The Fairgrounds Nashville: Public Artwork from Blessing Hancock

Public Art Projects in Progress


From site selection to dedication, the process of creating a community-centered, iconic public artwork on a site as significant as The Fairgrounds Nashville has many steps along the way. Here's a look at progress so far on Public Art at the Fairgrounds, our latest updates, and what comes next.


Above: images from each of the five semifinalists selected by the Fairgrounds Citizen Selection Panel. Left to right: works from Cliff Garten, Marc Fornes, Blessing Hancock, Po Shu Wang and Ed Carpenter. Learn more about the artists at the semi-finalist announcement blog entry.


Background:

  • July 2019: Metro Arts issued a Call to Artists, seeking to create a site-specific, permanent artwork of a significant scale that would act as an iconic landmark within the Fairgrounds site, honor the history of the site while celebrating its future, involve the diverse neighborhood in the design process, and have a strong daytime and nighttime presence. As with all public artworks, the artwork should also reflect Metro Arts' commitment, as outlined in our Public Art Community Investment Plan, to shared civic spaces that are open to everyone and dedicated to the community's vision, identity and purposes.

  • Metro Arts then convened a Citizen Selection Panel made up of residents, business owners and stakeholders in the Fairgrounds community, who evaluated more than 120 qualified artist applications.

  • Oct 2019: the citizen selection panel narrowed the submissions to five semi-finalists.

  • After rounds of interviews and presentations, the panel selected artist Blessing Hancock.

Above: Past artworks from Fairgrounds artist Blessing Hancock. Learn more at BlessingHancock.com.


Known for large-scale sculptures and monuments that feature light and encourage public interaction, Hancock considers community engagement an essential component of her work.


“I view each sculpture as an opportunity to improve the public’s experience of a place and transform a site,” said Hancock. “Each piece in my portfolio is an original, site-specific work that speaks of its surroundings.”


Hancock worked with site partners to conduct community feedback sessions via Zoom,, which she incorporated into her final design.



What’s New:


At their September 2021 meeting, the Metro Arts Commission approved Hancock’s design concept, which was inspired and directly influenced by the local residents who participated in community engagement events in July 2021. The community members expressed the desire for an artwork that would reflect the unity and fluidity of the evolving culture in Nashville, encourage a return to nature and to pay homage to the past.


Above: Artist Blessing Hancock's design concept for public art at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Left: the basic concept; middle and right: illustrations of how text and light will be incorporated into the design, influenced by the community and creating a strong, interactive daytime and nighttime presence.


Hancock had a strong desire to incorporate a mentorship opportunity with a local artist and allocated a portion of her artist budget to completely fund the program. Mentee Miriam Speyer, a local artist who has participated in Metro Arts' Thrive, Lending Library and Madison on My Mind programs, will gain experience in developing designs and artwork through community engagement. Speyer will work directly with Blessing Hancock and the Fairgrounds community to continue the development of the large-scale artwork.


What’s Next:


Hancock and Speyer will continue to engage with Fairgrounds-area residents to inform the text-based component of the public artwork, reinforcing the art's ties to its surrounding community.


Metro Arts’ plan for art at the newly renovated Fairgrounds campus also includes a second phase of artwork opportunities reserved exclusively for local artists. Stay tuned for more information, and subscribe to Arts Alert for notifications of calls to artists and other opportunities!


Both phases of Fairgrounds artwork are funded through Metro Nashville’s Percent for Public Art Fund, established in 2000 under Mayor Bill Purcell. This fund allocates one percent of certain projects in the Metro Capital Improvements Budget toward the commission of public art.


Learn more about the entire Public Art Collection at the Public Art page of our website.



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