Nashville’s Public Art Program Reportedly Not Getting Enough Taxpayer Money, Despite Significant Past Spending


Nashville’s public art program reportedly isn’t getting enough taxpayer money, despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars it’s already spent on public art projects, with some of that money going to artists out-of-state.

Nashville Public Radio reported that Metro Nashville officials are underfunding their art program.

“To make up for it, Metro Arts will soon receive a back payment that can be put toward new sculptures and other large-scale installations,” according to Nashville Public Radio.

The discovery came out of a routine review of finances, the station reported.

“The way public art funding works in Nashville is that whenever Metro does capital spending projects — such as a new building, park, library, or significant renovation — it sets aside 1 percent of the budget for use on public art,” according to Nashville Public Radio.

“But the audit found that some capital projects weren’t counted toward the art calculation in fiscal year 2017. So, the public art fund is owed $363,000 by the city.”

According to the now extinct Tennessee Watchdog:

• Nashville officials paid $300,000 for an exhibit commemorating the Civil Rights movement. The artist lived some 2,000 miles away in Oakland, Calif. The Nashville Metro Arts Commission hired Walter Hood to create “Witness Walls” on the west side of the Metro Nashville Courthouse.

• Nashville taxpayers paid $750,000 so another California artist could construct large multi-colored sticks and place them partially upright near the Music City Center downtown.

• “Tool Fire,” built in 2013, consists of several shovels, rakes, and pickaxes glued together and placed on display along the Shelby Bottoms Greenway. For that project, the city paid an Alabama artist $30,000.

• Nashville taxpayers paid two Seattle artists $350,000 to create a sculpture at Nashville’s West Riverfront Park symbolizing the Cumberland River.

• Nashville officials would have spent no more than $5,000 — at the most — for four new bicycle racks, if they had paid market prices. Instead, they spent upwards of $100,000, at taxpayers’ expense. These aren’t standard bicycle racks. Rather, these bike racks have an artistic flair, which explains why Nashville officials saw fit to spend 20 times as much.

The 2010 Tennessee Pork Report, meanwhile, referred to another art project, costing $340,600, near Nissan Stadium. The report said the project resembled “the remnants of a defunct and mangled roller coaster.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks” by the City of Nashville.






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6 Thoughts to “Nashville’s Public Art Program Reportedly Not Getting Enough Taxpayer Money, Despite Significant Past Spending”

  1. […] The Star reported this month, a few miles south of Columbia, Nashville’s public art program reportedly isn’t getting enough […]

  2. 83ragtop50

    I guess Nashville government is trying to drive off all its taxpayers…. and is doing a good job of it so far.

  3. lb

    When we moved here 12 yrs ago, I asked my husband (a Nashville native) why the City didnt clear out that broken roller coaster? He informed me that wasnt an old, damaged roller coaster, but a planned, approved and taxpayer funded piece of “art”. I was stunned. We lived in Paris 3 yrs and traveled all over Europe–I have seen ART–that was garbage.
    Then I saw the naked statues frolicking–they werent artistic, they were embarrassing.
    “Art” throughout most of history was privately funded. Lets return to that ASAP, esp because this City is supposedly BROKE.

  4. Overtaxed Nashvillian

    Art work is work. I guess.

  5. Not one red cent of taxpayer money should be spent on public art, public radio nor public TV. It’s not like there isn’t anything else to see, hear or watch out there. Let them fundraise. They already do that, on top of the taxpayer money. Too many other things need to be addressed with limited funds. Stop the insanity.

    And the read, “So, the public art fund is owed $363,000 by the city.” – Excuse me????!!!!!!

    Go find private donors. Enough already. The government shouldn’t be choosing winners and losers in the art, radio and TV world. The free market will determine that.