In recent years Nashville has become home to a growing number of incredible public art projects that have drawn the eyes of the world to Music City for something other than its music for a change. The eye-catching Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks, Nashville’s first work under the city’s Percent for Public Art Ordinance, has been garnering substantial publicity on the national arts circuit. The mammoth piece has garnered features in prominent magazines such as Sculpture, Public Art Review, and Art in America.  Most recently it was selected for Art in America’s Annual Guide issue as one of the featured public art projects of 2007.

“We are thrilled that Ghost Ballet is known to be among the best in the nation and that our program is getting this kind of positive feedback,” said Norree Boyd, executive director of the Metro Arts Commission.  “Nashville acquired a special work of art in the Ghost Ballet and we want to continue attracting outstanding artists locally, regionally and from around the nation.”

Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks was among only 45 selected for the honor of the best public art works in the United States.  The 45 selected include projects from 29 cities in 19 states. Nashville’s first work of city-funded public art was chosen from more than 200 entries from across the country.

At the annual Public Art Year in Review conference session on June 22 in Philadelphia, two independent public art experts- Boston Architectural Center President Ted Landsmark and environmental artist Jody Pinto- presented their choices for the most exemplary, innovative permanent or temporary public art works created or debuted in 2007.  The Ghost Ballet was only one of seven projects chosen by both experts, who judged the projects independently. 

Now equipped with permanent lighting fixtures that will give it a significant nighttime presence, the lights are set to be on concurrently with the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge lighting, from about dusk until midnight.

“The lights bring the sculpture to life at night,” said Norree Boyd, executive director of the Metro Arts Commission.  “The east bank will now have a presence to echo the activity and vitality of the west side of the river and the downtown Broadway district.”

The sculpture, by artist Alice Aycock, was lit in October with temporary fixtures as the first phase of lighting design. Since then, custom-designed permanent fixtures have been fabricated and installed.

“One goal of the project, given the location of the site and its visibility from many vantage points in downtown Nashville, was for the artwork to have a presence both day and night,” said Sandra Duncan, the Metro Arts Commission’s public art program manager.  “We are pleased that the final lighting gives the sculpture a place in Nashville’s nighttime skyline.”

This is the eighth year that Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America, has recognized public art works.  The artists and organizations involved in commissioning these public art works will receive letters of recognition and congratulations from Americans for the Arts President and CEO Robert L. Lynch.

“As these Year in Review selections illustrate, public art enhances our lives like nothing else can,” Lynch said.  “Whether subtly beautiful or vibrantly jolting, its power lay in the singular ability to make citizens stop, think and appreciate an artistic moment, no matter how brief.”

The 100-foot tall, 100-foot wide and 60-foot deep sculpture sits on the remnant of a gantry crane once used to build and launch barges.  The site, located on the East Bank Greenway, was selected as the most favorable site in Nashville for public art through a process beginning with hundreds of citizens participating in the Nashville Civic Design Center’s Plan of Nashville workshops.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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