On December 22, 1978, Mayor Richard Fulton signed the ordinance which established the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission. In 2018, Metro Arts' "40 for 40" project marked the agency's 40th anniversary with the purchase of artworks by 40 artists for the Historic Metro Courthouse and the Metro Office Building. These new works join 50 other pieces that form the city’s “One Percent for Art” public art collection. This new program is a key recommendation in Metro Arts’ Public Art Community Investment Plan adopted in spring 2017. For more information on "40 for 40" and the Art WORKS Collection, please contact Anne-Leslie Owens firstname.lastname@example.org.
Viewing the Artworks
The Historic Metro Courthouse is located at 1 Public Square and the artwork is available for viewing during normal business hours. The artworks are listed below starting with the Ground Floor and ending at the Third Floor, though you may view them in any order. Both stairs and elevators are available from each floor.
Inauguration Day II (Crowd)
Acrylic on canvas
Based on a monumental photograph from President Lincoln’s first inauguration, this work blurs the lines between where reality ends and abstraction begins. “The door opened to create a series [Better Angels] that addressed this unforgettable moment in our story, to make a big statement about this unprecedented presidential anomaly.”
B.024.02, B.037.02, B.059.02, B.032.02
Colored tape over color photograph
These works are primarily about creative practice and process, specifically as those endeavors relate to mark-making. The artist begins the process by culling source material in the form of marks and remnants. In reusing these often discarded marks, the artist hopes to raise awareness of their intrinsic importance in shared experiences.
Oil and acrylic on stuffed fabric over panel
Amid today’s distraction and constant information, this work break down the images of one’s youth – children’s imagery associated with the building blocks of discovery and understanding. By reimagining simple lines and shapes, the artist creates objects that at once feel personal and universal, suggestive of history and a search for identity.
New and Used Glory, Connection
Part of the Pikes Project series, these works tell a story about time and place in some of Nashville’s most diverse and dynamic communities. They reveal the often overlooked beauty along Nashville’s historic roadways and illustrate how art can inform and reflect the intense transformation taking place in Nashville today.
Courtney Adair Johnson
Photography, semi-matte paper, fabric
This work of digital photography captures the outside of McGruder Family Resource Center and includes a letterpress quote from poet Kahlil Gibran. The artist‘s work with the McGruder community has included printing and bookmaking that has evolved into assemblage, collaboration and conversation regarding sustainability and equity.
Mixed media on hardboard
4,743 people were lynched in the United States between 1882-1968 according to a historical survey of lynching produced by Tuskegee Institute. The artist challenges us to confront this difficult history and consider if “that was the past, or are we on repeat, repackaging to appear to be something else.”
A Place to Gather Crowd
Inspired by the artist’s cherished large family and their 30+ years of annual reunions, this work is part of her “Crowd Series.” Using papers with repeating patterns, as well as pastel with repeating marks and symbols, the artist imbues each “Crowd” with a different spirit or unifying theme.
Domestic Relations: Momma,
Domestic Relations: Daddy
Samuel L. Dunson
Spray paint, acrylic paint, water-soluble oil paints, and archival markers on canvas
Juxtaposing the images of three generations of a Black family, bound together by a common piece of clothing, against a backdrop of perceived destruction inside and outside the home, the artist confronts the viewer with a choice: to focus on the turmoil or to notice the strength and resilience of the family binding itself together through the destruction.
Oil on canvas
Inspired by a view from one of Metro Parks’ greenways, the artist captures the value of preserving open spaces as places for quiet reflection and connecting with others in a rapidly changing Nashville.
Acrylic on wood, canvas and plexiglass rods
Through exploring what happens when paint leaves the surface, the artist attempts to move beyond the traditional boundaries of the canvas. This sculptural painting’s Art Deco-style motif relates to the many original Art Deco features of the 1937 courthouse.
Afternoon Light, Arcade
Archival print facemounted to polished acrylic
The artist captures a quiet, light-filled moment at Nashville’s downtown arcade. Built in 1902 and modeled after a covered arcade in Italy, the historic structure houses an active and eclectic art community while retaining its old-world ambience.
Watercolor with colored pencil on paper
Hand lettered and near dilapidated old signposts on Charlotte Pike provided inspiration to the artist. Although this work is abstract in nature, it is imbued with a time and place. The artist reminds us that art can be a signpost in this way; as a reminder to things as they were and aren’t now.
Oil, ink, spray paint on canvas over panel
A referential abstraction, this work generates conversations about issues that most urban neighborhoods (and their artist residents) in confront: landscape, politics, and gun violence--the artist’s own security camera captured a shooting. This work is part of the series Keeper and is discussed in WPLN’s Neighbors podcast episode, “Matt Got Shot.”
