Yorkshire Sculpture Park comes to Yellow Bird

Some of those who gathered at YB on Sunday to chat with Peter Murray about Art in the Landscape. Guests included: T.K.Davis (Civic Design Center, Nashville @ Architecture, UT Knoxville), Hanjörg and Gisella Goritz (Architecture, UT Knoxville), Michael Baggarly (Sculpture, MTSU), Mark Scala (Frist), Joseph Mella (VU Fine Arts Gallery), Jochen Wierich (Cheekwood), Gregg Horowitz (VU, Philosophy), Jonathan Neufeld (VU, Philosophy), Joe Prince (Woodbury), Christine Haase (German Studies, UGA). Stephen Tepper (VU Curb Center) and Mel Zeigler (VU Art Department) caught up with Peter Murray at his public talk at the Frist on the Monday.

A year ago when I bought The Lodge, I knew it could function as a reception center, and all-weather space of welcome. And so it proved on Sunday when some 15 quests truned out to talk with Peter Murray about his Yorkshire Scilpture Park, and about public art more generally.Peter and Christine had arrived at lunch, having driven from Atlanta the previous day, spending the night in Chattanooga. T.K.Davis drove down from Knoxville, as well as Hansjörg and Gisella Goritz in their white 1972 Porsche. The weather was perfect. We walked the main tracks – Jay had bush-hogged them the previous day – though I was painfully aware how little of the estate people got to see. You can take a quick walk around in about an hour, but with all the trails now open, and bit of lingering here and there, the complete circuit would take 3-4 hours easily. The full experience would include the Peace Circle, the bamboo groves, the mossy rocks, Tree House Ridge, the South Field, the watercress waterfall, Look Out Ridge, the cedar field, the Kiss, and Spring Hollow.

We set up our ‘seminar table’ on the deck, and a slow fan, though it was only late April! After a while, Mark Scala, getting us down to business, asked me how I conceived of YB sculpture park, and I presented the big picture – cabins for writers and artists, summer residencies for sculptors, an annual 6 week fall show, and educational sessions for kids. There was general admiration for the barn, and enthusiasm for converting it into a gallery space. Clearly too the sauna must be finished, as that will be quite a draw, both for the sheer pleasure, and for its cobby architectural interest. TK pressed the idea of a competition to design and build 8×8 cabins to encourage student and underemployed local architects to come up with innovative designs. These could be built offsite, then hauled in on a trailer. Peter Murray was insistent on not acquiring permanent work one might regret. YSP does lots of temporary exhbitions; this looks like the way to go – perhaps keeping good pieces for a year.

It is easy to think of wood and stone as the obviously available local material, guiding the kind of art that will happen here. But as soon as one begins to think ‘conceptually’ things really open up. This place, as with many others, is layered with time and history (incl. geological) in so many ways that could be celebrated or explored artistically, with or without limiting oneself to local materials (we have a ‘local’ scrap yard).

Applying for 501(c)3 (nonprofit) status will help move us forward. All agreed on the next stage – defining the specific focus of YB, and putting in place the ingredients that will ‘let it happen’ – cabin, barn-gallery, and funding. Institutional ties (formal and informal) to Nashville Metro Arts (?), to Cannon County Arts Center, to Cheekwood, to Vanderbilt (Fine Arts Gallery, Art Department), to MTSU, and to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park will all help.