Prominent public art piece to punctuate future SoBro roundabout

Sunday, December 26, 2010 at 10:05pm
Jude Ferrara/SouthComm 

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.


32 Comments on this post:

By: Loner on 12/27/10 at 6:16

Let me get this straight...I'm not from Nashville, so bear with me, please.

Is there a Metro project underway that will deliberately construct a "roundabout", or what some call a "traffic circle", into which several main arteries will simultaneously spew their vehicular traffic?

Not only that, sitting in the epicenter of this motorized pandemonium will be a huge, expensive and distracting "piece of art"?

If the answer to both of those questions is "yes", then you folks have a serious problem in local governance and urban planning. If this is in fact the official plan, then common sense. may be rather uncommon in Nashville, TN.

On the other hand, this might be a good time to get into the tow-truck and auto collision repair business; once that snarling, raging, vehicular whirlpool starts spinning round and round the Nashville Demolition Derby will be underway.....good luck and may the farce be with you!

By: NewYorker1 on 12/27/10 at 8:25

"I'm not from Nashville, so bear with me, please."
-- Loner

"Never give an opinion, where you have no responsibility"
-- Author unknown.


By: chino on 12/27/10 at 8:35

Thats the plan it sounds and we already have one without any major traffic issues. It just took some getting use to and I imagine the same for the new roundabout is true.

I am not sure if 'NewYorker'1 is aware, but many large cities have these roundabouts without issue. Like Columbus Circle in NYC or Dupont Circle, among many others in Washington, DC.

I think this is a great idea as far as providing a link between the gulch and sobro. However I think the biggest hurdle to further development there would be the proximity of the Nashville Rescue Mission. I am not sure that anyone is going to want to build a hotel with a rather large homeless shelter across the road when there are so many other available locations.

By: Loner on 12/27/10 at 8:46

Thank you, NewYorker1. If I recall, you are a fashion buff, yes? Smooches back at you.

There may be a nugget of truth in that adage, but an outsider's opinion may have value.

A disinterested third party can look at a situation without the emotional attachments that locals feel. A cooler head, with no monetary interests in the project can offer a more sober analysis, without fear of local repercussions for offering an opinion.

To me, a piece of public art should be located in a venue where the public can sit, stand or even lay down on a blanket, so that the art can be appreciated and experienced.

Placing any prominent distraction in the center of a traffic circle is just asking for trouble. Tourists will be gawking while driving in a rotating circle of jerks, knuckleheads, A-holes and know, the usual motoring public.

I hope that the pigeons of Nashville will enjoy their new roosting the eye of the metallic storm swirling around them.

Maybe some homeless, human desperados will colonize the center of the new roundabout......that might be righteous, just and fitting.

By: HokeyPokey on 12/27/10 at 8:47

Oh lordy, another roundabout.

Believe me, the germs will never figure out the one we already have, plus the men are too busy vomiting at the sight of nekkid penises on the "art."

Really, do we need another? Are we tryin' to be Europe or somefin?


By: chino on 12/27/10 at 8:58

Heaven forbid we try to be cultured and resemble anything European.. Maybe we should propose another strip mall or Super Walmart for the area.. Now thats progress!

By: Loner on 12/27/10 at 9:06

When I was in the US Army, back in 1969, i visited the most famous traffic circle in Western civilization...London's Piccadilly Circus., while on leave from my duties in Germany.

In the center of this world-famous landmark stands a statue of what the locals call, "Eros", it is the centerpiece of a truly grand fountain, complete with rows of steps leading up to the fountain's pool.. The monument was (at that time) absolutely colonized by "hippies" and such....the British Public Works crews periodically cleared the area and hosed it pigeons, the humans returned quickly to their roosting place. It was a sight that sticks with you for a lifetime.

You might get more than you bargained for, Nashville.

Piccadilly on the Cumberland?

By: Loner on 12/27/10 at 9:27

Police cruisers, ambulances, fire trucks ripping through those "roundabouts" always adds to the excitement and thrill of it all. Throw some lumbering, intimidating city buses into the mix for texture. Sounds like a place avoid, if possible.

A few questions:

Will pedestrians be allowed to cross the roadways, in order to view the art up close and personal, or will the motoring public be the sole audience?

