Just You Wait, Metro Arts Says. Towering ‘Stix’ Sculpture Will Impress

Sep 21, 2015

Nashville’s most expensive — and tallest — public art piece begins to rise Monday next to the Music City Center. While the project brought criticism on the Metro Arts Commission, officials say they’re now about to be vindicated.

It won’t be an artist, but actually a local power pole company, that will be pivotal in finishing the installation.

Madison-based Rains Electric Company has been drilling constantly this month in the middle of the 8th Avenue roundabout — at least 8 hours per day down into solid Tennessee bedrock.

While the company is accustomed to raising tall electrical poles and stadium lights, they’re now digging the foundations for something different: an array of nearly 30 cedar poles painted with orange and blue stripes (see slideshow above).

Company president David Rains says getting something of this size to stay upright isn’t unusual for his team. “It’s kind of our bailiwick, as far as drilling the holes,” he says. But with these poles, the design doesn’t call for them to stand straight.

A small scale model of "Stix" helps the installation crew envision the cedar poles and their angular arrangement.
Credit Tony Gonzalez / WPLN

“Now, the angle … that’s kinda going to be the little hair in the ointment there,” he says. “The most angle we’ll have will probably be on a pitch of about 17 or 18 degrees.

“I don’t think there’s a single one that’s straight.”

It turns out nothing about it has been easy. Ever since Metro approved its price of $750,000, and it’s name was announced — it’s called “Stix” with an ‘X’ — the artwork has been a magnet for skepticism.

More: Metro's growing public art collection

“The argument I’ve heard most is, sort of, ‘Stix, that seems silly. You pick up sticks. Why would you do that?’” said Caroline Vincent, public art director for Metro. “But I think the scale of it is going to be impressive.”

(For those who do wonder, artist and UCLA professor Christian Moeller says the piece isn’t about the game “Pick up Sticks,” but an homage to the painted wooden artwork of Tennessee’s Native Americans.)

Vincent, meanwhile, has been a bit on the defensive. But she says people must see the finished project to believe it. At 70 feet tall, “Stix” will be nearly twice the height of normal telephone poles.

“The name is a bit of a misnomer. You say ‘Stix’ and that seems small. It doesn’t equate to what we’re talking about. I just try to explain the scale to people: that it’s gonna be huge,” Vincent said.

Time-intensive drilling into solid stone bedrock means crews complete one hole per day for the 27 cedar poles that make up "Stix."
Credit Tony Gonzalez / WPLN

And she says their placement within the roundabout will create a cool visual effect as people circle in their cars.

The sculpture will also stand amid what Vincent says is slowly becoming a public art walking tour, featuring the other recent addition, “Light Meander,” at Riverfront Park, and the long-standing Ghost Ballet on the east bank of the Cumberland River.

But really, Vincent says, “Stix” will “speak for itself.”

Traffic Closure
Rains will be raising five poles at a time in the coming days. There will be brief road closures to move the poles to the roundabout, but then installation will be contained within the circle from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Landscaping and lighting is to be completed by the end of October.

Tags: