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nashville public art

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

Third and Lindsley Part 1 – Find Your Look

Just a few days ago, I featured a mural at the independent music venue The East Room. Today, it’s the turn of the venerable Third and Lindsley, which has been in operation for almost 30 years. The anniversary comes up in February, but in announcing their reopening for October 1, the management speculated about not holding the anniversary party until September, because they’ve been closed for six months. Let’s hope the re-opening works out for them. Any music venue shutting down would be a loss, but it’s hard to imagine Nashville without Third and Lindsley.

As any Nashville icon should, Third and Lindsley has art. In total, there are three outdoor murals, two relatively new ones by the artist who goes by Blue Hayden Art, and an older sign painted on a retaining wall. I say relatively – the two Blue Hayden pieces went in about a year ago. Both are part of a trend I’ve noted before, murals very specifically designed for people to stand in front of and get their picture taken. I’ve taken the title for my post from an Instagram post from the artist that shows people doing just that (swipe to the second picture).

This one is related to those paintings of groups of people with cutouts that you can stand behind and stick your face in. Here you stand in front, under one of the hats, grabbing one of the instruments. It’s really designed for a group to participate in, which make sense if you know how things work at Third and Lindsley. Crowds waiting to get into the venue line up in front of this wall, so for a show night, at least before social distancing, groups were already standing in front of this spot anyway!

I’ll feature the other two mural over the next couple of weeks or so. I once said I’d never do series posts again (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, etc.) but some projects really require it.

Located at 818 3rd Avenue South, at the corner with, you guessed it, Lindsley Avenue. There is very limited street parking, and a pay lot. During the day on weekends it’s easy to park at neighboring businesses.

2nd Avenue AT&T Art Wall – Beth Inglish

Back in the summer of 2018, a group of women artists in Nashville created a series of abstract murals to spruce up the drab exterior of the AT&T building. No, not the Batman Building on Commerce Street, but the giant brick AT&T Central Office on 2nd Avenue. It contains offices as well as phone and cable service infrastructure, and is almost windowless. On an otherwise colorful and lively 2nd Avenue, it is something of massive, dull box. The colorful, playful murals provide a nice contrast to the the more severe building.

The murals are the product of a collaboration between AT&T, the Nashville Downtown Partnership, The DISTRICT, Nashville Metro Arts Commission, and The Studio 208. Specifically, AT&T participated through the Women of AT&T organization, reflecting perhaps that all of the artists for the project are women. Ashley Segroves of The Studio 208 curated the murals. The murals are all abstract, and are meant to display positivity, playfulness, and cheerfulness.

I’m going to post them in a series, running left to right (south to north). The first of these, featured above, is by Beth Inglish, a prolific local artist and founder of the Nashville Creative Group. Like all the murals, it was printed as a series of posters, and placed on what had been empty windows on the ground floor of the AT&T building. (Here’s a gif of it being installed.) It features the dynamic swirling lines and bold colors found in much of the rest of her work.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting the other murals in the series. There are eight in all. Below is a shot that gives you a better idea of the context of these murals. Though it looks like winter, I actually took the photo below in April, 2019. Some of the photos for this series were taken then, others in March, 2020.

Located at 185 2nd Avenue North. Inglish’s mural is at the south end of the building, near a parking garage. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

House of Blues Fences of Fame, Part 2

As you travel clockwise around Columbine Park in Berry Hill, coming from Bransford Avenue, the second fence you come to is one of the youngest. It and the fence just to the east were the last two created by  Scott Guion for the Nashville branch of the House of Blues. Despite that, the people featured on it are artists whose careers mostly got started back in the ’60s and ’70s. The youngster among them is Jim Lauderdale, whose first album came out 1986. Like all the fences, it’s an eclectic mix of iconic artists from a wide array of genres, many of whom have crossed genres themselves. It’s also interesting that Guion has chosen to show these artists at different stages of their lives. Nina Simone, who was born the earliest of the group (in 1933) is shown relatively young. Meanwhile, Emmylou Harris, born a few years after Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, is depicted a couple decades older than both men. Also included are Gregg Allman, Jerry Garcia, Joni Mitchell, and Otis Redding.

Fence face mural Nashville street art
Gregg Allman and Otis Redding

See Part 1 of this series for why I’m just now writing about these murals. Spoiler alert: You can finally park in Berry Hill.

