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In 2007, Alice Aycock installed Nashville’s first Percent for Public Art commission on the bank of the Cumberland River, opposite the downtown. It was honored in the Americans for the Arts Public Art Network Year in Review in 2008.
Titled Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks, the 100’ x 100’ x 60’ sculpture perches on a crane base once used to launch barges. The artwork references the site’s industrial past and visually echoes current surroundings, including nearby bridges and the NFL Titans stadium. Its dynamic form conveys a sense of the area’s evolution from industrial working river to recreation and entertainment, a theme that resonated with Aycock after her first site visit. “I immediately warmed to the sense of how you can make something that doesn’t ignore what had been there, but builds on the past in some way.”
The main structure of the sculpture is comprised of arced, red-painted steel trusses that twist upward from the crane base to form a disconnected spherical shape. On the ground, a red-painted aluminum “turbine whirlwind” serves as a visual generator for the swirling trusses above. At night, a glowing neon fixture illuminates the sculpture’s center.
Aycock sees the piece as a work of static animation. “It changes as you move around it,” she says. “It suggests a certain kind of movement, dance movements, which is why I refer to it as a Ghost Ballet.” Aycock’s work directly addresses the project goals to symbolically and visually connect the east and west sides of the river and engage pedestrian viewers both day and night, while also capturing the spirit and pride of Nashville.