Needles and Thread

Submitted by The Art Studio at RDG Planning & Design

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Client: City of Nashville, Tennessee

Location: Nashville, TN, United States

Completion date: 2012

Artwork budget: $375,000

Project Team

Artist

David Dahlquist

RDG Dahlquist Art Studio

Client

City of Nashville, TN

Lighting Designer

RDG Planning & Design

Structural Engineers

Caruso Turley Scott Inc., Consulting Structural Engineers

Installation

G2 Commercial Glazing

Metal

Jim Russell Design

Metal

Iowa Metal Fabrication

Metal

Sargent Metal Fabrication

Contractor

Bell & Associates

Glass Coatings

LOOK Architectural Coatings

Overview

The site-specific Art-in-Transit installation for Nashville’s 28th/31st Avenue Connector Bridge is part of a new Complete Streets transportation corridor. The integrated public-artwork explores the tradition of quilting as a metaphor for building community. Intended to re-connect two formally separated neighborhoods and diverse cultural areas, the artwork unites the community in many ways. A series of knots appear to sew together quilt blocks, interpreted in large metal panels. Sculptural thread made of bent stainless-steel tubing is woven in a rhythm moving across hundreds of linear feet of structural screen-wall, visually tying the quilt patterns and connecting both sides of the bridge.

Goals

The most important goal of the commission was to involve the public in a process for design and integration of the public-artwork that would act both formally and informally to unite two distinct parts of the city. The installation had to function in many ways, physically and symbolically, extending the length of the bridge on both sides, as well as be structurally integrated into the metal screen-wall system. The integration of the public-artwork depends upon the orchestration of many elements. Rather than the placement of an individual, stand-alone piece of sculpture, integration of different components, including metal, high-performance color coatings, LED lighting, and photographic film, combine to create an overall design that engages the public in a moving and emotional experience. Just as unique cultural patterns and symbols work together in harmony throughout the design, the bridge is now used as a special place for festivals and celebrations where people gather. The design is so thoroughly integrated, in fact, that people believe that the installation IS the structural design of the bridge, commenting that they cannot imagine the screen-wall without it.

Process

We conducted hands-on workshops in schools and community centers, developing quilt block images with school children and senior citizens alike. This public collaboration built meaningful relationships, improved communication, and invested the community in the project, from concept through installation. Collaboration also involved working with many other professional design disciplines, establishing an open dialogue between artist, engineers, fabricators, and installers to successfully integrate the project within the overall bridge design and construction.
The history of quilting brought people together, sharing stories with one another while making beautiful, functional pieces by hand. So too was the collaborative process for the connector bridge. Oral histories were recorded and images shared with the public. Designs were articulated and revised based on this process so that everyone felt as though they had been heard. The collaboration involved the public, project administrators, in-studio graphic design, web-site development, research and writing, all in coordination with the requisite back and forth between in-studio architect, project manager and various sub- contractors. The artist, both activator and filter, must lead in order to keep the spirit of the project intact.

Additional Information

The installation is the first major piece of integrated public art within transportation infrastructure for the Metro Public Art Commission of the city of Nashville. The project was completed under a very tight schedule, which had to comply with construction and funding deadlines. The installation has been recognized not only for its unique structural and sculptural integrity, using lighting to add dimension and tone at night, but for accomplishing the primary purpose of uniting the two communities on each side of the bridge in a thoughtful and integrated process.