Has anyone consulted the Metro Police Department, to get their input regarding the wisdom of these lofty ideas?

Does the existing roundabout have a prominent distraction at its center and how many fender-benders have occurred there ?

Chino is painting a rosy picture here....why?

By: chino on 12/27/10 at 9:52

Perhaps I am painting a less ominous picture. Sorry I started my new year optimism a bit early.

My point overall is that there is no evidence to suggest that these traffic circles are more troublesome then a traditional intersection.This isnt a new concept that has not been studied or implemented even in our own city which is less accoustomed to them. And yes, there is prominent piece of art in that roundabout. The only distraction are to those with immature mindsets as they statues are nude.
Loner if you dare tempt yourself go ahead and google Musica Nashville. Or better yet, come for a visit and actually drive around it. You'll see its not really all that hard.

And the measure is not how many fender benders have occured there but if the number of accidents that have occured there are higher then the average at a traditional intersection. I would dare say they are less as people tend to slow down when entering and driving around them oppose to trying to speed up to beat a red light. Admittedly, I am guilty of the latter.

I am less prone to assume this will be a nusiance as there is no evidence that our current roundabout is more accident prone. I am sure we would have all heard about it and the city would be less likely to implement yet another.

If you have data to show that these are more troublesome and are more likely to cause accidents then traditional intersections then post that here. Just dont assume they are without proof. Evidently our city planners along with many other city planners, even here in the good ole USA have evidence and data to suggest that they are not more troublesome.

By: Loner on 12/27/10 at 10:08

Chino, optimism is good, but I tend to question authority, rather than rely on the conventional wisdom of "experts" and officials.

All human decisions are made for two reasons, the good reason and the real reason.

Following the money is the only way to find out if a deal is in the public interest or primarily beneficial to the special interests.

As President Reagan famously said, "Trust, but verify."

As for empirical and credible data to back up my "gut" on this, I must admit that that would require work and if paid enough, I would consider it.

You also offer no credible stats to back up your assumptions....but, I won't demand that you do the research; this is just an online newspaper forum.

Hey, I hope I'm wrong on this one and it works out for you folks, it seems that it's coming, like it or not. Enjoy!

By: Loner on 12/27/10 at 10:18

Chino, I visited Nashville in 2004. I may have driven by the naked bronze figures and missed it, as I was dodging potentially-armed, cowboy-hat-wearing, pick-up truck drivers and other confused tourists.

I did see the life-sized Elvis that they roll-out onto the sidewalk in the commercial district....I posed for pictures on that one.

I've camped, for extended periods, at clothing optional campsites.....I've seen it all, the good the bad and the ugly.... nude figurines, I can handle..

By: JeffF on 12/27/10 at 10:21

I am stunned that the next piece of planned public art will go in downtown. Stunned!

Is downtown just a large vacuum someone forgot to turn off after Bredesen left? Wasn't there some sort of agreement recently that would have allowed more of Lord Dean's art money to be spent near actual Nashvillians sometime soon?

When does the castle get its new walls? One day the peasants paying for all these nice things in downtown may want to visit them. Will there be a flat spot near the art to place a guillotine for when the revolution occurs?

By: chino on 12/27/10 at 10:23

Here you are. Free of charge.. Also there are many other examples and studies via available via a quick google search.

By: Loner on 12/27/10 at 10:30

Thank you, Chino. As I said, good luck with the Nashville Demolition Derby....somebody will make a buck off it. The new "circle of terror" may go national on one of those real-police chase videos.....who knows?

By: chino on 12/27/10 at 10:42

Sure thing Loner.. 'Trust, but verify'.. Ironic that someone would use that quote considering that they neither trusted and then when presented with verification still are steadfast on their doom and gloom scenario. 2012 is going to destroy us all before its completed in 2013 anyway. :)

I think its more likely that you'll see the sculpture via tourism marketing and monday night football images. When its complete I sincerely hope you come back to Nashville for a visit.
Perhaps you'll notice this 'distraction' unlike Musica that was such a distraction that you didnt even notice it.

