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Nashville taxpayers to fund Californian’s $750K stick art

By   /   September 24, 2013  /   News  /   14 Comments

STUCK WITH THE STICKS?: An artists' rendering of the sticks that will be placed in downtown Nashville, at $750,000 taxpayer expense.

STUCK WITH THE STICKS?: An artists’ rendering of the sticks that will be placed in downtown Nashville, at $750,000 taxpayer expense.


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.

Jennifer Cole

COLE: Little to say about the stick art.

“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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Chris formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • Bill Hobbs

    Saw something similar on sale at Target recently… https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151870718519661&set=a.10151209459974661.479669.562039660

    I should clarify – I actually LIKE the “STIX” art thingy, and think it will be a cool addition to downtown. The nighttime lighting effects will be cool, and during the day the shadows will make it a very cool location for portrait photography. I also have no problem with the “1 Percent For the Arts” funding mechanism, and neither do the majority of Nashvillians, apparently. However, I do think they should restrict the money to being spent on LOCAL artists. Just silly to go to Cali to get an artist – they should’ve asked Herb Williams (famous local crayon sculptor) to design something for the site.

  • Joe Kincaid

    The problem is that government officials forget who they are working for, and who’s money they are spending. If it was going to be coming out of the pocket of Cole, or Dean, or Johnson I bet neither of them would pay $75 let alone $750,000. The artists and art of Tennessee should be represented, not someone from UCLA.

  • Bobby

    Hey Nashville!!! Way back before ya’ll put your heads up your collective…uh…baksides, y’all were the place where people would go for music FOR and BY THE PEOPLE. Now, you seem to have gone Hollywood. We don’t like “Hollywood”
    Besides, as a Tennessee taxpayer, I’m not too crazy about y’all are beginning to perceive yourselves. I’m not sure how many other Tennesseeans feel that same way but my guess is that it is more than a handful.

  • normad

    Take care of the people first. This is just plain frivolous and typical of a government out of control. A handful of officials should never be the arbiter of what’s considered art. That belongs to the people and they should always have the first say. Read up on the Impressionists. They bucked the government system and the citizens of Tennessee should do the same or forever be known as the Ker-Plunk state.

  • Mike Ackermann

    Hey, I’ll make them a sculpture like that for 1/10 the price…

  • Lena Arice Lucas

    Totem poles were made by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. Not anywhere near Nashville. What do the proposed “Sticks” have to do with our local, Middle Tennessee, ancient peoples? Nothing. From Nashville Scene newspaper, quote: “Moeller is a German-born artist who currently teaches at UCLA’s department of Design Media Arts and works out of a studio in Silver Lake, Calif. The proposed installation will be “an homage to the Native Americans who first populated Middle Tennessee,” composed of 35 painted red cedar poles. Each pole will be 85 feet tall, and will be spaced in an irregular organic pattern on the roundabout. At night, the installation will be lit by up-lights, and a custom-made LED cap will glow from the tip of each pole. A timetable for the project has not been established…” End-quote. Painted wood? What about maintenance? Durability? Hello? Nashville? If you must install these “Sticks,” why not make them out of anodized aluminum poles (flagpoles anyone?) or colored fiberglass poles? Just thinking (I believe thinking should be part of any Public Art project’s planning process).

  • joe dapper

    I would go wreck it just to show them how stupid it is.

  • Just hold a javelin throwing contest and leave them in the ground. Cost, probably less than $50 each.

  • At that price, it’s like a stickup with stick art.

  • 1dahliagirl

    I’m a Tennessee taxpayer as well . This leaves me aghast that Nashville didn’t hire in state . I contribute to the Arts , but, will keep my purse closed in the future.

    Christian Moeller is arrogant & an elitist. Does she think that only one side contributes to the Arts? Because she received this contract , she should also have the good grace to defend it.

  • Sj

    Stupidest idea ive ever seen. I could do this for abt $25.00 with PVC pipe and paint. It would look exactly the same! This is the problem with our goverment, you bunch of zombies! Think!!!!

  • Honest Abe

    It’s sad to say, but this sort of nonsense happens a lot. Small groups-clicks are at the heart of mega Billions wasted. “Art” is a horrible waste of taxes, this is a recent cancer to emerge from the progressives.

  • John Johnson

    Music city USA, Well lets see ,what make good sense for Nashville ?
    1.Country legends sculpture of Hank, Willie or Johnny or all three ? well no !
    2 .Grand Ol Opry sculpture ? no that doesn’t make sense either !

    3.How about another broken roller coaster track that belongs in the scrap yard.
    This is a bad bad idea for the hard working tax payers of Tennessee.
    Please stop this non sense.

  • John Johnson

    wood sticks + tornado = big mistake