by Anne-Leslie Owens
Public Art Project Coordinator
Metro Arts has commissioned artist Walter Hood of Hood Design Studio in Oakland, California, to create an artwork inspired by the events and the people of Nashville who created the blueprint for nonviolent protest during the modern Civil Rights Movement. Witness Walls, a set of sculptural concrete walls, will be installed later this year on the west side of the historic Metro Nashville Courthouse.
Seeking inspiration, the artist researched Nashville’s Civil Rights story, gathered input from Civil Rights veterans and historians, and drew on his own personal experiences with public school integration and at HBCU North Carolina A&T State University. A recurring theme, the Civil Rights movement as a collective endeavor, guided his design. As the artist explains, “The selection of images for the artwork does not seek to highlight key individuals or singular events in a chronological or hierarchical order. Rather, it strives to embed the visitor in a movement in which the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.”
Hood was eager to test the graphic capabilities of concrete walls. Using period photographs as a starting point, he uses two resolutions of images in the artwork, abstract compositions, and shadow graphics. The artist’s abstract compositions were first hand drawn by the artist before a form liner was created as a mold for the concrete. Those compositions in exposed aggregate show marching, protesting, and walking to school. Meanwhile, the shadow graphic images depict people sitting, all of them focusing on people’s hands and facial expressions. Both resolutions fade in and out of focus as the viewer moves through the sculpture.
As the installation nears completion, plans will be finalized for a dedication event. To receive Witness Walls updates, please email email@example.com or call 615-862-6732. For information about all Metro Arts public art projects, please visit
www.publicart.nashville.gov or ExploreNashvilleArt.com.