Nashville’s newest piece of large-scale public art is being erected this week alongside the Cumberland River — a waterway that inspired the sculpture.
There’s nothing that looks quite like it in downtown Nashville — a tall piece of steel, but one that doesn’t include a straight line like the towering buildings nearby. Instead, this artwork, titled “Light Meander,” curves back and forth — mimicking the bends in the Cumberland River — as it rises nearly 45 feet.
It will catch and reflect the sun with stainless steel. It will glow at night in a way that looks like lights rippling over water. And at the bottom, wooden slats will form a bench, inviting people to come close — even sit beneath the soaring metal.
Located in downtown's new Riverfront Park, the sculpture will also provide a unique view to anyone crossing the water over the pedestrian bridge. In fact, from the vantage point up there, people will be able to look down and see two big sculptures — one on either side of a river that’s finally getting some attention.
“It seemed like, historically, the river was sort of the life blood of the town and city. For a long time. And then that connection to the river sort of got lost over time,”said Tom Drugan, one of two Seattle artists who created the piece. "So this whole project, in fact, but also the art specifically, is to try and reconnect to the river.”
Drugan has been wearing a hard hat lately as crews install the art in a large construction site that includes a new amphitheater.
It’s a common scene lately, as Nashville has debuted 39 city-owned art projects in the past five years, a bigger flurry of projects than ever before.
Some of the artwork answers prior criticisms about the slow arrival of public art after a funding increase. The collection began in 2007 with a different metal sculpture along the river, the red “Ghost Ballet,” which resembles a roller coaster corkscrew.
Before long, there will be enough art downtown for a walking tour, said Caroline Vincent, director of public art for Metro Arts.
“We’re building almost like a sculpture trail with that piece, ‘Ghost Ballet,’ ” she said. "Is that something we look at down the road that we continue to add to, that idea of a sculpture walk, or something like Chattanooga has?”
The new "Light Meander" could be constructed by next weekend, and illuminated in July. A handful of other art projects are also coming soon, including what will be the largest one in city history.