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Statues and sculptures

Storm damage, Germantown and North Nashville

Early Tuesday morning, March 3, 2020, a powerful tornado touched down at the John C. Thune Airport and the tore through North Nashville, going parallel to Jefferson Street but a little north, then ripped through the southern part of Germantown, jumped the river and tore down Main Street and through Lockeland Springs and beyond. In “What we lost in the storm” I chronicled as best I could what outdoor art had been lost and damaged in East Nashville. On Thursday I had an opportunity to explore Germantown and North Nashville, including the Jefferson and Buchanan Street corridors.

I was deeply concerned that these art rich neighborhoods would also have seen many losses, as I knew from reporting that the general destruction was similar to Main Street and Five Points, where much of the damaged art in East Nashville is found. I am very happy to report that this is not the case. With a couple of minor and one serious exception, all concerning pieces I have never blogged about before, the outdoor art of Gernamntown and North Nashville escaped the ravages of the tornado.

Above, you can see a blue tarp on the wall of the Christie Cookie Company building at Third Ave North and Madison Street. It covers an area where the bricks peeled off the wall. When I saw it on Thursday, there were already workers repairing the building (hence the Port-a-Pottie). I don’t know what it will take to repair the wall, but I have little doubt that Christie Cookie will replace the sign if repairs require it to be destroyed. I know that both Seth Prestwood and Eastside Murals have done versions (scroll down) of this sign, but Christie only shows a couple of tiny pictures of the artist who did this one. Failure to credit sign makers is a common error of companies large and small.

At Green Fleet Bikes, located at 934 Jefferson Street, their mural by Dough Joe is fine, but the tornado smashed the welded sculpture of junk bikes the graces the yard. To my, surprise, I never photographed it when it was intact. These two clips from Google Street View give you a sense of what it looked like in April 2019, though I believe it had been added to since and was larger than what you see here.

When I talked to Green Fleet’s owner as he and staff cleaned up the debris from the storm, he told me passers-by thought the smashed up version of the sculpture was all their good bikes mangled up and crushed together by the storm! The original was done by an artist who the owner could only describe as “an artist from Wedgewood-Houston” and had been added on to by staff overtime. The bus in the background, painted by  Andee Rudloff, survived the storm unscathed.

Bike Sculpture street art Nashville tornado

The greatest loss in outdoor art on the west side of the river is the loss of the R&R Liquor Store sign. R & R Liquor, located a little over a block from Green Fleet at 1034 Jefferson Street, had a decades-old three-dimensional sign not unlike the one at  Weiss Liquor on Main Street that was also lost. Nashville’s inventory of this style of sign continues to shrink. No doubt they are expensive to make and replace. Again, I never took a picture of it intact, so I include here a picture clipped from Google Street View.

We can be grateful that the art-rich neighborhoods of Germantown and North Nashville did not lose more, but of course, the damage to people’s homes and businesses was still tremendous. Nashville has a long way to go to rebuild. I know this town, and I know art and artists will play a key role in that rebuilding.

 

 

 

The Riders

Between 2010 and 2015, Metro Arts sponsored a series of artistic bike racks by local and regional artists that are now scattered around town. One of the first to go in was this one, The Riders (2010) by Seth Conley. Being based at the foot of the Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, it’s seen by thousands of commuters and tourists every day, even more on a game day. The sculpture is something of a cheeky visual joke, a set of peloton riders racing along to which you to can attach your very stationary bike. (A peloton is a pack of riders who take turns riding in front, where they are fully exposed to the wind, while those behind draft off of them.) I’ve featured a few of these bike racks on the blog before – rarely do you see any bikes attached to them. Those scooters in the back, however, had been neatly placed all around the bike rack when I went to photograph it. They beeped at me a lot when I moved them. The artist, Conley, took a little work to verify, in part because none of his other work looks anything like this. But on his artist Facebook page, where you can see much of his art, there is a picture of the work when it was barely halfway done. Conley hasn’t updated that page since 2018, perhaps because his current job likely keeps him busy – Senior Creative Art Director at Wizards of the Coast, the home company of both Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. (His Instagram page is a little more up-to-date.)

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Located on the 400 block of First Street South, just south of Nissan Stadium and of Victory Avenue, across the street from the east end of the Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. This is in the middle of a giant parking lot. The only part that is reliably free is the part labeled “Cumberland Park Parking” right across the street from the bike rack.

Ariel

Sitting in one corner of Centennial Park is a small, playful kinetic sculpture with a little plaque that reads simply, “Ariel 1979 Lin Emery.”  Lin Emery is a 93-year-old artist from New Orleans who since 1972 has specialized in kinetic, moving sculpture. He art today is found in museums and galleries around the country and the world, including the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Foreign Art in Sofia, Bulgaria; and the Flint Institute of Art in Michigan. 64 Parishes has a nice write up about her and her approach to art. That such a significant artist would have a piece sitting in front of Metro Parks’ Centennial Art Center is probably because she did not have quite the stature in 1979 that she does now. Art auction sites are coy about values, but one auction site suggests starting prices for her pieces from a few thousand dollars for smaller pieces to up to $50,000 for the larger ones. It’s a shame to show this piece in still pictures, as it does move in the wind. This video includes some of Emery’s pieces in motion, including one that resembles the Nashville piece. There’s a bonus in the pictures below – my red Honda Fit!

