What’s the most appalling statue in Nashville? (Hint: It ain’t no cowboy.)

Today, my last day in the Tennessee capitol, I took a little tour of some local art. I hereby present the awards for worst monumental statuary in the greater Nashville area. I will score on a scale of 1 to 5 in the categories of Poor Craftsmanship, Inappropriateness to Surroundings, and Offensiveness to the Sensibilities of Any Right-Thinking American, for a possible total of 15.

  3. Cowboy guitarist statue, outside the Idle Hour bar.  


Not even close. Sure, it’s a bit amateurish in construction, but that only serves to give it an authentic folksy charm. Plus, it’s located right on Music Row, which makes it a model of large(ish)-scale artwork suited to its surroundings. As for offensiveness, I would be offended by anyone who wasn’t delighted by this big galoot.

Score: 2 (2 for Poor Craftsmanship, 0 for Inappropriateness to Surroundings, 0 for Offensiveness to the Sensibilities of Any Right-Thinking American.)


2. Billy Graham statue, on private downtown property near LifeWay Christian Resources complex and Southern Baptist Convention administrative offices.

IMG_3220About 9 feet tall, this bronze behemoth is pretty tacky. The text of John 3:16 is engraved at the great evangelist’s feet, a nearby plaque delivers an “open invitation to believe in and invite Jesus Christ to be your personal savior,” and there’s a 17-foot realistic cross looming over Graham’s shoulder. Billy Graham is quite old, and he’s probably as close to Jesus as anyone, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t actually at the foot of the cross back in 33 AD. Another troublesome fact is that while the statue is technically on private property, a passerby would never realize this, and it’s just strange to see a huge cross so prominent in a seemingly public square. But such is the South, I suppose. On the plus side, though no one would call this great art, it does resemble Graham with a fair amount of realism. (Though I haven’t seen Graham in person, I did graduate from a college boasting the Billy Graham Center and accompanying museum. And, no, we’re not related.)

Score: 7 (1 for Poor Craftsmanship, 4 for Inappropriateness to Surroundings, 2 for Offensiveness to the Sensibilities of Any Right-Thinking American.)

1. Nathan Bedford Forrest statue, in a private yard visible from I-65 a few miles south of the city.

IMG_3229Ho hum, just another mammoth Fiberglas statue of the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, spraypainted gold and silver, looming over a public interstate, and surrounded by Confederate flags. No big whoop. Normally, a statue this hideous would be draw most of its terribleness from its remarkably crappy construction, but in this case aesthetics are the least of its offenses. Forrest became a rich man as a plantation owner and slave trader before the start of the Civil War, in which he distinguished himself as a Confederate cavalry leader (hence the enormous “gold” stallion). After the war, he was tried and acquitted of committing war crimes in a brutal battle north of Memphis. Oh, and he was also the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Really, an all-around great guy who any commuter would be happy to gaze upon twice daily.

Score: Not even a fair fight: 15 (5 for Poor Craftsmanship, 5 for Inappropriateness to Surroundings, 5 for Offensiveness to the Sensibilities of Any Right-Thinking American.)

Finally, a special judges’ award goes to the  30-foot-high gilded statue of the goddess Athena, inside the Nashville Parthenon: AthenaGilded




12 responses to “What’s the most appalling statue in Nashville? (Hint: It ain’t no cowboy.)

  1. Next time you’re in Richmond, let’s use this rubric to judge Monument Avenue.

  2. In his defense (I’m now covering my head with my hands, ducking, and trying to look in all directions at once), he was one of the Confederacy’s most brilliant generals. Unfortunately, the South was a Confederacy at exactly the time they needed strong centralized government, and Forrest walked away from the war as soon as Tennessee, the state he was defendin’, was out of the war. Why would he want to go down to defend Atlanta, or over to Virginia?

    Ahh, the South. Their inability to think big is still with them today.

  3. sarahperrystout

    Hi Ruth, great blog. This song came to mind, although I now know you’re from Illinois, not Ohio:


  4. You have clearly never experienced the large, glistening fiberglass Peanuts characters that dot the city of St Paul. Maybe not so offensive as the KKK guy, but pretty bad.

