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nashville public art

Nashville murals, street art, graffiti, signs, sculptures and more

Southern Pride, Queer Pride (and Skittles)

June is Pride Month, a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. It falls in June because the Stonewall Uprising, a pivotal moment in the gay liberation movement, began on June 28, 1969. There was a time when major corporations would have wanted nothing to do with such a celebration, but times have changed. Skittles (a subsidiary of Mars) has perhaps an obvious tie-in with Pride as rainbows are central to their marketing and of course the Rainbow Flag is a key symbol of Pride. (The original, designed by Gilbert Baker, had been lost for 40 years but was recently found and is on display in San Francisco.)

For this year’s Pride celebration, Skittles has sponsored a series of murals by Queer artists. The project is called the Skittles QueeR Codes, and one of them is here in Nashville, on the side of the Germantown branch of Jack Brown’s. (The name of the series references the QR codes found on each mural.) The Nashville version is by local artist Sara Moroni, whose business name is Sara Moroni Pizza – “serving hot and fresh slices of art.” Why pizza? It’s a reference to the different kinds of art she makes. There are many kinds of pizza and many kinds of art.

Her contribution specifically addresses the issue of being LBTGQ+ in the South. “Proud to be Southern & Queer,” the mural declares. It shows some of the diversity of the Queer community in the South. Moroni wrote on her Instagram page:

I understood how important it was to take full advantage and represent as many Queers in the South as I could. So, I designed this mural to highlight the diversity of Queer voices here in the South—to be as inclusive and intersectional as possible.

To my knowledge this is Moroni’s first mural in Nashville. I hope we get to see more from her.

By the way, this is not the first corporate-sponsored Pride mural in Nashville. Instagram sponsored one back in 2017 that as of this writing is still up.

There are three other murals in the series. Jae Lin created one in Austin, TX; there’s another by ARRRTADDICT in Atlanta; and Marlon Davila (aka 7ovechild) painted one in Newark, NJ. It’s interesting how each one of these artists chose to explore the theme of Pride in their murals in distinct ways.

Before Moroni’s mural went up, there was a sign on the side of this building for Local 456 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. I never got around to blogging about it (I was hoping to shoot it without vines), but here is what it looked like. The “J.A.T.C” refers to their training programs, called the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee. Local 456 has since moved out to Rundle Avenue (not far from Fesslers Lane and Elm Hill Pike).

Located at 1123 Third Avenue North, at the corner with Madison Street. The mural is on the south wall of the building, facing towards downtown and Jefferson Street. This is Germantown – there is some free street parking, but most available nearby parking is paid.

The Gulch Dog Park, Part 3 – Jill McElroy

This is the third in the series I’m doing covering the murals in the dog park in The Gulch. In the summer of 2019, MarketStreet Enterprises, the city-appointed master developer of The Gulch, opened a contest for new murals for a dog park that was then still under development. The new dog park lies at the top of a hill on the west side of the The Gulch, overlooking I-40, just uphill from the Turnip Truck. The artists who won the contest are largely new names in the mural world of Nashville, expanding the roster of our local muralists.

Gulch Dog Mural Nashville street art

This one is the third from the right (that is, the third going from north to south), inside the part of the park set aside for small dogs (which is the north part). It’s by Jill McElroy, and to my knowledge, it’s her first mural in Nashville. Her post about it on her Instagram account is quite informative. From it, we learn that the dogs and the music are not random. The dogs on the mural are all portraits of dogs that belong to friends McElroy went dog-walking with during the pandemic. I like how the dog with shades seems to be sniffing and rooting around in the dirt. The music coming out of their ears is sheet music from Doxology and from Nashville artists John Prine, Ben Rector, and Ellie Holcomb.

Dog Mural Nashville Street art

The big rock in front does block the dog with shades a bit, so I added an angled view above, and this close up.

Dog Mural Nashville Street art

Located at 1216 Pine Street, at the top of the hill. That’s the address of the dog park. This mural is actually closer to an alley that lies between Pine and Laurel Street and is near the entrance to the part of the park for small dogs. It faces east towards 12th Avenue South and the Turnip Truck. This is The Gulch, so plenty of parking, none of it free. Well, not if you stay too long. Most Gulch parking is free for the first hour or even longer. Check the signage at each lot and garage.