James C. Napier,
J. Frankie Pierce,
Robert E. Lillard,
Curlie E. McGruder
Spray paint and wood dye on wood
These contemporary woodcuts honor Nashvillians who were influential in the city’s struggle to secure civil rights for all. Businessman and politician James C. Napier (1845-1940) helped organize the 1905 Negro streetcar strike and the black Union Transportation Company’s streetcar line and served on the Nashville City Council from 1878-1886. J. Frankie Pierce ( -1954) founded the Tennessee Vocational School for Colored Girls. She led women’s clubs on a march to city hall to protest segregation in public facilities. Politician and judge Robert E. Lillard (1907-1991) organized the 15th Ward Colored Voters and Civic Club. He served on the Metro Council for 20 years and was appointed judge of the First Circuit Court. Curlie E. McGruder (1927-1993) was a tireless activist bringing attention to hunger, housing, and access to quality health care. She was an NAACP Nashville chapter president and an organizer of the Freedom Marches.
Graphite and acrylic ink on canvas
This work suggests reflectivity (and depth), blackness, erasure and palimpsest, Earth’s all-powerful formative forces of pressure, heat and water, and above all graphite’s inseparable historic link to modern calligraphic handwriting. The artist sees this work as a meditation on the phenomenology of mark-making, with a focus on graphite as the impetus for that investigation.
Kelly S. Williams
Acrylic and oil on canvas-wrapped wood
Williams’ paintings feature compelling and often personally significant patterns and compositions that explore the notion of a feminine personal space. Her work also resides at the intersection of abstraction and representation—a space discovered through the meticulous, and often physically rigorous, rhythmic repetition of marks in a unique painting process.
Oil, pure pigment and fire on linen
This large scale, gestural work is formed upon layers of enamel on linen overlaid with fire and spray paint. It combines the artist’s interest in dance, natural movement, weather patterns, sound and divination. In her known smoke pieces, the artist paints upside down with fire dancing onto the canvases evoking billows of smoke into the composition.
I Do Declare
Jessica Saterstrom Eichman
Acrylic on canvas
People who come from different places or are divided by different beliefs are still connected by common threads of joy, pain, love and loss. In this painting, the artist reflects on these universal experiences, stating, “This painting is a simple declaration of witness to it all: I was here.”
Oil on canvas
Experimenting with the reflection of time and space as viewed in a static format, this work focuses on re-birth and renewal -- both genuine and misguided -- with particular concentration on water, its cyclical and symbolic nature, and ideas surrounding baptisms, drownings and emergence.
Oil on linen
Based on impressions and landmarks of Nashville’s Dickerson Pike area and influenced by the artist’s reading of Paul Clements’ Chronicles of the Cumberland, these works seek to engage the audience through an elaborate metaphor and create conversations about this part of Nashville, while orienting the viewer in a local, ongoing timeline.
Let Justice Roll Down Like Water
A celebration of human commonality, this sculpture examines nature’s fractal forms. The repetition of these branching forms in the natural world as the building blocks of the nervous system, roots, rivers, lightning, even coral formations, reinforces their role as the veins of our common nature.
Icon with Stained Glass
Susan Goshgarian McGrew
Oil paint, wood panel
Nashville is a city of old and new, young and mature, constantly evolving to support people of divergent backgrounds and interests. This work depicts the Ryman Auditorium, an old Nashville landmark that has evolved into a contemporary music venue hosting many genres of music as well as events.
Fabric, ribbon, mixed media
Inspired by the artist’s view from her studio window of storms rolling over Old Hickory Lake, this work is composed of upcycled women’s clothing and domestic textiles.
Paper, graphite, copper, milk paint
This work is the artist’s response to the green and fertile environment around her, and her participation in shaping it as it shapes her. The vines that wrap the trees and plants become a metaphor for paying attention, for mortality and renewal, and for the always-changing shape of new beginnings.
Willow Eucalyptus in Pink
Oil on paper
After the artist’s twenty-year practice as a landscape painter evolved into a focus on florals, this work developed through her intuitive process of layering transparent glazes, gestural lines, and emotive brushwork. Each layer plays a role in the artist’s refined ritual of slowly breaking down the literal representation of her subject.
Bridgestone Under Construction
Acrylic, aerosol, and fabric pattern on canvas
The artist uses Nashville’s development boom as a momentary opportunity to frame his portrait of the city as a work in progress. This work considers the question, “Do we value the process of becoming, or just anxiously await the removal of the scaffolding?”
Dancing in the Streets of Music City
Michael J. McBride
Acrylic on canvas
Created during a live painting exhibition, this work shows the artist’s glimpse into a celebratory side of Nashville without typical guitar and music industry icons.
News of the World
Oil on linen
The subject is a close friend of the artist, a fellow visual artist who has gained success in part because of his commandeering of his own southern identity. In this work, the artist seeks to bring significant form to everyday things and people, deriving meaning from the materials and the resolved piece.
Piecing Together the Past (1 and 2)
Collagraph, photopolymer intaglio printmaking, thread, paper
Using printmaking as a form of collage, the artist formed quilt-like pieces from hand-cut textures and images. On a background of vintage postage stamps are silhouettes cut from prints of postcards written to the artist’s great-grandmother in the early 1900s, prompting reflection on memory, distance, and the mindful, deliberate process of communicating by letter.