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Arts Commission

Civil Rights Public Art Project

Coming Soon Banner on Construction Fencing

Construction Status

In October 2016, Metro Arts broke ground at Public Square Park for Witness Walls, the Civil Rights-inspired public artwork by artist Walter Hood. The artist’s sub-contractor, Roy T. Goodwin Contractors of Nashville, is preparing the foundation and overseeing the installation of the artwork walls from Gate Precast Concrete in Ashland City. Additional site work, landscaping, audio, and fountain component installation will occur shortly thereafter. It is anticipated that the artwork installation will be completed in early 2017 if there are no unexpected site or weather delays.

Public Dedication Event

A public dedication event is scheduled for Friday, April 21, 2017 at 2 pm at the Witness Walls site in Public Square Park. Please check back to this website for additional event details. If you would like to receive updates on Witness Walls by email or US mail, please let us know by emailing us at anne-leslie.owens@nashville.gov or calling us at 615-862-6732.

Clarkston Ellerby interviews veteran Rip Patton

Podcasts

In support of Witness Walls, Metro Arts and One Voice Nashville have launched an exciting podcast series, “My Witness”. Through the project, Metro high school students interviewed Civil Rights veterans and created podcasts that tell stories both of the Nashville Movement and its impact pact on their lives and communities. Click on links below to listen to the podcasts:

Prototypes of stencil and photo images.

The Artist’s Final Design

Walter Hood’s final design for Witness Walls is the result of extensive research by the artist, multiple conversations with Nashville Civil Rights Veterans, and careful consideration of hundreds of period images. The artist explains, “The selection of images for the artwork does not seek to highlight key individuals or singular events in a chronological or hierarchical order. Rather, through two resolutions of images accompanied by music of the period, it strives to embed the visitor in a movement in which the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.” The artist’s abstract [stencil] compositions in “exposed aggregate depict scenes of motion: marching, protesting, and walking to school. Meanwhile, the shadow graphic [photo] images allow [viewers] to experience the expressions and emotions of these individuals. Most of these images depict people sitting, all of them focus on people's hands and facial expressions… Both resolutions fade in and out of focus as you move through the sculpture—the former based on proximity and the latter based on angle—so that new relationships emerge with every step”.

Walter Hood Drawing in his Studio

Project Overview

Witness Walls is inspired by the events and the people who made history here in Nashville and created the blueprint for nonviolent protest during the modern Civil Rights Movement. The artwork will be located on the west side of the historic Metro Nashville Courthouse, steps away from the site of the historic April 19, 1960 student-led protest that led then-Mayor Ben West to disavow segregation of Nashville's lunch counters.

Artist Walter Hood designed Witness Walls as a set of fragmented sculptural walls, recalling the classical sculpted friezes that pay homage to heroic and mythical events in antiquity. Using carefully selected period photographs, the artist is exploring the full expressive potential of concrete to create a site of remembrance and celebration. Set amid these walls are two small fountains that enhance the contemplative quality of the space.

As visitors walk through the artwork’s concave and convex walls, they will encounter Nashvillians taking action—school desegregation, lunch counter sit-ins, economic boycotts, marches, meetings, and Freedom Rides. Surrounded by these images, the artwork’s period music transports visitors to these events and places. The proliferation of images and sounds remind us that the Civil Rights movement was a collective endeavor. Just as this site once did, the visitors moving through and around these walls bear witness to the remarkable events that took place in Nashville over a half century ago.

More information about the artist can be found on his website, http://www.wjhooddesign.com.

Witness Walls Reception with artist Walter Hood, June 26, 2014

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Learn more about the Civil Rights Witness Walls project from this interview with artist Walter Hood.

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Funded in part by:

Tennessee Arts Commission