The revitalized Edmondson Park, a space serving as Nashville’s first arts park, was dedicated this week by Mayor Karl Dean. He was joined by the Metro Arts Commission and MDHA. The opening of the park celebrates both the arts in Nashville and urban redevelopment that is occurring here.
The urban park is located on Charlotte Avenue between 16th Avenue North and 17th Avenue North and is managed by the Metro Development Housing Agency (MDHA). The park was re-imagined through a multi-year community process. The landscape design was completed by Hawkins Partners, Inc. creating a ‘front porch’ for the John Henry Hale homes that includes a walking path and free play areas that were envisioned by the neighborhood during community input sessions.
The park is named in honor of William Edmondson (1874-1951), a Nashville native and recognized sculptor, who was the first African American artist to have a solo exhibition (1937) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
To honor Edmondson’s legacy, the park design also includes new installations by internationally known, self-taught artists Thornton Dial and Lonnie Holley, whose sculptures are titled ‘Road to the Mountaintop,’ and ‘Supported by the Ancestors,’ respectively. The other permanent installation is ‘The Gathering’ by Bell Buckle artist Sherri Warner Hunter, originally created in 2001 for the Oasis Center, which is now located across the street from the park in the Youth Opportunity Center.
“The renovated Edmondson Park is a great addition to the evolving Charlotte Avenue corridor,” Mayor Dean said. ”It adds new green space for nearby residents and businesses, as well as a place dedicated to public art that the entire community can enjoy.”
Dean was joined at the ceremony by Metropolitan Nashville Council members Erica Gilmore (19th District), who represents the neighborhood and Ronnie Steine, an at-large member of the Council; Jim Harbison, executive director of MDHA; and Metro Arts Director Jennifer Cole.
Edmondson Park is the first and only space where both Dial and Holley have public art installations. Their individual works with found objects have garnered both men international acclaim.
“The art of Thornton Dial and Lonnie Holley are a direct link to the work of William Edmondson, and Sherri Warner Hunter’s piece exemplifies this park—a place to come together, to gather and celebrate community through art,”
The park project is supported in part by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds administered by MDHA, an ArtWorks grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Metro Arts One-Percent-for-Art Public Art Program.
“This new park perfectly complements the work that MDHA has done with redevelopment of the John Henry Hale apartments,” said Jim Harbison, executive director of MDHA. “It will further enhance this neighborhood and it provides a great gathering place for residents.”
Beyond the park, the Ayer’s Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation at Lipscomb University has created a series of classroom lesson plans based on the public art in the park and Edmondson’s life that are available at www.publicart.nashville.gov.
Additionally, Cheekwood Botanical Gardens & Museum of Art will honor the artist through an exhibit that opens Sept. 27 and a series of community programs this fall entitled, William Edmondson and Friends: Breaking the Mold.