Based on early reviews, the ability to rotate Nashville’s latest public art is turning out to be a hit.
Nashvillians waited in line Thursday morning to turn the cranks attached to “Citizen,” a pair of 30-foot sculptures –– one female, the other male –– recently installed on the front lawn of the downtown public square and courthouse.
Construction on the companion part-glass, part-steel sculptures began some time ago. But on Thursday, Mayor Karl Dean and others made if official, dedicating “Citizen” in front of a crowd of art enthusiasts. The sculptures will be lit for the first time Thursday night.
“Public art is an important component of providing that sense of place that is part of what makes an attractive community,” Dean said. “Honestly, here in Nashville we have some catching up to do in the area of public art. Other cities –– Seattle, Philadelphia, Charlotte –– already have extensive public art collections throughout their neighborhoods. We will get there.”
The new figures aren’t traditional sculptures. Both are composed of tall, vertical bases, one holding a torso of a man, the other a woman. The upper portions of the sculptures, made of radial patterns of glass fins, are recognized as humans, each pointing with an outstretched arm. Neither sculpture is nude.
But it’s the cranks that truly distinguish the “Citizen.” The public is encouraged to walk up to the sculptures, turn the cranks and point the arms to various locations in the city –– LP Field, the courthouse, wherever.
“You can point it almost anywhere,” Dean said. “That’s one of the great things about it. The public will be involved with this art on a daily basis. I think that’s what we wanted.”
The artist behind “Citizen” is Raleigh, N.C.-based Thomas Sayre, who was chosen out of 171 artists across the country who submitted proposals for the public square.
Funding for the $450,000 “Citizen” came from the “Percent for the Arts” program, which takes 1 percent of all net proceeds of general obligation bonds issued for public construction and allocates it to public art. The program was signed into law in 2000.
“Citizen” joins “Ghost Ballet” on the east bank of the Cumberland River as the only finished art projects to be funded through the 1-percent initiative. A set of artful bike racks, also funded through the program, is slated to be unveiled this summer. In the future, art projects are to be installed in outlying parts of the county.
According to Metro Arts Commission Executive Director Jennifer Cole, plans are in the works for art to be installed at the new Goodlettsville Library and the new McCabe Community Center. In addition, the commission is looking at adding art in the new Music City Center, as well as the renovated Fulton Complex on Second Avenue.
As for the public square, the plan in October is to add three bronze sculptures, which will be realistic figures depicting different parts of Nashville’s history. The sculptures will be the final pieces of art installed at the downtown public square.