Many of us remember the treble clef sculpture that used to reside in Country Music Park on what used to be the 200 block of Gay Street at Summit Hill. I’ve mentioned it before to a range of reactions. Some people loved it, others not so much. I liked it because it fit the purpose of the park. The base of the statue featured names of musical artists from our area who made an impact in their field.
That’s all changed. The treble clef deteriorated and ultimately had to be removed. The sad little pedestal remained. Not so much, anymore. The pedestal has been replaced with a new base and the sculpture that has assumed the place of the treble clef is a jumbled mass of metal. Not necessarily a jumbled mess, but definitely an intertwined accumulation of layers of metal.
Where did it come from and why? Well, it’s part of the Dogwood Arts Festival’s Art in Public Places program. A few years ago they hit on the idea of placing sculptures around town on an annual basis. At first the sculptures were only placed for a few months then someone realized we could have a constant supply of sculptures in the city if they stayed for a full year and were then replaced by the next group. It’s a good idea as far as it goes.
Holly Haworth did a very nice job in Metro Pulse last June of detailing the limitations of the idea and the lack of funding for public art that it masks. We have very few permanent sculptures of any significance in the city. As she notes, other cities around us are amassing an excellent stock of sculptures that serve not only to make life on the streets more interesting, but can also help generate tourist dollars.
One of the limitations of a program like this, as detailed in Ms. Haworth’s article is that there is no public input or support for the sculptures installed. They are also almost, if not entirely, completed by artists who likely know nothing of the space they will inhabit in our city. In some cases, such as the current sculpture, it wasn’t intended to be displayed here from its inception.
All this is not to say that the sculpture isn’t commendable on its own. “Envious Composure” has been displayed in a similar program, as a temporary installation, along with other sculptures by artist Albert Paley, up and down the length of Park Avenue in New York City. Paley is a modernist (no kidding!) sculptor from Philadelphia, who has designed sculpture for public spaces for decades.
So, there are multiple questions for us to ponder individually (or discuss as a group below): What do you make of the sculpture? Is yours a positive reaction? What do you think the artist is expressing? Also, however, a separate question, which is delineated in the Metro Pulse article, has to be addressed: Does it work in its context?
On that count, I’d say “no.” I can’t see a connection with music. But then, the park really has no connection to music now that the names have been removed. It’s very possible that confused tourists might pick up the old brochure, which had been available at least recently in the Visitor’s Center, follow the directions and get to a stop there.
It was Number nine, entitled, “The Knoxville Music Monument to the Performers of East Tennessee.” Of course, now, there is not even a stub of a monument. I first wrote about the walking tour – which I loved when I first took it many years ago – in August of 2010. Follow the link if you want to know more about it.
But that is gone, and we now have this massive sculpture by Albert Paley whether it fits its environment or not. I’m reserving judgement. I find my opinions on the various sculptures change over the course of the year as I live with them over time. Keep an eye out for others. That’s the up side of a program like this – once a year we get to act as if it is Christmas and see what surprises await us on the street.