Nashville taxpayers giving big bucks to another out-of-state artist

Nashville taxpayers giving big bucks to another out-of-state artist

Nashville officials are paying $300,000 for an exhibit commemorating the Civil Rights movement, but the artist lives some 2,000 miles away in Oakland, California.

The Nashville Metro Arts Commission hired Walter Hood to create “Witness Walls” on the west side of the Metro Nashville Courthouse.

Hood, whose official website says he’s an Oakland resident, failed to return repeated requests for comment.

The project, scheduled for completion sometime this year, will portray sculptural images of Civil Rights activists from the 1960s, according to the Metro Arts Commission’s website.

SNEAK PEAK: Walter Hoo'd proposed rendering of his Witness Walls project (photo courtesy of the Nashville Metro Arts Commission's official website).

SNEAK PEAK: Walter Hood’s proposed rendering of his Witness Walls project (photo courtesy of the Nashville Metro Arts Commission’s official website).

Tennessee Tax Revolt President Ben Cunningham, no fan of taxpayer-subsidized art, said at the very least the $300,000 should recirculate around Nashville or in Tennessee.

“We have plenty of wonderful artists here in Nashville. It is absolutely insane for us to spend taxpayer money in Oakland, California, when we have wonderful artists here in Nashville who can produce great art,” Cunningham told Tennessee Watchdog.

“I’m leaving aside the issue of whether we should do this. But if in fact the decision is made to spend the money then, for goodness sakes, we ought to spend it here in Nashville to enhance our own economy and employ our own artists.”

RELATED — Nashville taxpayers pay 20 times market value for bike racks for the sake of art

In an email, Metro Arts Commission Director of Public Art Caroline Vincent told Tennessee Watchdog, she and other city officials did nothing improper.

Caroline Vincent (photo courtesy of the Nashville Metro Arts Commission's website)

Caroline Vincent (photo courtesy of the Nashville Metro Arts Commission’s website)

“The Public Art Guidelines and Ordinance do not limit where an artist resides in regards to commissions,” Vincent said.

“We support Nashville-based artists in a number of ways including about 50-60 percent of our collection being by Tennessee artists.”

As reported, it isn’t the first time Nashville taxpayers have sent their money out-of-state for a pricey art project.

Two years ago Nashville taxpayers paid $750,000 so an abstract artist from California could construct large multi-colored sticks and place them partially upright near the Music City Center downtown.

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

Another art project, “Ghost Ballet,” cost Nashville taxpayers $340,600. New York City artist Alice Aycock was responsible for that project.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org 

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