Nashville’s latest public outdoor art pieces are now in place, so the debate about their quality, impact and potential popularity — or lack thereof — can now begin.
Exploration & Discovery, a three-piece installation funded by Metro’s Percent for the Arts program, was unveiled on Monday, June 6, at the Davidson County Courthouse Public Square. The Metro Arts Commission paid former Nashvillian (who now lives in San Antonio) Ken Rowe $80,600 to craft the series of figurative bronze works, which stand at one-third human scale.
Each piece — “The Spark of Discovery,” “The Scholar” and “To the Moon” — sits on a small pedestal and joins Thomas Sayre’s existing two-piece monumental work, “Citizen.”
Jennifer Cole, executive director of the arts commission, described Rowe as a master of telling stories through human figures. She noted the Exploration & Discovery pieces are universal yet call upon Nashville’s history.
“As you look at the pieces, you just continue to find new things — a radio tuned to WSM, a telescope pointed towards the Capitol, a book about James Robertson,” she said. “You discover more about yourself and more about Nashville the more you inspect the work.”
But some Nashvillians already wonder whether the placement of Rowe’s creations — “To the Moon,” in particular, is sited on the more isolated east side of the Courthouse — and their diminutive sizes hamper their overall impact. “The Spark of Discovery” and “The Scholar” stand less than 4 feet tall, while “To The Moon” is closer to 7 feet.
A handful of local arts scene veterans, who asked to go unnamed, said one larger, more prominently placed piece would’ve been preferable. One noted the works, though attractively clad in bronze and of quality craftsmanship, look more like prototypes from which larger versions hypothetically could have been derived.
Cole said citizens should spend some time with Exploration & Discovery before drawing conclusions. She said the commission is partnering with TPAC’s ArtSmart program to develop a curriculum tied to the installation.
“These works are a perfect launch pad,” Cole said, “for learning about history and art.”