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.
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.
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.
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.
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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