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Plans unveiled for large metal sculpture downtown
Updated on: 06.21.13

Downtown Nashville could be about a year and $62,000 away from a new attraction.

Town council tonight (June 20) put its support behind a plan to build an approximately 20-foot-tall metal leaf sculpture near the center of town.

The ideal spot, said Nashville Arts and Entertainment Commission President Tom Tuley, is the current site of the “town tree” at the Visitors Center at Main and Van Buren streets.

The commission has been working with a marketing consultant who came up with a concept for the sculpture. Local metal artist Jim Connor now has plans to construct it – with the aid of a local veterans group – provided the community can raise about $62,000 to build and install it.

Magnus Johnson, a U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret veteran, will provide labor through his Elder Heart group. The project, likewise, will support those veterans, he said, citing statistics of 23 suicides a day among soldiers returning from combat, having trouble adjusting to civilian life. “Instead of being disgruntled or irritated or angry, I decided to be the change that I want to see,” he told the town council in introducing his organization. “With Elder Heart, the art is kind of like an iceberg,” he said. “There are a lot of resources and other things under that that help guys in need.”

This will be Elder Heart’s first big public art project, Johnson said.

Connor’s work downtown includes bicycle racks and the recently installed bench at the public library in honor of retired librarian Yvonne Oliger.

The sculpture is envisioned to be constructed from half-inch to one-inch steel plates that will be cut and rolled into the shape of sycamore leaves, piled on one another as if being blown up by the wind. The original concept drawing called for the leaves to be brightly painted, but Connor plans to let the steel weather naturally, eventually taking on a rust brown hue.

A former steelworker on buildings and bridges for 20 years, Connor said his primary concern is the safety of constructing such a large, heavy piece of public art downtown. The council briefly discussed ways to keep the public from trying to climb on it.

The sculpture is the first in what the arts and entertainment commission intends to be several public art projects downtown.

The sculpture also is planned to tie into the marketing of Nashville’s new Cultural District. Plans include a QR code at its base that visitors can scan with their smartphones to learn more about art in Brown County.

Connor estimated that it would take him about six months to build the sculpture, and Tuley predicted the money could be raised by the end of the year, meaning it could be erected in time for peak tourism season in the fall of 2014.

Staff photo by Sara Clifford

A scale model of the proposed sculpture (1 inch=1 foot). It will stand about 20 feet tall.

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