Public art honoring civil rights movement proposed near Arcade

Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 6:33pm

Public art honoring Nashville’s lunch counter sit-in demonstrations of the 1960s civil rights movement could be headed to downtown Fifth Avenue following Metro Arts Commission action.

The arts commission Thursday approved a $75,000 budget for future civil rights-inspired art –– its design and artist still unknown –– near the Fifth Avenue pedestrian crosswalk outside The Arcade, the area in Nashville where black college students 50 years ago staged nonviolent sit-ins inside restaurants that served only whites.

The project, however, is contingent on capital funding for a “Fifth Avenue Arts District” streetscape project for the next fiscal year. Mayor Karl Dean is set to unveil a proposed operating budget and capital-spending plan on May 1.

The commission’s action Thursday comes nearly a year after original Freedom Riders addressed the Metro Council to ask that public art be dedicated to Nashville’s sometimes-forgotten role during the civil rights movement. The council’s Minority Caucus also rallied behind that cause.

Nashville, unlike many cities across the Southeast, lacks an outdoor public monument or memorial remembering the civil rights era.

“We’re very excited about this opportunity,” the art commission’s Executive Director Jennifer Cole said. “Our biggest drawback was finding a location.”

Cole said the commission’s public arts committee reviewed more than 20 publicly owned locations for the art. “If this moves forward, I think based on its location near the sit-in movement, my guess is that the call for artists would focus specifically on the sit-in movement.”

Cole added that the committee would continue to explore other opportunities to honor Nashville’s civil rights past.

Civil rights-inspired art along downtown Fifth Avenue would be part of a larger aesthetic makeover of that stretch to brand the area as the “Fifth Avenue Arts District.” Several art galleries are inside The Arcade and others dot the corridor.

Metro Public Works has requested $1.4 million for a new streetscape project on both sides of Fifth Avenue from Church Street north to Union Street. For the public art proposal on Fifth to move forward during the next year, Dean and the Metro Council would need to carve out funding for the Fifth Avenue project in the 2012-13 budget.

Funding for the civil rights art would come from 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.

12 Comments on this post:

By: JeffF on 4/20/12 at 9:37

Several major streets throughout Nashville have no sidewalks and require Nashvillians to walk along dangerous gutters to reach ill located bus stops. Nashville responds by "streetscaping" or beautifying downtown streets which have sidewalks but very, very few Nashville residents. Then, Nashville will put yet another public art fixture there even after the stink about how these items are so poorly distributed across Nashville (100% in downtown, 0% in the other 97.5% of Nashville)?

Have we lost touch with where Nashville actually lives and works?

By: Rasputin72 on 4/20/12 at 12:16

A public art showing commerating the Confederate dead is also planned for the Arcade.

By: Rasputin72 on 4/20/12 at 12:16

A public art showing commerating the Confederate dead is also planned for the Arcade.

By: Jughead on 4/20/12 at 2:43

Fine. Where will the shrine to caucasians who have funded black welfare since then be erected?

By: Jughead on 4/20/12 at 2:44

What a joke. Blacks have completely self destructed since the MLK days.

By: yankeepetsitter on 4/20/12 at 5:00

If it looks like any of the other "art" I've seen around town I think we could do without it. Just my opinion. The money would be better spent on other things.

By: Ask01 on 4/21/12 at 7:14

I support public art. Not only can appropriate placement enhance the beauty of communities but also instill a sense of pride in that community so long as the art ties into the history .

That said, (or typed) timing, as the cliche goes, is everything.

With so many citizens unemployed or under employed, certain areas lacking adequate sidewalks and other niceties, would it not make better sense to address these circumstances beofre spending public money on art which, honestly, be most enjoyed by visitors and become just part of the back ground for locals who probably won't care?

Perhaps the unstated goal is, as with the MCC, to allow more places where Mayor Dean and Metro Council members can have their names inscribed as being responsible and provide an ego boost.

This, and ANY public art project should be moved to the back burner until we have less than, say 2% unemployment.

By: pswindle on 4/21/12 at 2:04

Racial slurs stll rears its ugly head. This art is important to the history of Nashville as other art has been shown at different places from time to time. I remember art being on display at the airport. I'm sure the Frist Center would be happy to display the art. Nashville should be proud of its past and display whatever era that is in play. I see no harm in displaying it close to the Arcade, since the Arcade is the oldest indoor mall in the United States. SOME HISTORY!

By: wasaw on 4/21/12 at 2:49

I'm opting for another piece of roller coaster track to hook up with the piece on the Cumberland River near the Titan stadium. Reckon how much a good artist can fleece the Nashville taxpayers, on this one?

Now p. swindles, I don't recall anyone mentioning watermelon or chitlins as an art topic., so therefore NO RACIAL SLURS. "I have a dream", also.

By: Ask01 on 4/21/12 at 3:06

As far as art being an important factor reminding future generations of past struggles and how those adversities were overcome, I agree commemorating Nashville's role in the rights movement is a deserving subject and placement near the arcade is probably apprpriate.

My previous comment, however, never touched on that aspect of the proposed art.

My objection centers on the current spendthrift attitude displayed by Metro leadership, spending money on all manner of projects even during the worst recession since the 1930's.

My contention was, is , and will continue to be, until we have a significant percentage of Nashvillians back to work, and all roads, bridges, sidewalks and other public works projects modernized, do we really need to be spending public money on art? Particularly any hideous aberation like the 'roller coaster to nowhere' which currently defaces the river bank.

Use whatever money was going to finance the 'art' to avoid a property tax increase.

Seriously, won't Mayor Karl Dean and the Metro Council Gang have their names on enough public expenditures as the situation now stands?

By: slacker on 4/23/12 at 8:30

Put me down for more roller coaster track. Maybe with a little manikin on it screaming, it will commemorate life's ups and downs.
But not near the Water park, to much rust maintenance. Gotta look out for the taxpayers dollars.

By: slacker on 4/23/12 at 9:07

Better yet build a statue downtown, with space for thousands of inscriptions.
Let the statue commemorate any possible cause, event, or person, someone or group, wants to commemorate. The statue will also include space for street re-namings.
The county court clerk can sell the inscription plates for maybe $30?