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$750K price tag for Nashville public art project raises questions

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

They say art is in the eye of the beholder, but a piece of public art paid for with tax dollars often has a rougher road to acceptance.

The latest artistic addition to downtown Nashville's landscape will cost $750,000, and one government watchdog group says it's a waste of money, especially considering an out-of-town artist was selected.

For now, the piece has the working title of Stix, and it is composed of 35 painted red cedar poles, each standing about 85 feet tall, twice the height of a street light.

The poles, designed by internationally acclaimed artist Christian Moeller, will be illuminated at night in the center of the roundabout of Korean Veterans Boulevard, in the shadow of the Music City Center.

Conservative watchdog group The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity isn't happy about the price tag, and Ben Cunningham, with Tennessee Tax Revolt, agrees.

"What is happening, the taxpayers are getting stuck with the sticks, and it looks like they're just randomly placed sticks," Cunningham said.

The Metro Nashville Arts Commission, which put out the national call for the public art project, said it had no comment about those concerns. But, the commission said $750,000 is consistent with other projects of this magnitude around the country.

And the budget for whichever artist was ultimately chosen would've been the same.

The arts commission said only one local artist met the requirements of the national call but did not move forward to the semifinal round. The commission added it wouldn't hire an artist to do a project of this size without a track record of performing on time with a similar budget, and right now, commission leaders said, Nashville doesn't have many public artists with that kind of background.

The Metro Nashville Arts Commission says in the last 18 months, it has commissioned 20 new works of art and 14 of those went to artists from Nashville.

You're probably wondering what the $750,000 budget would produce from the other artists who were up for this public arts project. Check out what the four other finalists had in mind.

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