra on 11/25/09 at 3:07

What? Only part of a paper today!

By: govskeptic on 11/25/09 at 5:41

Until we get to be the size of Atlanta the downtown
group will get everything. Now starting to charge
for Sat. parking on the meters which will all go to
the downtown partnership as well as the recently
passed 50% rate increase on hourly meter parking!
It's a hungry lion down there so get use to it.

By: xhexx on 11/25/09 at 7:35

News flash for Tygard... as far as Dean is concerned, Nashville stops at the borders of Downtown. He doesn't give a crap about the rest of the city or its residents. If it doesn't bring tourists to the honky-tonks on Lower Broad, he ain't interested.

And why is Suburban lumped in with the Black Caucus?

By: localboy on 11/25/09 at 9:07

Am I to understand that in nine years 3 projects have been authorized, with one of those completed? No wonder they object to the councilman's proposal; their ability to produce tangible results is not impressive.

By: vinemp on 11/25/09 at 9:34

I'd be happier if we had sidewalks.

By: iluvnashville on 11/25/09 at 12:16

Wow. A decorative bike rack. Thanks.

I think we should build bike lanes / sidewalks first.

If the "Train Wreck" that is on the east bank of the Cumberland River is any indication of what is coming, all of Nashville would be better served by thoughtfully designed and engineered civil projects, instead of someone of questionable taste and talent subjectively choosing what gets commissioned.

By: idgaf on 11/25/09 at 2:43

We don't need any publicly financed art especially with the garbage they are chosing. Let the private sector do that.

We could have bought a non broken coaster from Opreyland for pennies on the dollar :).