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Public Art Sought for The Fairgrounds Nashville

Posted by Metro Nashville Arts Commission ; Posted on 
Public Art; Visual - DEADLINE :  
Public Art Sought for The Fairgrounds Nashville



Metro Nashville Arts Commission is issuing a national Call to Artists for an artist to design, fabricate and install an iconic, permanent public artwork for The Fairgrounds Nashville (TFN). The Fairgrounds site is a historic, vibrant local landmark located in a thriving and diverse neighborhood.

Budget:  $650,000

Eligibility:  Professional artists and artist-led teams with all members over 18 living and working in the US

Deadline: August 23, 2019

Project Description
Metro Arts seeks to commission a public artwork(s) that will celebrate the surrounding community and the multifaceted site. Once selected for the project, the artist or artist team is expected to participate in public meetings and engagement with residents and stakeholders to inform their design for the public art. After the engagement process, the selected artist will then begin the design process, followed by fabrication and install of the permanent public artwork for (TFN) venue.

The lead artist or artist team will be expected to attend a minimum of two (2) community meetings and/or public engagements in Nashville near the project site. Meetings and engagements will be Fairgrounds staff and other stakeholder in the coordination and promotion of the outreach efforts. The selected artist is encouraged to contribute their own research approaches to help identify assets and needs in the community in collaboration with Metro Arts, The Fairgrounds, Metro Nashville Sports Authority and other contracted vendors involved in construction and design of the site. Thoughtfully designed community outreach is a critical component of the project and Metro Arts will support the selected artist with resources around local history, neighborhood groups (both formal and informal), and introductions to community members and leaders to ensure the success of the engagement process.

Project Goals

  • Create a site-specific, permanent artwork of a significant scale that will act an iconic landmark within the site.
  • Honor the history of The Fairgrounds property while celebrating the future events and activities planned for the site (such as MLS games and potential mix-used development).
  • Involve the diverse neighboring businesses and residents in the design process.
  • Ensure the public artwork has a strong daytime and nighttime presence.
  • Reflect Metro Arts’ commitment, as outlined in the Public Art Community Investment Plan, to shared spaces that are open to everyone and dedicated to the community’s vision, identity and purposes.

Metro Public Art Goals

  • Create opportunities for deeper cultural and civic participation. Drive the support and development of vibrant, creative neighborhoods.
  • Strengthen the public art ecosystem in Nashville.
  • Prioritize projects in areas that are under served with public art.
  • Commission public art at public facilities particularly parks and outdoor civic spaces; strengthen their role as welcoming and functional places for gathering.

Artwork Site Location Description 
The Nashville Fairgrounds is a 117-acre entertainment complex located approximately 2 miles southeast of downtown Nashville. The Fairgrounds is surrounded by several long-standing neighborhoods, each with their own identities and rich local history. These neighborhoods maintain a strong residential presence while supporting dozens of local restaurants, contemporary art galleries, nontraditional exhibition and performance spaces, and light manufacturing including Corsair, an award-winning spirits company that has about 30,000 square feet of multi-use space in the neighborhood. The Nolensville Pike corridor, which runs parallel to part of the fairgrounds property, is increasingly recognized as Nashville’s “International District” with its growing number of small immigrant-run businesses, new housing developments, and the Casa Azafrán community center.

Background of Site
The Nashville Fairgrounds site has been a gathering place for Nashvillians since the early 1900s. People came to experience the Tennessee State Fair and the Fairgrounds Speedway and, since 1969, the Nashville Flea Market. The site has also hosted hundreds of other exhibition shows, concerts, and events in recent years, such as Nashville Roller Derby, Christmas Village, Nashville Lawn and Garden Show, and Fan Fair. Fan Fair, the country music fan appreciation event brought up to twenty-four thousand attendees to the fairgrounds each June from 1982-2000.

