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Civil Rights Public Art Project

Walter Hood Design

The Metro Arts Commission approved the selection of artist Walter Hood to create new public art inspired by the city’s role in the historic Civil Rights Movement. His design for Witness Walls utilizes iconic photos of the Civil Rights movement in Nashville to honor the events and the people who made history here and created the blueprint for nonviolent protest. The installation will be located on the west side of the historic Metro Nashville Courthouse, steps away from the historic April 19, 1960 student-led protest that led then-Mayor Ben West to disavow segregation of Nashville’s lunch counters. The artwork is expected to be installed in 2015.

Witness Walls is a set of fragmented sculptural walls, inspired by the classical sculpted friezes paying homage to heroic and mythical events in antiquity. As visitors walk through Witness Walls they will encounter numerous images etched into concave and convex walls by a “graphic concrete” technology. The walls guide visitors through different historic aspects of Nashville’s Civil Rights movement and different physical experiences as the walls bend towards and away from one another. The preliminary design also includes three small reflective fountains and the use of audio, possibly music reflective of the time period.

Hood, a native of Charlotte, N.C., received his bachelor degree in Landscape Architecture from North Carolina A&T State University before receiving both Master of Architecture and Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. He also earned a Master of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in in studio arts and sculpture. Currently, Hood lives in Oakland, Calif., and is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley's Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design Department, which he chaired from 1998 to 2002. His studio practice, Hood Design, has been engaged in environmental design, urban design, art installations, and research commissions since 1992. More information about the artist can be found on his website, and on the Media and Press section.

Lesson Plans for Teachers

Metro Arts has partnered with the Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation at Lipscomb University  to create project-based lesson plans centered on Nashville’s public art. Most recently, with funding from the Tennessee Arts Commission, a cadre of six area teachers focused on the new public art project, Witness Walls. The teachers shared their lessons plans on February 25, 2015 at a professional learning event for area educators and teaching artists.

The Witness Walls standards-aligned lesson plans—covering English/language arts, physics, social studies, U.S. history, and visual arts—are ready and available to download on the Ayers Institute website. Please contact us to let us know how you have utilized these resources. We would love to hear from you!

Community Engagement: We Want Your Input!

Metro Arts and artist Walter Hood are committed to involving the community in the project's development. We invite you to use to share ideas, remarks, images, and music for the project with the artist through our online community feedback form. To request a paper copy of the form, please contact Anne-Leslie Owens at 615-862-6732.

Public Meeting and Reception

Civil Rights_Reception

On Thursday, June 26, Walter Hood spent a day In Nashville exploring the artwork site, meeting with Civil Rights Veterans, and researching the music and images of the period with local experts. That evening, over 60 people joined Metro Arts and the Metro Council Minority Caucus at a reception for Walter Hood and the Civil Rights Public Art Project. The community “meet and greet” was held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Hadley Park Community Center. During his artist remarks, Hood explained that his aim is to create an artwork that provides an experience while leaving space for the observer to interpret something unique and personal.

Thank you to everyone who attended public meetings and has offered ideas and suggestions to the artist. Your participation is appreciated and ensures that our public art projects are successful.

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


Funded in part by:

Tennessee Arts Commission