August 2016

by Anne-Leslie Owens

Public Art Project Coordinator, Metro Nashville Arts Commission

Did you know that public art can be an outstanding teaching tool in the classroom? Public art is a great starting point for discussions of math, science, art, and countless other subjects. And because most public artworks reference local history and local identity, they provide creative ways to explore your community’s history.

Metro Arts’ public art collection now includes 43 artworks, and 11 of these artworks have free downloadable classroom guides, curriculum guides, and lesson plans. The public art education curriculum includes:

Witness Walls

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Artist’s model of Witness Walls

Metro Arts commissioned artist Walter Hood to create a public artwork inspired by Nashville’s Civil Rights history. Witness Walls will be installed later this year in Public Square Park. Lesson plans for the upcoming artwork were created through Lipscomb University’s Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation with funding provided by the Tennessee Arts Commission. Lesson plans are customizable for middle and high school students and cover English/Language Arts, Physics, Social Studies, U.S. History, and Visual Arts subject areas.

Edmondson Park

Supported by the Ancestors by Lonnie Holley

Lonnie Holley, Supported by the Ancestors, Stainless steel and granite, 14’ x 13’ x 14’ x 10’; Photograph by Stacey Irvin

Thornton Dial’s Road to the Mountaintop and Lonnie Holley’s Supported by the Ancestors were installed in 2014 in Edmondson Park. Dial, who died earlier this year, and Holley both honor the tradition of self-taught Nashville artist William Edmondson. Lesson plans were created through the Ayers Institute with funding provided by an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Lessons are customizable for middle and high school students and cover English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, and Visual Arts subject areas.



Aileron by Michael Dillon at McCabe Park; Photograph by Gary Layda

In the spring of 2011, Aileron was installed in McCabe Park, the former McConnell airfield site, in the railroad-bordered neighborhood Sylvan Park. Artist Michael Dillon referenced the aviation and railroad history of the area in the design and fabrication of his sculpture. Lesson plans are provided by Metro Arts and the Ayers Institute. Lessons are customizable for middle school students in English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies.


By artist Buddy Jackson

Emergence by Buddy Jackson, part of the Watermarks series at Hartman Park; Photograph by Stacey Irvin

Watermarks is a series of six public artworks located in Nashville neighborhoods affected by the 2010 flood. Six artists were chosen to create artworks honoring the experiences of those neighborhoods. The series includes artworks at the Antioch Community Center (Antioch/Blue Hole Road), Harpeth Knoll Park (Bellevue), Hartman Park (West Hamilton/Whites Creek), Shelby Bottoms Park (East Nashville), Two Rivers Park (Pennington Bend/Opryland), and West Park (West Nashville/Delray). Lesson plans are customizable for grades K–4.

Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks


Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks by Alice Aycock at Cumberland Park; Photograph by Gary Layda

Installed in 2007, Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks is located on the east bank of the Cumberland River. The artwork references the site’s industrial past and visually echoes current surroundings. The classroom guide was created by the TPAC Education staff of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center with funding provided by Regions Bank. Lesson plans are customizable for grades K–4.

Please visit our website at for these free downloadable resources. After you have tried them, we’d love to hear from you. Send us an email to


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