By: Loner on 12/27/10 at 10:45

From Chino's source:

Though roundabout crash records in the United States are limited, the experiences of other countries can be used to help design roundabouts in this country. Understanding the sensitivity of geometric element parameters, along with the crash experience, will assist the designer in optimizing the safety of all vehicle occupants, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

That appears to be a false, or dubious premise, followed by technical jargon, designed to impress the reader and enhance the credibility of the authors of this particular study.

Foreign models of this nature may not make sense in the USA today., or in the future.

I do agree on one thing, roundabout crash records in the United States are limited.

This is a high stakes crapshoot and not all the factors affecting this bet are known. That takes caljones.or ignorance.

Bona fortuna!

By: poboy66 on 12/27/10 at 10:53

I find it disturbing that "loner" is so ademant as to how we should conduct local business. Your first comment was "interesting" as it is nice to get a "tourists" viewpoint, but your ongoing comments have negated the first.-- it's just weird to participating in our local issues so vigorously. Get off of this forum and conduct yourself in your own community please.

By: Loner on 12/27/10 at 11:06

In the snippet that I pasted here, from Chino's source, motorcyclists were not even mentioned in the list of roundabout users. Motocyclists are not "vehicle occupants" and they are neither "bicyclists" nor "pedestrians"....this fact alone calls the whole study into question, IMO. Cellino and Barnes et al. are already checking the fine print.....kerching!

You gotta ask, who financed this optimistic study of roundabouts and why did they do that? Was the research biased in favor of an optimistic conclusion?

It behooves one top ask, "Who benefits?" and " Where's the money coming from and to whom is the money going?" That usually points to the "why" in matters such as this.

By: Loner on 12/27/10 at 11:10

OK, Poboy66, I'll let you lead the have the floor.

By: chino on 12/27/10 at 11:22

Wow.. Loner, man.. Are you sure you dont have time to do your own study?

The snippet that you posted here from the US Dept Transportation study is only a small piece of what they stated. If you read further you will see that although it is limited they did combine study data including data from the US. And if you read even further they state the reasons that roundabouts are safer overall. Again this is just one source. A google search will provide you with additional studies and data to back that they are safer. Far more detailed then your 'gut'

Not sure who you think is going to benefit from this so greatly. Maybe its Cheney and Haliburtion behind it all.. Or that deceitful artist community, recommending and financing studies to get their art erected in government funded roundabouts at the increased vehicular accidents and American lives.

Or perhaps, you are the benefactor here. Maybe you have the stake in all this. I do agree with Poboy66. Its a little odd that someone who doesnt even live here is so invested in a simple roundabout.

I would be curious as to where you do call home.

By: Loner on 12/27/10 at 11:33

I am not of this world, Chino.....I might as well use the reducto ad absurdum tactic to counter your use of that desperate debating tool.

I've been a regular poster on these NCP boards for is one of my hobbies. Living hundreds of miles from TN has the advantage of distance from potential online kooks and such, you know, folks who don't cotton to no stinking outsider's unwanted opinion.....the truly disturbed.

My intentions were good; instaed of gratitude, I'm getting ugly feedback.

I now grow tired of this exercise in futility..... I tried, may this farce be with you!

By: 742180 on 12/27/10 at 11:46

Let me share this. A number of years ago, before the round a bout on Wilson Pike and City Center Blvd in Brentwood was to be constructed. I sat across from the City Mgr of BW and commented that this round about would certainly congest traffic on an avenue which already is congested. HIS comment was 'good we want to slow down traffic"

Round a bouts are simply seen as a means of restricting traffic flow in todays city planning scheme's. They are prettier than traffic signals and intersections and are currently in favor by Planners.

Like some of you, it seems insane, and contrary to what we drivers would like to see. But they, round a bouts are popular again just like they were some 50 years ago. And just like the designing of the past, round a bouts will be seen as 'stupid' in years to come.

Understand that I'm am not arguing the beauty, uniqueness, greeness, etc of a traffic circle, it just doesn't make 'any' rational sense for the driving public.

By: Kosh III on 12/28/10 at 8:43

"I am stunned that the next piece of planned public art will go in downtown. Stunned!

Is downtown just a large vacuum someone forgot to turn off after Bredesen left? Wasn't there some sort of agreement recently that would have allowed more of Lord Dean's art money to be spent near actual Nashvillians sometime soon?"