Fence Faces mural Nashville Street art
Joni Mitchell and Jim Lauderdale

Lauderdale by a decade is the baby of this group, born in 1957. Harris and Allman are next, both born in 1947.

Fence faces mural Nashville street art
Emmylou Harris, Nina Simone, and Jerry Garcia

Garcia seems to have a halo here, which is an interesting choice.

Fence faces mural Nashville Street art
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

Located at 524 East Iris Drive, which is the address of the building behind the fence, Premier Protective Services. The mural faces south towards the park. Parking is available around the park.

Part 1

The East Room

One thing the ongoing pandemic has not stopped is the outdoor art scene in Nashville. Certainly some commissions never materialized as some businesses cut costs and others closed. But new art is still appearing. A few months ago, this new mural appeared at The East Room on Gallatin. It’s by Matthew Depew, who also used the label “Popcorn Art,” and the mural carries the hashtag “#popcornmurals.” I don’t know why he uses that name, but the mural, which is on a set of panels, is highly textured. It’s depiction of a road leading off into a surreal landscape is reminiscent of the yellow brick road mural by Anthony’s Billups for The Griff Apartments.

There’s also a pretty impressive sign on the side of the building, but I don’t know the artist.

East Room Sign mural Nashville street art

Of course, like all our public venues, The East Room is struggling. As of press time, their calendar is blank, though they do have an announcement for a series of virtual concerts they are taking part in over the next two months. Recently, the Metro Council approved a $2 million grant to help keep small, independent venues afloat. The National Independent Venue Association is running a lobbying campaign called “Save our Stages” to try to get Congress to step in to save an industry that is in serious trouble. Let’s hope they are successful.

Located at 2412 Gallatin Avenue. There is limited parking on site for the other businesses in this building. Street parking is available a short distance north on Chester Avenue.

Electric Thunder

I would not ordinarily do two posts about the same neighborhood in a row, and I try to avoid posting when I don’t know the artist. But this mural is likely to be gone soon, so I decided it was time to post about it.

Electric Thunder Studios is in Berry Hill, about a block away from the well known fences with portraits of music icons. Like those, I had also been reluctant to write about this mural because of the unfriendly sense of a neighborhood with no parking and no sidewalks. The parking at least is somewhat solved. So why do I say this mural is going away? Because the building is for sale. Indeed, as of this post, it is listed as being under contract. The listing also indicated the studio equipment is not part of the sale, so either Electric Thunder is moving or closing. Either way, it’s doubtful the future owners will want to keep what amounts to a large sign for the previous occupants.

The mural above is on the side of the building. There also used to be a second mural, presumably by the same artist, on the front of the building, but that has been painted over. Below is a picture of it, and you can see its relationship to the remaining mural. File these murals under both “lost art” and “endangered art.”

Electric Thunder mural Nashville Street art
Electric Thunder mural Nashville Street art

Located at 2824 Dogwood Place. The mural is on the south side of the building, facing a driveway. The nearest parking is on the next block over, around Columbine Park.

House of Blues Fences of Fame, Part 1

Back in 2016, a series of portraits of iconic musicians began to appear on several fences surrounding Columbine Park. They were sponsored by the Nashville branch of the House of Blues, and are the product of Nashville artist Scott Guion. The House of Blues calls them the “Wall of Fame,” but for obvious reasons, I went with “fences.” While often featured in lists of Nashville’s best murals, or used in various media about music in Nashville, they don’t show up on social media quite as much as some of the other well-known murals in Nashville. I  say Nashville – to be exact, this is Berry Hill, which is separate from Nashville, with its own municipal government, though it is part of Metro. And this has something to do with why these murals have not been gotten quite the attention you might think. There are no sidewalks in Berry Hill, and until recently, there was absolutely no parking in Berry Hill, unless you were visiting one the businesses there. Four spaces at Columbine Park had a sign that made it clear they were for users of the park only. It wasn’t an inviting place.

Berry Hill faces mural Nashville street art
George Jones and Bill Monroe

But things have changed. The loop around the park has been made one-way only, and the inner lane on both sides has been turned into parking places. As a park, Columbine Park has been dismantled, and the Berry Hill police don’t seem to mind if you park on the grass, or in the park parking spaces – that sign is gone. So I feel a lot better about telling people to go and visit.

