By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog
NASHVILLE — Nashville taxpayers will pay $750,000 so an abstract artist from California can construct large colored sticks and place them partially upright on display near the Music City Center downtown.
The Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission made the announcement in a press release last week.
Tennessee Watchdog contacted Metro Arts Executive Director Jennifer Cole in an attempt to ask two primary questions.
The first question had to do with how, exactly, the benefits of this project outweigh the cost to taxpayers. For that question, Cole referred to Mayor Karl Dean’s office. Dean spokeswoman Bonna Johnson, however, was unavailable to speak Monday.
The second question for Cole had to do with why, exactly, city officials are spending such a large sum of money to pay an out-of-state artist? Tennessee’s economy, as we pointed out, seemingly won’t benefit if no state residents are working on the project.
After all, didn’t city officials just give $500,000 of taxpayer money to the producers of ABC’s “Nashville” on the grounds the show will hire local workers and bring some economic benefits back to the state?
Cole, however, chose to say nothing.
“Based on the publication that you are writing for I don’t really want to respond to that question,” Cole said.
Ben Cunningham, president of the Nashville-based Tennessee Tax Revolt, has a problem not only with the project but also with Cole’s refusal to answer Tennessee Watchdog’s question.
“It ought to be grounds for dismissal,” Cunningham said.
“When a government-funded official who is responsible for communicating to the press and the public refuses to talk to the press then I think we need to talk about getting someone else to fill that role. That is the kind of arrogance we cannot tolerate in our taxpayer-funded government officials.”
Metro Arts Commission members chose artist Christian Moeller to create the project, described as an “homage to the Native Americans who first populated Middle Tennessee.”
Moeller is currently a professor at the University of California-Los Angeles.
According to the press release, the sticks will be spaced in an irregular organic pattern in a composition of different colors.
Cunningham, though, said it’s government’s job to give people the freedom to mold culture, not for government to define it.
“The taxpayers of Nashville are about to be stuck with the sticks,” Cunningham said.
“They are going to stick it to us with this ridiculous piece of what they call art. I call it a bunch of randomly placed sticks. It’s just a ridiculous expenditure of taxpayer money. The fact that it’s going out of state adds insult to injury.”
Nashville officials don’t have a completion date for the project as of yet, according to the press release.
Contact Christopher Butler at [email protected].
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