UPDATE! Save Nashville artist William Edmondson's homesite!
After hearing about city plans to sell Edgehill Community Memorial Park, concerned members of the community spoke up in support of preserving the beloved communty park and African-American historical site. Nashville’s municipal government has abandoned plans to sell the land on which artist William Edmondson, the first African-American to ever have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, lived for decades. The proposal to sell Edgehill Community Memorial Park to the highest bidder — which includes Edmondson’s homesite where he lived and worked in until his death in 1951 — would have likely resulted in that land being bought by private developers. After the community rallied together and raised their voices, the Metro Budget and Finance Committee voted unanimously to remove the sale of Edgehill Community Memorial Park, also known as the William Edmondson Homesite park and community gardens, from their budget recommendation.
“Their vote sends an unmistakable message that balancing the budget on the backs of neighborhood parks and civic spaces, done behind closed doors in disrespect to the affected community, is not only poor policy, but terrible process,” stated Mark Schlicher, co-chairman of the Save the Edmondson Homesite Park & Gardens Coalition. “We urge the full council to heed the will of the people and the wisdom of the Budget and Finance Committee, and pass the Sledge amendment as part of the budget tomorrow night.”
The proposal to sell the park to the highest bidder was a shock to artists, historians, and the city’s African American community; it also further obscured the legacy of a figure who is often overlooked in Nashville’s history. "We wouldn't think about taking a bulldozer to the home of Thomas Edison," said Tennessee State University professor Lee Williams. "These spaces should not be erased from our memory." In response that the park would be potentially be sold, the art and academic community wrote an open letter opposing the sale and calling for the site’s preservation. “For too long, the treasure that is William Edmondson has been taken from Nashville and from Edgehill and allowed to enrich other communities," the letter reads. "It’s time to bring him home.”
William Edmondson's work was featured in the recent exhibition Outliers and American Vanguard Art. Although his home no longer exists on the grounds of Edgehill Community Memorial Park, the surrounding neighborhood was an important part of his artistic career, and it was a neighborhood that has historically brought together Nashville’s black working class and upper-class white citizens.