Downtown Kingsport to feature 'Sculpture Walk Exhibition'

Matthew Lane • May 10, 2007 at 12:12 PM

KINGSPORT - Model City residents will soon be able to walk through downtown and admire a sampling of sculptures from local and regional artists.

Bonnie McDonald, the cultural arts administrator at the Kingsport Renaissance Center, said beginning May 31 the city will kick off the "Sculpture Walk Exhibition" in downtown Kingsport. The first sculpture will go into place this morning at the intersection of Broad and Market streets.

McDonald said the exhibition will feature 10 sculptures from local and regional artists stretched along Main Street and Broad Street to the plaza at the Kingsport Public Library.

The exhibition begins on the same night as the kickoff to the second annual Twilight Alive concert series on Broad Street and runs through April 30, 2008.

"The sculptures will represent geographical, material and perspective diversity," McDonald said. "It'll offer a way to sample some art and artists that wouldn't be permanent."

Guides to the privately funded exhibition will be available at the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce.

The exhibition falls under the purview of the city's public art committee - a committee created last year by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen charged with overseeing and advocating art in public places.

The first initiative of the committee was placing art in public places - animal sculptures in City Hall and dinosaur sculptures at the Kingsport Renaissance Center. Those have since been removed and replaced with an exhibit from the Carroll Reece Museum and Gray Fossil Site.

"We now have art and fossils," McDonald said.

The BMA approved a funding mechanism for the committee where 1 percent of a capital improvement project's contingency fund - up to $25,000 - would go toward funding public art displays. To date the committee has received $4,800 from two, closed CIP projects. Nashville allocates 1 percent of its general obligation bonds for public art.

"And you can see it in their community. It becomes infused in what they do."

McDonald said the plan is to save those funds over a number of years, build up a pool of money, purchase or rent pieces of art, and display them in various places around town.

The first project on the list for these funds will be a mural at the Riverview Splash Pad. Last year the city demolished the old swimming pool at the V.O. Dobbins Center and replaced it with a safari-themed splash pad. The splash pad features water cannons that look like jungle animals, a sprinkler that looks like a palm tree, and an air-brushed painting of a tiger.

McDonald said the plan is for a four-sided safari mural to be painted around an adjacent building to the splash pad.

"It's a vibrant mural that will be the icing on top of the cake," McDonald said. "It's going to be a magnet for kids all over the community. We're real excited about it."

McDonald said Kingsport's move to create and fund a public art committee is a positive thing for the community.

"Not many cities the size of Kingsport have this type of commitment for public art. Nashville does, Chattanooga does, Memphis does and now Kingsport does," McDonald said. "There is lot of potential of infusing art in our community, but this isn't the ultimate vision, just a great place to start. We look forward to incorporating more artists and having art in other places. It's going to be cool."

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