Skip to Content

Dedication and Celebration of Witness Walls Public Artwork to be Held Friday, April 21.


Metro’s 50th “One Percent for Art” Project honors Nashville Civil Rights Movement

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Jennifer Cole
Metro Arts

Metro Arts will unveil Witness Walls alongside Mayor Megan Barry, Civil Rights activists and artist Walter Hood on Friday, April 21 at 2 p.m. at the northwest corner of Public Square Park.

Witness Walls is inspired by the events and the people who made history in Nashville and created the blueprint for nonviolent protest during the modern Civil Rights Movement. The artwork is 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.

The artwork is a set of fragmented concrete sculptural walls featuring carefully selected period photographs and artistic compositions of abstracted photographs. In addition, there are two fountains and ambient period music can be heard as visitors walk through the artwork’s four concave and convex walls. The viewer encounters Nashvillians taking action—school desegregation, lunch counter sit-ins, economic boycotts, marches, meetings, and Freedom Rides.

“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,” explains artist Walter Hood.

The artwork dedication this week marks the fifty-seventh anniversary of the bombing of attorney Z. Alexander Looby’s home, the catalyst for the student-led silent march to confront Mayor Ben West following weeks of sit-ins at the city’s lunch counters.

“This is an important day for Nashville to honor the individuals who collectively worked to bring justice and equality to their own city and paved the way for nonviolent protest around the country then and now. The actions of students, clergy and everyday citizens transformed our city and the way we think about equity,” said Mayor Megan Barry.

Witness Walls represents a milestone in the city’s public art collection. Since 2010, Metro Arts has unveiled 49 new works in the city collection, many focused on neighborhood stories and improving the public realm. Artist Walter Hood was selected for the project as part of the Public Art Percent for Art Program and this work marks the 50th work commissioned by the city.

Citizen review panelists including: Dr. Crystal A. deGregory, Carrie Gentry, Susan Knowles, Ernest “Rip” Patton Jr., Jim Robert, Mary C. Roskilly, Carlton Wilkinson, and Anderson Williams and the late, John Seigenthaler, reviewed artist proposals and selected Hood for the commission. More than 15 local companies were part of the artwork implementation including Gate Precast Concrete, Ashland City; Roy T. Goodwin Contractors, Nashville; Jarvis Signs, Nashville; Geotek Engineering, Nashville; and Paradise Construction, Goodlettsville, TN were involved with the design and construction phase of the project.

“We are honored to have had a part in bringing this work to fruition for the residents of Nashville. This artwork honors those who fought for justice in the 1950s and 1960s, and also serves as inspiration for continued conversation about ideas of equity and justice today. It marks a critical moment in our Public Art program and shows that public art really is about driving public conversations about community issues and about improving our public realm,” noted Jennifer Cole, Executive Director of Metro Arts.

In addition to the work itself, Metro Arts has collaborated with One Voice Nashville to produce a series of podcasts produced by local high school students that feature their interviews with Civil Rights veterans and the artist. Metro Arts will also continue to partner with the Metro Library Civil Rights Reading Room on special programs, lectures and artist talks that support issues of social justice and equality highlighted in Witness Walls. More information about the ongoing discussions around equity can be found at

Media Availability

Who: Artist Walter Hood and Civil Rights Activists
Where: Public Square Park (artwork is located at corner of 3rd & James Robertson)
When: Friday, April 21, 2017

  • Media Preview and Media Availability with Artist 1:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • Public Artwork Dedication with Mayor Barry 2 p.m.
  • In the event of inclement weather, event will take place in Metro Council Chambers

Metro Public Art

Witness Walls is part of a larger initiative designed to make public art a reality throughout the city and to enrich the lives of all Nashvillians. In 2000, a Metro ordinance was passed that earmarks one percent of the net proceeds from general obligation bonds issued for new or major renovation construction of Metro facilities, to be set aside for the creation of new public art projects. Witness Walls is the 50th artwork in Metro’s Public for Public Art Collection. To view the entire collection, go to

Walter Hood

Artist Walter Hood is an Oakland, California based environmental designer, artist and educator. He 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. Hood works in the urban civic realm, from small community-based places to large-scale landscape commissions.

About the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission (Metro Arts) The Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission, a commission of the Metropolitan Nashville Government, drives a more equitable and vibrant community through the arts. Metro Arts receives operational support from the Tennessee Arts Commission, and additional information is available online at

# # #