Nashville residents and visitors have witnessed the construction of a new landmark downtown. How could you miss it? The new Music City Center will be one of the largest convention centers in the nation when it opens its doors to the public in 2013. The massive structure (approximately 1.2 million square feet) will bring with it a new day in public art for Tennessee. Nationwide searches for contemporary art have resulted in a thoughtful, modern art program that helps tell the story of Nashville’s culture.

Nashville Arts Magazine recently took a tour inside the construction zone. We met up with art consultant Rich Boyd, former director of the Tennessee Arts Commission, and with Canadian artist Bob Zoell. The latter is the designer of the 165-foot installation that will grace the Music City Center next year. Zoell, who worked as an art director at Saul Bass and Associates in the 1960s, has designed many large-scale public artworks. Recent projects can be found at the Wilshire/Vermont Red Metro Line Station in Los Angeles and in the San Francisco International Airport. Boyd says, “I think Zoell’s work is very whimsical and fun, and it is appropriate for the site at the convention center. It says we are a great city to live in and a fun city to visit.”

Zoell’s Nashville commission embraces our identity as Music City with a playful ceramic-tile installation featuring birds and musical notes. He states, “Besides flight, little birds are synonymous with songs and singing. How delightful it is that our everyday life is filled with the music and songs of these little creatures that project joy in their songs. For this reason I have chosen a theme of singing birds for the Music Center landscape mural. Little birds with their simple songs express the freedom in music that is so symbolic to Nashville history.” Zoell’s design requires that six-inch ceramic tiles be cast in an array of bright colors. These fixtures will be fired in various workshops across the country and installed by local tile craftsmen. Zoell’s art will line a newly constructed tunnel over 6th Avenue, which will run through the Music City Center.

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