The site originally opened to the public in 1891 as Cumberland Park, a site for horse breeding and racing. The Cumberland Fair and Racing Association sponsored dirt harness racing here from 1891-1894. Motor racing began in 1904 and continues today on a 5/8-mile track known as the Fairgrounds Speedway. The Tennessee State Fair was first held here in 1906. In 1911, Davidson County purchased the fairgrounds site from the Tennessee Fair Association, agreeing to a 99-year lease with the state for use of the property as a fairground. The state turned over control of the fair to Davidson County in 1923 and a county fair board was created.

Declining state fair attendance and outdated facilities prompted the city to consider the future of the state fair and the fairgrounds site. In 2017, Nashville was awarded a Major League Soccer expansion team and the Metro Council approved funding for the proposed stadium. After months of uncertainty, an agreement was worked out that keeps the Tennessee State Fair, the Nashville Flea Market, and other longstanding events at the fairgrounds. Once a new expo center is completed, the existing 1960s-era buildings will be demolished and construction will begin on the new 30,500-seat soccer stadium, expected to be ready for play in 2021.

Selection Process
That selection panel is proposed by Metro Arts staff for the project and recommended to the Public Art Committee (PAC) and the Metro Arts Commission for review and approval.

The selection panel for this project will have between five and nine members including at least one visual artist, and may also include a design professional, a project architect/landscape architect, community representatives and one member representing the site sponsor. The chairperson of the selection committee will be the Public Art Committee chair or designee, serving as an ex-officio, non-voting committee member. The Metro Purchasing Agent will assign a Contract Specialist to the project who will serve as a non-voting advisory member of the selection committee and is charged with the responsibility of monitoring the Procurement process.

The selection panel will conduct an online and in-person review of all submissions. Following the initial online review, the panelists will meet in person to review artist submissions and determine a list of semi-finalists. The selection panel will recommend a list of 3-5 semi-finalists to the Public Art Committee for review and approval. The semi-finalists will be invited to join the selection panel for either an in person or video interview. Following the interviews and further discussion, the selection panel will recommend the final artist for approval to the Public Art Committee and Arts Commission.

Selection Criteria
Artists will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • artistic merit of previous work samples;
  • artist’s ability to engage with, connect to and understand the community for which public artwork is intended;
  • a deep understanding of public art planning, design, construction and community engagement processes;
  • evidence of experience successfully working in a collaborative spirit on large-scale public projects
  • evidence of ability to be accountable to project partners, schedules and budgets.

Project Timeline
The following projected timetable should be used as a working guide for planning purposes. Metro reserves the right to adjust this timetable as required during the course of this Call to Artists process.

  • Call to Artists Opens: July 15th
  • Call to Artist Deadline: August 23rd
  • Selection of Semi-Finalists Online Review: August 28th-September 11th
  • Selection of Semi-Finalists: September 16th-25th
  • Semi-Finalists presented to PAC for approval: October 2nd-10th
  • Interviews & Final Artist Selection: October 21st-November 1st
  • Final Artist presented to PAC for approval: November 6th-14th
  • Commission Review: November 21st
  • Artist Contract Awarded: December 20019
  • Contract Negotiations/Vendor Registration: December 2019 / January 2020

What to Submit
The following information must be submitted in order to be considered:

  1. Letter of Interest. A brief (no more than one-page) statement, which should demonstrate your community engagement and design team experience and approach, as well as highlight your interest in the project.
  2. Artwork Images: Eight (8) digital images representative of your work are required*. (File types accepted: JPG, PNG, GIF, TIFF). Images should not be composite or collages. Prior work samples are required. Artwork concepts or proposals for The Fairgrounds Nashville will not be reviewed by the selection panel at this time.
  3. Current Artist Résumé: not to exceed four single-sided pages or 2MB. Resume must demonstrate artistic practice as defined by the Public Art Guidelines.
  4. References: three artistic professional references (those who can speak to your artwork and your project experience).

How to Submit

Only online submissions will be accepted through Submittable. Please read through carefully before submitting. Incomplete submissions will not be reviewed. No submissions will be accepted after the deadline. Technical questions about the online submission process (i.e. image upload, Submittable account set-up, etc.) should be directed to

QUESTIONS?  Email with “Fairgrounds Call to Artists” in the subject line or call (615) 862-6733. Questions will be taken through August 16, 2019 at noon.


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