12th & Broad

Nov. 13, 2013 12:54 PM

'Church of Sculpture' in 12South

Church of Sculpture Holton Rower's 23-foot recycled steel sculpture, originally installed on 21st Avenue, now stands behind 12South Yoga. George Walker IV/The Tennessean

NOTE: This article by Knight Stivender was originally printed in The Tennessean on May 27, 1997, with the title'Church' for Artistic Worship: Tower draws stares in Hillsboro Village.

...at the time, Knight Stivender, 12th & Broad's general manager, was a sophomore in college.

Its arms eternally outstretched, this "church" is in the business of evangelizing to a different congregation: Nashville's art community.

"Church of Sculpture" was created by New York artist Holton Rower for Nashville's Joel Solomon real estate company as a way to increase public interest in local artists and create inspiration in a city Rower says is "thirsting for cultural icons and stimulation."

Solomon commissioned his friend, Rower, to build the 23-foot-high recycled steel sculpture in front of his Hillsboro Village building when he moved to 21st Avenue South and Magnolia Boulevard last fall. (Editor's note: The sculpture is now located in 12South, behind 12South Yoga.)

"It's an expression of what we believe in, that business should contribute to the community," Solomon said of his company.

And contribute it has. Since the sculpture's completion in October, Solomon said he has noticed drivers coming from Franklin and Green Hills slowing down to view the art. Company employees say customers frequently inquire about the sculpture and the artist.

Solomon said he hopes the piece will brighten the Nashville landscape and detract from too many ugly neon signs, which he labels as "very bad public art."

"In Nashville, there's so little good public art. It was important to do something stimulating and provocative."

To its fans, the abstract symbolizes a variety of motifs. Its three sturdy "legs," outstretched "arms" and thrusting "body" are interpreted by some as a dancer or gymnast, but others say they see a dragon, a reared horse or an aggressive dinosaur.

These different interpretations are appreciated by the artist, who said one of his main goals was to create a sense of movement and fluidity.

"I had hoped this big hunk of metal would have some sort of life or movement to it," Rower said. "The purpose of outdoor sculpture is to evoke the soul, to spark life."

With that one goal in mind, but with no concrete plans, Rower said he built "Church of Sculpture" by adding pieces of metal framework and joints where he felt appropriate. To complete the upper part of the sculpture, Rower climbed up on what he had already completed.