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

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

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’re spending 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.

One artist designed a rack — for the Nashville Sounds’ park — shaped like a baseball in motion on its way to a mitt.

An artist's rendering of a pricy bicycle rack that will go up in front of Nashville's Sounds Stadium (photo courtesy of the Nashville Metro Arts Commission's official website)

An artist’s rendering of a pricy bicycle rack that will go up in front of Nashville’s Sounds Stadium (photo courtesy of the Nashville Metro Arts Commission’s official website)

One rack, in the form of a bumblebee, will go to Hadley Park and Community Center, and a rack portraying three crowded bookshelves will be installed at Looby Library.

A fourth bike rack, for the North Branch Public Library, is modeled on what what city officials call “intersection rails.”

Members of Nashville’s Metro Arts Commission handed out the money.

Metro Director of Public Art Caroline Vincent told Tennessee Watchdog she and other city officials had no choice but to spend this much, per city rules.

“These are site-specific sculptures as part of our public art collection that also function as bike racks,” Vincent said, adding that money can’t go toward “stock racks or mass produced products.”

Four Nashville artists — Zach Duensing, Randy Purcell, Robert Hendrick, and Kristina Colucci — are designing and building the racks, scheduled for installation this summer, according to the Metro Arts Commission’s website.

Those four artists did not immediately return requests for comment.

Tennessee Tax Revolt President Ben Cunningham (photo by Chris Butler)

Tennessee Tax Revolt President Ben Cunningham (photo by Chris Butler)

City officials are giving $3,500 to each artist, with a production cost of $10,000 to $20,000 per rack, Vincent said.

Using artists’ renderings as a gauge, each rack will hold about 10 bicycles.

According to ParkItBikeRacks.com, the company’s most expensive rack, which will hold 10 bicycles, costs $1,204. The company’s least expensive rack, for 18 bicycles, is $265.

Tennessee Tax Revolt President Ben Cunningham doesn’t approve.

“Leave it to government to take a very simple utilitarian object and make it cost 20 times what it should cost in the name of art,” Cunningham said.

“There are art galleries all over the city. There are artists doing wonderful things with their art. The government does not have to get involved and point the way for us. There is already plenty of private incentive for these artists to produce wonderful art.”

Nashville’s Metro Arts Commission received $2.37 million for the current fiscal year, city finance spokesman Zak Kelley said.

As reported, it’s not the first pricey art project Nashville’s Metro Arts Commission has paid for.

MEANDERING: This sculpture, meant to symbolize the Cumberland River, cost Nashville taxpayers $350,000 (photo courtesy of Vincent Kreul)

MEANDERING: This sculpture, meant to symbolize the Cumberland River, cost Nashville taxpayers $350,000 (photo courtesy of Vincent Kreul)

Nashville taxpayers recently spent $750,000 for a California artist to build large multi-colored sticks and place them partially upright near the Music City Center downtown.

The city paid $30,000 so an artist could glue together several shovels, rakes and pickaxes, paint them black and mold them into a 12-foot high structure along the Shelby Bottoms Greenway.

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

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.”

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org 

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  • Fred Tomson

    Love the bike racks in Nashville.
    I only wish more people would use them.

  • Teressa

    These type “art” purchases, when above the normal price for utilitarian versus art should go before public for vote. Not essential-the people should decide on those type purchases. What? The people hire by vote representatives to decide where tax dollars are spent. Yes they do. But we do not expect them to be purchasing art for us. Paving roads, assuring schools doors remain open, paying our bills. Not purchasing art! These racks are cool and the people may want them. They should have a vote to know that or sure. What other things does the city need that we could spend those dollars on? The people should know. Communication!

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