Stone And Sculptures To Fill Nashville Park Named For Legendary Black Sculptor

William Edmondson said he took up carving after receiving a vision from God. His work later inspired this poetry collection Elizabeth Spires. But while he is now  held in high regard, Edmondson made little money off his art during his lifetime; many in the art world at the time treated his sculptures as primitive novelty pieces.

William Edmondson said he took up carving after receiving a vision from God. His work later inspired a poetry collection by Elizabeth Spires. But while he is now held in high regard, Edmondson made little money off his art during his lifetime; many in the art world at the time treated his sculptures as primitive novelty pieces.

Metro officials broke ground in Edmondson Park on Friday. The small strip of green space along Charlotte Avenue is being renovated to honor the self-taught sculptor William Edmondson.

The Nashvillian was a janitor who learned to carve by making tombstones. In 1937, he became the first African-American to have a solo show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

When completed, the space will be equal parts neighborhood gathering spot and sculpture park. An existing work made for the nearby Oasis Center will be permanently installed. Artifacts from the state capitol, made of stone once quarried on the site, will be placed in a group. Two new pieces have been commissioned by a pair of black artists who are, like Edmonson, self-taught.

Money for the works by Thornton Dial and Lonnie Holley–who also got his start by making tombstones– is coming from Metro Arts Commission’s public art fund and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.


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