    Also, I thought Billy Graham was your husband, no?

    Ha ha ha. Bet you’ve never heard that one before.

  5. Dad, the South had to be a Confederacy during the Civil War. If they had a strong central government, their cry of “state’s rights” would be illegitimate, and they would have had to reveal that their actual purpose was to maintain a society based on slavery and white supremacy. Then France and England would never have considered aiding them (which they might have, before Gettysburg), and idiots with Confederate flags bumper stickers on their trucks couldn’t claim they aren’t racist.

  6. Can I just say THANK YOU for pointing out that the NBF statue is on PRIVATE land? As someone who grew up in Brentwood (just south of Nashville), I have answered a lot of questions about this blot on our landscape. It is so incredibly visible to I65 drivers, and surrounded by flags in a monumental way, that most think it is a state monument. It is hideous, offensive and very PRIVATELY maintained.


  7. Response to Nathan Bedford Forest monument on I-65. It was less noticeable a few years ago (maybe 5-10 yrs) before the State/county workers cleared the land of overgrown trees between the private property it’s located on and I-65. I’m not sure who’s idea that was, but not the brightest of ideas!

  8. Well Bob Graham, I figured you to be with ACLU until I read about you thinking big gov’t. Then I realized you are an idiot democrat. Yes, I am southerner. I don’t have to think big. I am loved by the biggest thing in the universe, GOD. And naturally, me being southern, I will cling to my Bible & gun. You can cling to your big goverenment.

  9. Most of us are totally embarrassed by the NBF monument on the side of the I-65! What can we do to get the owner to take it down? It is so offensive! Not to mention even if you liked NBF this is a tacky monument. This land owner obviously has NO CLASS!!!

  10. While it isn’t in Nashville, other art is equally disturbing. take the DIA Demon Horse. Started by one artist, who died when the head fell on him, finished by another, and scare pluperfect hell out of small children http://prairieflounder.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/sculpture.jpg

  11. Dawn, this statue of NBF is only marginally more disgraceful to the South than your own ignorant, religion-infused reply to Mr. Graham. I try to look past grammatical errors when reading people’s comments, as I understand that not everyone understands the English language as well as they should and that someone’s point can often times be understood without being too exacting in their wording. However, if you’re going to defend the backwards drivel that you’ve been indoctrinated into, perhaps you should at least appear intelligent in your writing (or simply comprehensible), since it is impossible to appear intelligent with your content. I feel that, in trying to discern meaning in what you’re saying, I’m either misunderstanding what you wrote (through no fault of my own, as your writing needs an interpreter) or that you don’t understand to what you were responding. How is Mr. Graham’s reference to a “strong centralized government” related to “big gov’t”? He was obviously referring to the Confederacy’s need for coordinated efforts within the war, which has nothing to do with what you were referencing. Any other similarities to the concept of big government you would have to conjure up yourself, as he was mute on the topic. It would be like me saying that you live in Dallas, Texas because you said you were a Southerner. Sure, you’ve met one criterion, but more are needed to draw that conclusion. You saw what you wanted to see instead of using that mush inside your skull for a moment to infer his meaning from context. I guess it’s easier to be offended by everything and attack, than to think.

    Just go on clinging to your “bible & gun” (I will not dignify your book with divine origin by way of capitalization) and I will cling to my logic and reason. At least my beliefs are internally consistent and can’t be dismissed out of hand by any rationally thinking person. Oh, and speaking of internal inconsistencies, maybe you should think on the similarities between the gun and bible philosophy and that of big government. Maybe start by comparing the Roman Catholic Church and its power and influence over the past two millennia to that which you profess to follow and that which so obviously leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I think you will find them all very similar.

    Good luck figuring out life.

  12. I could be completely wrong but what I heard was that the owner of the land displaying the NBF statue had his land taken via eminent domain in order to construct part of I-65 and was so pissed that he decided to erect such an offensive statue (of whom he was not necessarily an admirer, again, I’m not sure) to intentionally create an eyesore as some sort of revenge for eminent domain. Honestly I dont remember who told me this, it’s been several years, it could be entirely false that’s just what I heard.

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