The fire-engine-red Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks rides the Cumberland River’s bank like a wrecked car on a flatbed. Musica enlivens the Music Row Roundabout with its joyful expressiveness.
These two massive outdoor artworks define their respective spaces and elicit often curious, if a little breathless, responses. “Is that some remnant of a disassembled roller coaster?” “My word, their genitals are showing.”
By 2013, another prominently placed piece of art will mark Nashville’s public realm and anchor the eventual roundabout where Eighth Avenue, Korean Veterans Boulevard and Lafayette Street will converge. The future roundabout will sit on the southwest corner of the under-construction Music City Center convention facility, and its art component — the site for which the Convention Center Authority’s Public Arts Committee recently approved — is a bold departure of sorts.
Officials could have taken the predictably safe route by opting for a site as close to downtown’s niceties as possible. Instead, they embraced the Nashville Rescue Mission and Lafayette Street, shrewdly realizing this neglected part of SoBro needs to connect to the nearby bustling Gulch and spur redevelopment along Lafayette and Eighth.
“We spent months looking at the roundabout, and we made the decision to focus on the roundabout,” said Jen Cole, executive director of the Metro Arts Commission. The commission is expected to approve the site Jan. 20, Cole said.
This is a big deal. As designed, the MCC offers a high-profile northeast corner facing Hall of Fame Park. In contrast, “Roundabout Art” — we trust the Metro Arts Commission to pass on such a generic name — will hold court in an area defined by disenfranchised users of social services programs, but one that offers strong redevelopment potential.
Erect, for example, a 40-foot-tall hyper-contemporary metal sculpture with bold lighting, and here comes a hotel. Then a coffee shop. Then a residential building.
Given that the roundabout art piece will be funded by Metro’s Percent for Art program — at least $750,000 is already set aside, with more ideally to come from the private sector — officials are showing some vision with their choice.
“There are very few intersections where you have the opportunity to have a large piece of public art that can make a difference,” Cole said.