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Metro Arts Unveils the Design for Interior Public Art at the New Donelson Branch Library

Artist Amber Lelli's artwork beautifully integrates the local community and ecosystem

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Metro Arts is pleased to announce the approved design for an interior suspended sculpture at the forthcoming Donelson Branch Library of Nashville Public Library. Designed by local artist Amber Lelli, the artwork reflects the Donelson community and its green space, landmarks, and imagination. The suspended artwork will be installed in a 2-story space at the back of the library, viewable inside from both floors and outside through the back windows.

Last summer, Amber engaged with Donelson residents through local activities, including the Hip Donelson Farmer’s Market, Donelson Branch Library’s Family Story Time, and a McGavock High School art class. These conversations provided Amber with valuable information that ultimately inspired this design.

“Over the past year, we have engaged with local residents and businesses to capture what best represents our city,” said Lelli. “In response, I have created a sculpture highlighting the outdoors with nods to community and history.”

Each element of Amber’s contemporary sculpture brings the beauty of Tennessee’s ecosystem inside the library, including flora + fauna, landmass, and waterfall + river. Its chromed landscape consists of animals and plants that are native to Tennessee. Individual waves of water come together to make a formation representing the Cumberland River, an iconic landmark and historic pathway.

Amber says, “For the selection of the sculpture’s fauna, I consulted with Shelle King from JVI Secret Gardens and Ginger-Rose Krueck from Grow Enrichment. These are close-up renderings of some of the plants to be included.”

Winterberry, Sweet Betsy Trillium, and the Tennessee state flower, the Iris. People spend their summers on the hunt for the Sweet Betsy Trillium to take photos. It is very rare due to its growth process. The only way in which a Trillium grows is if a seed falls from an existing flower. Then an ant colony has to take that seed into its home, eat all of the sap off of the exterior layer, and then take that seed to their outdoor poop pile. The seed has to germinate from there. It is the only way these flowers can exist and we have this variety, the Sweet Betsy, at Two Rivers Park.

Persimmons Tree and the Sunburst (St. John’s Wort), Amber’s personal favorite and a popular one among residents. The Persimmons Tree is also a host plant for the very common luna moths around the state.

Tulip Poplar Tree and Aster Flowers. These are found in a variety of colors around Donelson. The Tulip Poplar tree is Tennessee’s state tree. It is also said to be used to construct the Two Rivers Mansion. Native Americans used this wood for many purposes, including canoe building, which led to the nickname “canoe wood.”

The artwork design also thoughtfully engages the community from various viewing locations. The chrome-on-chrome effect of the animals and plants creates a finder’s game, with fun to be had for children seeing their reflection morphed amongst the flowers. Viewed on the second floor, plants range in height from 1-7 feet, giving a whimsical feeling of being in a larger-than-life landscape. The river’s pattern of overlapping depths and directions creates the feeling of moving water directly overhead on the first floor. The bottom of the artwork has a reflective surface that adds visual height to the space below and reflects the natural light and sky.

For the waves, blue gradient rods create visual movement and mimic a waterfall, while the blue ombre continues into the river components and creates a bridge between the first and second floor experiences. In this model of the wave formation below, you can better see the individual wave shapes. The design pattern in which they will be installed with overlapping depths and directions creates visual movement amongst your eyes. This furthers the feeling of moving water as look directly above.

“Overall, this contemporary and modern aesthetic will be timeless and elegant for years to come,” said Amber. “It serves Donelson by providing educational opportunities and capturing parts of its community, green space, landmarks, and imagination. With the Library’s LEED Gold Certification, this sculpture is a visual representation of the building's efforts to preserve and protect our planet's environment for generations.”

In 2022, Lelli was awarded by a citizen selection panel of Donelson-area residents and stakeholders. Lelli is an interdisciplinary artist with a focus in sculpture and printmaking based in Nashville, TN. Her portfolio of diverse sculptures, prints and marquetry includes artwork at Nashville International Airport, film sets, the National Bible Museum, and the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.

Learn more about Lelli here on her website. The artwork will be installed in early 2024 with a dedication event to follow.

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