Part 1 Part 2

Nashville Looks Good on You – Marathon Village

I’ve written about the one on Nolensville Pike and the one in 12 South. I’ve also written about the one on 21st Avenue South. And now we have the one in Marathon Village. All four are by the same artist, who signs his work NASHTN.

This version is fairly new, having gone up a little over a month ago. In the selfie wars of Nashville, the one in 12 South is definitely one of the most popular murals in town. There’s usually a line to get your picture taken there. This one may not get as much attention as the 12 South version, but it will also see more visitors than the one on Nolensville Pike, which is far from where most tourists go (thankfully so – at least we locals have all the great immigrant restaurants on Nolensville mostly to ourselves).

Marathon Village is not as overrun with tourists as 12 South or Lower Broad, it certainly gets it share, and no doubt many will find this new one. It’s on the other side of a parking lot from the main part of Marathon Village, but through tax records I was able to confirm this building belongs to Barry Walker, the developer of Marathon Village. (That link is an interesting history of Marathon Village and Walker’s work to restore it.)

Each NLGOY mural is distinctive. The 12 South one is a simple black-and-white block, the Nolensville one is huge and morphs into a map of Tennessee, and the one on 21st is curved. This one is unique in its complexity. I think it’s interesting that the magnifying glass seems to be shining a light on the mural. The hand has been painted in a way that largely makes the electrical box disappear. The whole effect is like some giant that’s got an arm sticking out of the building while carefully examining anyone who gets their picture made in front of the mural.

On the artist’s IG page, you can see a series of images showing the making of the mural.

The building has a sign for 360 Skin Care, but its not clear if the business is active.

Located at 1206 Milson Avenue. The mural is on the west side of the building, facing away from downtown. The building lies directly across the parking lot from the tower on the main Marathon Village building. There’s plenty of parking around, but you may need to park a bit away to find something free.

Quanie Cash – Build Up Our Community

It’s not often I post about brand new art, but this eye-catching mural that went up a couple of weeks ago is right in my neighborhood and hard to miss, being in a prominent spot on Main Street. It’s by Kwazar Martin, an Indianapolis artist who’s only been producing murals for two or three years but has already been featured in national media. This mural marks his first work in Nashville.

The subject is Quanie Cash, a Nashville actor, director and musician who is also the founder of The Build Up Foundation, a non-profit that works with at-risk kids. Cash is not only from Nashville, but he also grew up in the Main Street neighborhood. In a post on his Instagram page about the mural, Cash noted:

I never thought growing up that a Mural of me would be on the Neighborhood Store Building my grandma sent me to everyday. 

Today, there is no longer a neighborhood store in the low-slung cinderblock building on Main. The only business remaining in that building is Tammy’s Beauty Salon. The old neighborhood store has been replaced by a Mapco next door. Perhaps because it’s a small building in something of a low spot, it was not damaged by the March 3, 2020 tornado, despite being right in the storm’s path.

The image of Cash in the mural would appear to be based on the profile shot from his Twitter account (that is, the profile shot he was using in May, 2021). On Cash’s Instagram, you can see a brief clip of him working on the mural.

Located at 718 Main Street. The mural faces west, in the direction of downtown. There is parking at 718 and at the Mapco.

Pride and Glory

The Christmas bombing in Nashville left many scars. People lost their homes and their businesses. Some of Nashville’s most important historic buildings were damaged beyond repair. 2nd Avenue was an important part of the Nashville tourist scene, and many of the businesses that were housed in those historic buildings were what you would expect to find in a tourist zone – bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, honky-tonks and tattoo parlors. To be precise, the Pride and Glory Tattoo Parlor lost what was once its home at 172 2nd Avenue North.

But it wasn’t long before they found a new place to open shop on Rep. John Lewis Way (5th Avenue), and with the new place came a big bold mural to announce their presence. Often, the artwork on tattoo parlors is done by the tattoo artists themselves, but in this case, prolific local muralist Mobe Oner (aka Eric Bass) provided the artwork.

Pride & Glory sign Nashville street art

The images Mobe Oner has chosen are common tattoo images – the climbing black jaguar, the guitar wrapped in a ribbon, and the hand holding flowers are all familiar tattoo images. Eagles in every imaginable pose are also the frequent subject of a tattoo.