Yeah, I recall a councillor made the complaint that the rest of the city was not getting public art. Clearly his complaints fell on the deaf ears of the Green HIlls swells who comprise the art commission.

By: Kosh III on 12/28/10 at 9:16

There is more to this city than downtown!

By: joe41 on 12/28/10 at 9:54

I gather that most of you have never been to Europe where roundabouts with art are common. Roundabouts are a magnificent way to make intersections safe. C'mon folks, get out and see what really works rather than remain in your outmoded past.

By: nvestnbna on 12/28/10 at 11:30

The city has been studying this intersection for 20 years, with re-routing Lafayette, closing 7th, 'T-ing' into Lafayette among the scenarios evaluated. The roundabout was the most favored option by all those looking at it. It was not without issues, the 8th Ave 'by-pass' being one, but overall it should be good.

With respect to the art, I alway favored putting the Confederate Memorial that formerly stood at the intersection of Franklin Road and Thompson Lane(prior to 100 Oaks), but is now hidden away at Belmont and 440. Although, it may be considered a politically incorrect piece of art, it's a beautiful sculpture meant to celebrate 'Unity', an appropriate message for the visionaries behind the neighborhood dividing MCC project.

By: JeffF on 12/28/10 at 2:19

Kosh you know this is one of those awkward moments where we actually agree on an issue. Am I mellowing with age or has all the bourbon caused me to mutate?

By: daeanaira on 12/29/10 at 1:00

I have been to Europe a few times for extended stays. I like the roundabout systems. They actually work pretty well. And, the one around the Musica "art" piece works well currently (mostly). I just want to beg someone not to put another Musica anywhere. That thing is hideous. I drive a convertible and when I round that thing with my top down I catch more than one glimpse of the underside of ballsacks. Not the best way to start or end the day, if you ask me. Also, they are setting aside at least $750k for this project. Will it create enough jobs to be worthwhile? Cause that kind of money could feed A LOT of unfortunate people for a good while. It just seems like it could be better spent.

By: Jagman on 12/29/10 at 9:43

A roundabout is one thing. Putting scrap metal in the centre is another.

By: unquestionably_... on 12/29/10 at 12:21

That red thing they call art really does look like part of a roller coaster that was cast aside. Can't figure out why they paid good money for that.

As for "Musica", I think it does not express anything musical - it looks like a bunch of people running away from a fire or explosion or something. I don't mind the nakedness but I am troubled by the texture of the people's skin. Were they burned and now they are fleeing so they can 'stop, drop, and roll'? I remain bothered by the question: "What triggered the flight?"

I hope whoever is selecting the next big installation of public art does better. So far, they are batting 100% at finding art I don't enjoy.

By: cityjvtao on 12/29/10 at 2:34

Aside from the never ending debate related to the capacity and safety of roundabouts, guidelines published by the Metro Arts Commission say that public art should contribute to the visual character and texture of the community and give visual expression to local values and cultural diversity.

As Mr. Williams points out in his article of praise for the shrewd foresight of Jen Cole, executive director of the Metro Arts Commission, the chosen area of the roundabout is primarily defined by disenfranchised users of social services programs, but is one that offers strong redevelopment potential.

Shrewd indeed! Let me suggest that in the chosen setting, the new art work should create a dialog about the ideal of affording leisure and entertainment, coupled with a vision of America’s decline along with that of Western Civilization. Perhaps, as Mr. William’s suggested, a rather large structure – perhaps a concrete wall or steel curtain would be in order, to separate the “disenfranchised users of social services programs” from those who might wish to afford themselves of the amenities on the other side.

And while I suspect the $750,000 dollars might go far in helping to assuage the suffering of those on the wrong side of the wall, Nashville can, and must have public art, even if just for art’s sake.

By: Loner on 1/1/11 at 11:18

Artsy-fartsy, Euro-wannabe, spendthrift "visionaries" concocted the master plan years you will taste the fruits of their labor, you filthy peasants.

Is the nature of the art for this new centerpiece a state secret? Apparently the taxpayers will have to wait for the grand unveiling ceremony to see where their money went.. Correct me, if I'm wrong on that.

I would suggest erecting a huge bronze sphincter in the center of the traffic circle. From the air, it would look good....with the vehicles swirling around it....very artsy from that perspective.....very avant garde.