August 2018

By Emily Waltenbaugh, Community Engagement + Media Specialist, Metro Arts

One of Metro Arts’s core values is a commitment to the public realm: spaces that are open to everyone and dedicated to the community’s vision, identity, and purposes. This emphasis on citizen input comes through in the newest additions to the Public Art Collection: Brandon Donahue’s The Art of Fitness at Madison Community Center and Herb Williams’s Sky Lake at Smith Springs Community Center.

Herb Williams, Sky Lake; Photograph by Tre Hardin

Movement in Madison

The Art of Fitness grew from Brandon Donahue’s residency with the summer camp students at Madison Community Center in 2017. He encouraged the children to explore their ideas of themselves, their community, and their futures through drawing and collage. Along with students from TSU and Fisk serving double duty as his assistants and artistic role models for the campers, Donahue traced silhouettes of the children in active poses, which they filled with the art and ideas they had generated.

These silhouettes formed the basis for Donahue’s colorful vinyl cutouts that line the mezzanine of the new center, which opened in May 2018. His residency also led to a second component of The Art of Fitness—an interactive video game. Users engage with an eight-foot screen, accepting a challenge to exercise or dance for one minute. Their movements are translated to a pixelated video art file, shareable via email. “It was important for me to encourage fitness and movement,” said Donahue, “and to show that people can have fun while being active. The game is fun for all ages—everyone can engage with the technology and the activity.”

Smith Springs Hidden History

Across town at the new Smith Springs Community Center hangs Sky Lake, created by Herb Williams after months of research and engagements with area residents. Unveiled at the center’s July opening, Sky Lake is composed of more than 100 pigmented transparent and dichroic acrylic shapes—iridescent clouds, apple trees, and Mason jars—each symbolizing a facet of the history of Smith Springs, including the Tennessee Valley Authority’s flooding of the community in 1964 to create Percy Priest Lake.

The shapes converge to form a deconstructed lake, floating in the center’s entryway and reflecting—literally and figuratively—the legacy of the community. At the center of the installation is a water pump, a tribute to the submerged natural spring that still feeds the lake. “I wanted to play with transparency, light, and space to evoke water and sky,” said Williams, “and I especially wanted to pay homage to the lake itself and to the people and history of Smith Springs.”

Find these installations and more public art at Metro Arts’s mobile site,


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