A side note about the Centennial Art Center. The Metro Parks website indicates it was a swimming complex that closed in 1959. But, this article says that in 1961, two young African American men tried to swim at the pool in Centennial Park, housed in a building with Doric columns (which the art center has) and a few days later all public pools in Nashville were closed. I think someone has their dates wrong.

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Located at 301 25th Ave North. The museum and the sculpture are north of the lake in Centennial Park, more-or-less across the street (25th) from the Sarah Cannon Research Center (i.e., the Minnie Pearl Center). When the museum is closed, you can park out front – otherwise, use other nearby park parking.

 

Road to the Mountaintop

Along Charlotte, not far from the Capitol, lies William Edmonson Park, adjacent to the John Henry Hale Apartments, an MDHA-run affordable housing complex that was completely rebuilt a few years ago. As part of that reconstruction, the park was redone as an art park honoring William Edmonson, a decision that in part came out of community discussions. Edmonson was a local sculptor who, in 1937,  became the first African-American and the first Tennessean to have a solo show at the Modern Museum of Art in New York. The park contains three modern sculptures commissioned by Metro Arts (and an arrangement of limestone column fragments honoring Edmonson). This one, “Road to the Mountaintop” (2014) is by Thornton Dial. In many ways, this is quite appropriate. Like Edmonson, Dial was a self-taught African-American artist who devoted himself full-time to art in his 50s after losing employment. While Edmonson worked in readily available Nashville limestone, Dial, a former metalworker, used iron, steel and found objects to create his work. Road to the Mountaintop is made from steel, sheet metal, and automotive paint, and has a weathered look as a result. The main photos here are from October 2019, but the two at the bottom are from July 2016, and you can see some clear distinctions. Dial had this to say about his work (quoted in NashvilleArts Magazine):

“I make my art for people to learn from, but I only have made one piece to go outdoors before this one. I loved the idea that people would be driving down the street and looking at my art outdoors. More people can see it that way and maybe understand what it is that artists like me think and are trying to tell people. The piece is about Martin Luther King and Civil Rights in some ways, but it is also about the struggles that every person faces if they’re a woman or a man, a black person or a white person. We all got to struggle to get up. That’s our job, our duty.”

Here are photos from the park’s dedication, where you can also see some of the other work in the park, works which I will put on the blog in the coming weeks. Oh, and the Nashville Scene’s park reviewer (which is apparently a thing) is not a fan of the park. I think it’s nice, myself.

On a related note, there was a recent attempt by Metro to sell the park in Edghill where Edmonson’s home used to be. It’s stalled for now, and the neighbors want their own art park honoring Edmonson. If it happens, it would certainly be a fitting honor.

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Located at 1600 Charlotte Avenue. The sculpture lies at the northeast end of the park, facing 16th Avenue North, near the intersection with Charlotte. The nearest street parking is one block north on Capitol Point.

Bending Normal

This piece, “Bending Normal” (2017), by Brooklyn artist Marcus Manganni, has stood in front of The Packing Plant (a building with several small art galleries) since September 2017. If you visit during the First Saturday Wedgewood-Houston art crawl, you’re likely to see people walking around, taking pictures, or just studying the different ways it catches the light from different angles. What you see when you see it, what you get when you shoot, depends entirely on where you are standing, what time of year and what time of day it is, and most certainly what the light is like. You can see from the light and reflections in these photos that I took them last winter. Shoot them now, and that half-finished building would now reflect as finished. No two pictures of the piece will ever be the same. And that’s probably the point. As Manganni noted in an interview with The Tennessean and as he was quoted in The Nashville Scene, “Bending Normal” is a direct response to the statue of Nathaniel Bedford Forrest by Jack Kershaw that’s visible from I-65  south of downtown. Other than saying his piece “sends the exact opposite message” of the Forrest sculpture, Manganni doesn’t directly explain how it is in opposition to Kershaw’s piece. My suggestion is that the very ambiguity of “Bending Normal,” that what it is and what it looks like is fluid, despite its hard crisp lines, is precisely that “opposite message.” “Bending Normal” poses more questions than it answers, while Kershaw’s piece asserts its truth and dares us to say otherwise. Certainly, Manganni’s piece is up for much richer interpretations than the statue of Forrest. (And it occurs to me – the Forrest statue is in Davidson County. I guess I have to put it on the blog. “No art left behind” and all that.) You can check out Manganni’s own photos of “Bending Normal” here.