Pride & Glory mural Nashville Street art

The jaguar reminds me a lot of the one found one the Drum Supply/Relik Vintage mural done by  Folek Kelof and Christian Branger. Coincidentally, Relik Vintage was forced to move to new quarters after a disaster, in their case as a result of the March 3, 2020 tornado.

Pride & Glory mural Nashville street art

The return of Pride and Glory is important. In the face of the tornado, the bombing, and the pandemic, we like to talk about resilience and “Nashville Strong.” But it’s good to actually see Nashville’s strength and resilience in action, with a literally bombed-out business up and running in a matter of months – and with new art, to boot!

Located at 510 Rep. John Lewis Way South (5th Avenue South). The mural faces the street and takes up the whole front façade of the business, so its hard to miss. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free (though some free parking is found a few blocks south of Pride and Glory).

The Gulch Dog Park, Part 2 – Jason Skinner

This is the second in the series I’m doing covering the murals in the dog park in The Gulch. In the summer of 2019, MarketStreet Enterprises, the city-appointed master developer of The Gulch, opened a contest for new murals for a dog park that was then still under development. The new dog park lies at the top of a hill on the west side of the The Gulch, overlooking I-40, just uphill from the Turnip Truck. The artists who won the contest are largely new names in the mural world of Nashville, expanding the roster of our local muralists.

Skinner Mural Nashville street art

This one is the second from the right (that is, the second going from north to south), inside the part of the park set aside for small dogs. It is by Jason Skinner, with an assist from the “For Becks” artist. At first I didn’t think this mural was signed, but it does say “bougettes and arrows” in several places, which is Skinner’s Instagram handle (“bougette” is an old French word for a pouch or bag.) Both artists work primarily in stencil, and there are various stencil designs on this mural. Arrows feature strongly, as does what appears to be a set of buildings. There are also some parachutists, a few Conway Twitty Twitty Birds, and a security camera. The heart-shaped balloon is by the For Becks artist.

There are also a couple of sayings on the mural. “The grass is always greener” is probably an allusion to the fact that this mural is on a fence. It is fact greener on the other side, where there are large bushes. We are also told that, “Change makes you interesting, being interesting makes you change.” There are some spots labeled “AD SPACE,” but there are no ads. Two large rocks sit in front of the mural, which is why I’ve added the angled photographs. You can also see from them that the mural wraps around the sides.

In this closeup of the heart-shaped “For Becks” balloon, you can also see what appears to be the face of an alien. Keep an eye out for stenciled balloons, Leggo men, and ice-cream sticks around town signed “For Becks.” They show up in a number of places.

For Becks Balloon Nashville Street art

Located at 1216 Pine Street, at the top of the hill. That’s the address of the dog park. This mural is actually closer to an alley that lies between Pine and Laurel Street, at the north end of the dog park. It faces east towards 12th Avenue South. This is The Gulch, so plenty of parking, none of it free. Well, not if you stay too long. Most Gulch parking is free for the first hour or even longer. Check the signage at each lot and garage.

Part 1 Part 3

The Colors of Capital City Computers

Right at the end of last year, a new mural appeared on the Capital City Computers building on Gallatin. For some time, this wall had held a mural promoting Muddy Roots, the music festival and record label, though I never wrote about it. You can see it here.

This new mural is by the artist who goes by Sterbo. Its use of lines and colors reminds me to some extent of another one of his works, which I featured in the post Line It Up. But while that piece is frenetic and energetic, this is a calmer and more soothing work, and is also even more abstract. While the Line It Up piece played around with three-dimensionality, this piece is more about the uses of color. It creates a set of optical illusions, such that some of the stripes you see on this mural look as if they were shadows cast on the wall by some weird, alien trees.

For such a small place, the Capital City Computer building is pretty festooned with murals. While the Sterbo mural is on the north side, the south has long hosted what I call the Young Warlords mural, a portrait of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as they looked back in the 1980s that was done by Bryan Deese. Capital City uses it on their webpage. And there’s another mural by Jack Coyle on the back I haven’t written about yet that looks to have gone in the same time the Sterbo piece did. Hey, get your computer fixed and take in a gallery of murals in one go!

Located at 1106 Gallatin Ave. The mural faces north towards an alley halfway between Sharpe Avenue and W Greenwood Avenue. Publix is across the street. There is parking at Capital City, particularly in back.

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