: Along Charlotte, just east of 17th Avenue
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Approximate Age of Patrons
Topics of Conversation
: "Why didn't I bring gloves?!"
Stray Dogs Seen
Types of Vehicles in Parking Lots
: No parking lots associated with the park.
: Very safe, since park was totally empty
Number of Gunshots Heard
: No poop bags, but it's a nice stretch of green
Number of pitbulls sighted
: Um...Yes, it's accessible. Why you'd go there, I'm not sure.
Incorporation of Local History
: Better than most parks, but not as much as I'd like
: People who live near it and don't have kids, connoisseurs of random fencing.
Edmondson Park has to be the biggest "WTF?" of a park I've visited in Nashville, both as a part of this series and for fun. First, there's no place I could see to park your car--so unless you're hiking in, you can't really use it.
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Maybe it's supposed to be just a neighborhood park. Fair enough. But who are the neighbors they envision using this? The fence doesn't go all the way around the park (which you'd want, I'd think, if you were going to let your kids run in it that close to Charlotte) and there's no playground equipment, so I don't think it's for kids. There aren't any benches, so I don't think it's for folks who want to sit out and enjoy the weather and the view. You might get a good game of football or soccer going, but you have to reckon with the traffic on Charlotte if your ball gets away from you. Maybe it'd be a good kite-flying park? Or you could lay out? Or picnic?
After standing there trying to figure it out, I began to suspect that it's just there to give the illusion of green space to the people who live in the housing nearby. That seems like a waste. I wonder if they could put in a community garden or something. I don't know.
But right now I have a hard time understanding who is supposed to be using this park and what they're supposed to be using it for. And that's a shame.
And then, let's talk about the "incorporation of local history" aspect of the place. Edmondson Park is named after William Edmondson, the famous Nashville sculptor who was the first African American to be given a one-man show by the Museum of Modern Art.
That, obviously, is very cool. But why is this his park? Did he live near what is now the park? Did the city just want to name a place after him? Who knows? You will learn very little more about Edmondson than what I have just told you if you go to the park.
I find this crazy. You go to the park to see things, to be in and among things and with your neighbors. Edmondson made things you can see, that are worth your while to be in and among.
And you can go to a park named after him and get almost no sense of why you should give a shit, why it should matter to you that this man lived and worked and died in our city, why it should matter to you that he was our neighbor.
I really hate that.
The thing about Edmondson is that, even though his sculptures are now all hidden away in places you have to pay to get in, he was a sculptor for regular Nashvillians. He made grave markers for folks who needed them. He made small statues he claimed God told him to make. Always, in his pieces, are little things that seem like deliberate bits of joy--a suggestion of a bowtie on a man, a hint of a smile on a woman's face. Nothing about how he sculpted was very realistic, but he always seemed to be able to suggest softness, like the hard rock was giving way to the overwhelming force of round and soft and touchable. You don't have to know anything about art to like Edmondson's sculptures. They're just fun to look at. (Check these out
, for instance, and look at the way the reach of Eve's hand
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echoes the reach of the snake.)
And he made those pieces out of our garbage, bits of buildings, old curbs, whathaveyou.
That you can go to the park named after him and see none of that just feels wrong to me. I'm sure the rights issues would be a bear, but I was thinking, when I was standing there, how cool it would be to have a local artist replicate a couple of Edmondson's works, but huge, and put them in the park. Let everyone who comes to the park, or who just drives by it on Charlotte, see it all the time.
That would make Edmondson Park a destination, or at least a destination worthy of its name.