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Metro Arts Public Art Community Investment Plan

Our Town, Bryce McCloud

In 2017, Metro Arts unveiled a comprehensive plan that positions public art as a community investment tool for neighborhood transformation, creative workforce development and equitable practices throughout the city.

The Executive Summary and full Plan can be downloaded from the links below.

Background on the Public Art Community Investment Plan and Process

In 2015, Metro Arts completed its strategic plan, Crafting a Creative City, which envisioned the opportunity to re-imagine public art as a tool for creative community investment, citizen engagement and neighborhood redevelopment. That plan responded to NashvilleNext, the city’s general plan and sought to reinforce how art can leverage and support the city’s growth, diversity and prosperity. In late 2015, a public art plan was commissioned.

At the beginning of the process, the planning team formed several community advisory groups, held artist focus group meetings and conducted more than 50 interviews with arts organizations, community members and Metro agencies and department partners. An internet survey generated nearly 1,000 responses to questions about the public art Nashville has commissioned to date, and directions Metro Arts might pursue in the future. The leading hypothesis was that investments in public art can help build Nashville’s public art ecosystem, and improve access to, and participation in, the arts for everyone in Nashville.

The consulting team (Bressi/McKinley) completed a “benchmarking” study that examines a variety of ways in which public art agencies and independent arts organizations throughout the U.S. have developed projects and programs that are directed towards the vision Metro Arts has for public art. Cities of Nashville’s size often rely on a broad ecosystem of arts organizations – public agencies, museums, university programs, independent arts organizations and artist collaborative projects – to achieve goals that are as ambitious as Nashville’s.

The Plan’s new vision starts with these values:

  1. Metro Arts is committed to equity.
  2. Metro Arts values and supports artistic practice, meaning support for artists in the work they do, both creatively, and in terms of cultivating sustainable economic vitality.
  3. Metro Arts is also committed to the public realm, which means that public art, more than any other artistic discipline, exists in public space, and thus has the dual role of impacting people’s use and enjoyment of public space.

In order to meet these values and goals, the Plan recommends four focus areas:

  1. Strengthen the public art ecosystem: This goal involves strengthening Nashville’s capacity to produce public art. This means catalyzing and supporting a public art ecosystem that is made up of a broad network of artists, arts organizations, fabricators, museums, schools and galleries that one way or another create a healthy environment for public artists and public art production.
  2. Foster deeper cultural and civic participation. This is central to the Metro Arts’ Vision, that every Nashvillan should have access to and be able to participate in a creative life.
  3. Catalyze vibrant, creative neighborhoods. Metro Arts recognizes that policies for arts access, creative workforce development and arts education have a better chance of succeeding when they are intertwined with the economic, physical and social fabric of neighborhoods. Neighborhoods should have an expressive identity that reflects culture, history and spirit of a neighborhood; embraces and empowers the creativity of people in the neighborhood; and fosters stronger civic connection and social capital.
  4. Support a vital public realm. The public realm is the physical places that are built to support the shared purposes of civil society. A vital public realm is valued for being a place that feels accessible to everyone and shared by all, for its aesthetics and its function in equal measure, and for the meaning it expresses about a community’s identity and purpose.

The Plan also recommends a new set of process-based tools be used in the development of public art in Nashville: artist residencies, place-based studios, artists on planning teams and temporary public art projects in addition to traditional Percent for Public Art permanent projects. In the residency approach, an artist is embedded in the community and develops projects along with community members. Place-based studios are artists working in public studio spaces throughout the community in neighborhoods, community centers and libraries.

Metro Arts plans to work closely with its Metro partners to make sure artists are included on community planning teams and infrastructure projects. Metro Arts will also continue to offer professional development opportunities for artists, like the Learning Lab, and will look to seed more public art in private development.

Watch the Public Art Community Investment Plan Announcement via Metro Nashville Network.

Consulting Team

Todd Bressi and Meridith McKinley have been collaborating for nearly a decade on public art planning, program design and project implementation assignments. During that time, their firms have completed collaboratively and individually nearly 30 public art master plans, for cities with newly formed programs, cities with established programs, and special agencies like transit systems, airports and a port. Over the last decade they have assisted clients in various aspects of commissioning of millions of dollars of public art projects, and they have helped curate special public art initiatives for a range of clients. Their firms offer solid experience in public art planning, project management, curating and urban design, with a deep understanding of the practice of public art in the U.S. and beyond.

For this project, Bressi and McKinley are worked with The MePR Agency on community engagement strategies and Kiku Obata & Co. on information design strategies.