Donelson Gateway Project

The Donelson Gateway Project’s current endeavor is to work with an artist and the community to create a sculpture that will be installed right near this sign at the corner of Lebanon Pike and Briley Parkway. SUBMITTED

The Donelson Gateway Project has embarked on a project that targets further beautification of the city’s gateway at Lebanon Road and Briley Parkway. 

It will be an art project created by Nashville-area artist Brian Somerville, with much input from Donelson community members. Two meetings are scheduled this month to explain the project and get hands-on help from citizens. The abstract, unique project will be placed next to the welcome to Donelson sign and surely catch the eye and curiosity of those who enter the city.

Mike Rose is the president of the Donelson Gateway Project formed in April 2008. He’s been at the helm of the all-volunteer cooperative effort to enhance the city in a multitude of small and large projects for three years now.

“Our group is dedicated to the beautification and greening of the Donelson area and its corridors,” said Rose.

He said the purpose is to create landscaped gateways to Donelson’s neighborhoods and business district. First efforts were to address each entrance into the community. Beautification efforts also spill onto school campuses.

It’s a thriving grassroots effort. Rose said recently the group prettied up Pennington Bend school.

“That was about $4,500 into a very successful project for the school,” he said. 

Before that, an even larger project took place at McGavock High School, where $12,000 worth of greenery and landscaping was donated and worked by the Gateway Project members.

And, all the money dedicated to so many projects scattered across Donelson are donated by personal and corporate donations.

District 15 Metro-Nashville Councilman Jeff Syracuse was the Gateway Project’s president before Rose. 

“Thanks to Metro Arts’ THRIVE program, Brian Somerville will receive funding to create an art piece to display on site,” he said. “It will be temporary [for about a year], and then we will find a permanent home somewhere indoors. As part of the process, community engagement is required, and so there will be two meetings to provide an opportunity to learn more and provide input. That will help make it an even more meaningful art piece that will create deeper appreciation by everyone in the community.”

He explained the Metro Arts THRIVE program gives money to artists to come up with art pieces for neighbors. 

“Community arts speak to and have meaning to the community,” he said. 

Rose further said he works for News Channel 5, and Scripps Media is its parent company. He also lives in Donelson.

“They have a grant program for employees to apply,” he said.

He applied, and the THRIVE program funded this art project in Donelson to the tune of $8,000. 

Prior Donelson Gateway Projects included a mural project in 2016 that is on the greenway near Wave Country.

“On the tunnel there, there were a lot of amateur tags,” said Syracuse. “We got two legit street artists to paint to mural on the outside of the tunnel at the entrance.”

One side gives homage to things like Two Rivers Mansion, and the other side painted art of children skating and more images for younger folks to appreciate.

Have these been tagged since then? No said Syracuse. He said amateur taggers have respect for experienced street artists.

“That project stopped illegal tagging, plus beautified the greenway,” he said.

The artist for this latest project will attend two public meetings, along with Syracuse and Rose, and everyone is invited to attend. They will take place Feb. 11 and Feb. 27 both at 6:30 p.m. at the Donelson Library.

Both Syracuse and Rose said they expect a large crowd, because Donelson residents are in tune and interested in their community and like to have input. 

The artist will bring in some of the material for the sculpture he will create for the entry place.

“There will be some hands-on input from those who attend, as well as some of their creative input. It will be much fun and interesting,” said Rose.

He said Somerville has a concept for a stunning piece that is a bit abstract.

And, what might that be? Rose would only reveal it will start with a tree trunk of some kind and morph into something that will look like a nearby bridge truss and more mirroring of the city. But, that’s just in the artists mind thus far, and he will reveal more in February.

The next project the Donelson Gateway Project volunteers will begin is at the corner of Stewarts Ferry Pike and Lebanon Road where there is a substantial stand of trees.

“There are 32 species right there in that corner,” said Rose.

They want to turn it into an arboretum. This is an area devoted to specimens of plantings of trees and shrubs.

In other words, it will be an outdoor museum of trees. When things flesh out, they hope to label the trees with both their common and scientific names.

It will be a great place to visit, said Rose. Also, Hickman Elementary School is close by, and perhaps the arboretum will become a field-trip destination. 

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