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Located at 507 Hagan Street, at the corner with Gray Street. When it’s not art crawl, parking in the gravel lot across the street is easy, and there is parking along Gray Street as well. During art crawl, I recommend getting there early (6:00ish) or plan on parking farther away.

A refurbished stalwart citizen

One of the very first posts on this blog was A Stalwart Nashville Citizen (July 3, 2016), highlighting the sign of Ironworkers Local 492 on Dickerson Road. But back then, our man in blue was simply gray and had a fair amount of rust as well. Sometime in the last year, 492 obviously thought it was time to spruce the guy up with some fresh paint! And it being Labor Day, it’s an obvious time to celebrate his sharp new look. Now his uniform, tools, gloves, and boots are much easier to make out. And with the new paint job, he will continue to watch over Dickerson Pike (and remind frequent drivers that Trinity Lane is just around the curve) for years to come.

Ironworkers sculpture street art Nashvile

 

Ironworkers sculpture street art Nashville

 

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At 2424 Dickerson Pike. The union office has a large parking lot, and unless the union workers are practing in the lot, you should be able to park there.

500 Pink Elephants

Well, actually there is only one pink elephant, at least on Charlotte Avenue. But this is the 500th post on this blog, and I thought it was a good moment to post something different! And a good time to take a little vacation of sorts, because this time, WPLN did all my research for me. To be more precise, Sara Ernst, a former multimedia reporting intern at Nashville Public Radio did the research for the podcast Curious Nashville. You can read her story about the elephant, or listen to a podcast episode about various Nashville animal stories, including the pink elephant. Pinkie is currently the mascot of University Motors – you’ll find her on their website, and emblazoned on the shirts of their staff. She’s not the first elephant to reside here. Back when this spot was McPherson Motors, an even larger pink elephant greeted drivers on Charlotte. Even though the original elephant and McPherson Motors were gone for years, there was enough local nostalgia for the old one that when University Motors moved to the site, it seemed inevitable that they too had to have an elephant. But seriously, read Ernst’s story!

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Located at 6005 Charlotte Pike. Perhaps the best place to park is the Dollar General next door.

Dancing in the alley

In the alley that lies between Second and Third Avenue downtown, on 200 block, there is art. Most of it is courtesy of Herb Williams, who produced a series of dancers on doorways in the alley, as well as an abstract piece in one of the windows. Collectively they are called “Taking Flight,” and are based on images of dancers from the Nashville Ballet. They are filled with butterflies, not unlike his “Deer Dissolve” mural less than a block away, that’s part of the gallery featured in Guitars and Automobiles. This series came about as a result of a project by the Downtown Partnership, which led neighbors through a visualization session with images and samples of other city alleys and streets to see what might be possible in this alley. This led to repaving the alley and removing trashcans, as well as installing the murals and the wrought-iron fence, which was sponsored and designed by Anderson Design Studio and built and installed by Ferrin Ironworks. Ferrin also did the metal rose attached to the fence. The pictures above, read left-to-right and top-to-bottom, start at the northwest part of the alley and go down the back of Third Avenue, then turnaround and head back north on the back of Second Avenue. (The same order as the series in the slide show below.) In order, they are 216 Third Avenue North (turquoise on black and the abstract piece), 214/The Lofts at Noel Court (yellow on red), 212/Saturn&Mazer Title Services (shades of green with a raised knee) and 208/The Studio 208 (leaping man with yellow sticker). Going up the back of Second Avenue North, we see 215/The Hammonds Group (metal rose and leaping turquoise woman), 217/Anderson Design Studio (red and yellow on brown), and 219/The Market Street Building (shades of green on light grey).

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Located between Third and Second Avenue along the 200 block. Access is about halfway down either block, or from Church Street. This is downtown – plenty of parking, almost none of it free.

Anchor in the Storm

Anchor sculpture public art Nashville

Of all the works sponsored by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, this is one of the more unusual. It becomes more understandable once you read about it on Metro Art’s website. This piece, “Anchor in the Storm” (2013), by Betty and Lee Benson, commemorates a moment when a quarry saved the local neighborhood. During the 2010 flood, 700 billion gallons of floodwater poured into the Reostone Quarry (located on Robertson Avenue just a few blocks from the sculpture), water that would have otherwise innundated the nearby neighborhoods of Charlotte Park, The Nations, and Crowley Wood. The rock, from the quarry, was carved and donated by the quarry’s owners,  Rogers Group. The log structure is a raft, representing the neighborhoods saved by the quarry. Of course, I imagine it mostly serves as some interesting whimsey for small children to climb on. (The mural on the water tank behind is by Eric Henn. Read about it in This one is BIG!)

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Located at 6105 Morrow Road, i.e. West Park. The sculpture is just a few feet from Morrow Rd, in the northeast corner of the park. There is plenty of parking at the park, and there is nearby street parking.

 

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