BH Faces Elvis
Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting the fences and some of the surrounding art, starting from the entrance off Bransford Avenue on East Iris Drive, looping around the park clockwise. That means I have to start with the hardest fence to photograph, because of the heavy vegetation around it. But it is chock full of icons, mostly from mid-century rock and country. One feature of Guion’s portraits is that he has chosen to show many of these musicians when they were young. I have to say, I didn’t recognize George Jones.

Berry Hill faces mural Nashville street art
Dolly Parton and Willy Nelson

Right to left, this fence features, Bill Monroe, Jones, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan, and Hank Williams. Quite a lineup – did I really need to link those?

Berry Hill faces mural Nashville street art
Hank Willams and Bob Dylan

I think it’s somehow right that Dylan has a vine growing out of his face. Why not?

Berry Hill faces mural Nashville street art

Located on the 500 block of East Iris Drive, right off Bransford Avenue. The mural is on the south side of the road. Parking is available a bit to the east, surrounding the nearby park.

The Linden Building Mural

What makes a mural a mural, and where does this one start and where does it end? It’s by Sideshow Sign Co., whose work is found all over town. This is one of the only pieces signed by them, as most of their work is branding work and signs for restaurants and retail businesses, things that are not usually signed. But this mural, on the side of Serendipity in 12 South, comes with a plaque:

Linden Building Sign Nashville street art

“Repetition and the illusion of layering” would suggest that the only part of this wall that’s meant to be part of the mural is the black and white stripes up top. If so, the featured image at the beginning of this blog post should be this one:

Linden Building Stripes Nashville street art

If that’s right, that would make this one of the smallest and simplest murals in town. And truly, how many murals are mostly a white wall? But the big red stripe and the red windows along with the black and white stripes seem to all tie together. Even the turquoise awning and window frame, which are surely not part of the mural, seem part of the whole. There is the artist’s intent and the viewer’s perception. Take your pick. Either way, this mural is indeed, as the plaque says, “simple yet conceptual.”

Located at 2301 12th Avenue South, at the corner with Linden Avenue. The mural faces north towards Linden. This is 12 South, and there is a mix of paid and free parking on 12th and on side streets.

Unfinished, Unknown

The exuberant, graffiti-style sign for A&B Towing has been up for well over a year, possibly much longer. But it is also distinctly unfinished. It’s hard to see in this picture, but the artist sketched out more of both the hook and the chain, but never completed them. For that matter, the rest of the word “truck” is stenciled in but was never painted, and that letting seems to in the midst of an unfinished editing process. I say “artist” because I don’t know who did this. There is an interesting dot, like a period at the end of the “Towing” banner, which is exactly where a signature would go. It otherwise doesn’t make much sense in the context of the rest of the mural.

Not all muralists sign their work, but the ones that do, don’t sign them until the work is done. So it would seem when the artist was about 90% done, they walked away. Why? It could be something mundane, or it could have been some sort of disagreement with the business owners. A and B Towing does seem to be active, but it also has no internet presence at all, so I don’t know much about it. And as it’s been at least a year-and-half, I really don’t think the artist is coming back. Not all art is completed, and some of the great masterpieces are unfinished works. This one is likely to remain a bit of a mystery.

Located at 707 East Trinity Lane, at the corner with Pittway Drive. The mural faces east, towards Pittway. There is parking at the building, and some street parking on Pittway.

Love Life, Nashville Strong

There’s been a real tendency of late for murals and graffiti art in Nashville to promote positive themes. In the wake of a terrible tornado and an ongoing pandemic, Nashville artists seemed determined to boost spirits. And what better place to do this than right in the middle of the tornado’s path. The old Nashville Industrial Staffing building on Main, which has been empty for some time, seemed to come through the March 3rd storm just fine, despite coming close to being directly hit by the tornado. But that’s the difference between tornadoes and hurricanes, having myself lived through both. Tornadoes are quirky, and hurricanes are thorough.

Mouse graffiti mural Nashville street art

Earlier this summer, Nashville artist E. Watts spruced up the forlorn building with a couple of messages of hope. A familiar-looking mouse is painting the message “Love Life,” while what looks something like a masked ballon is emblazoned with the message “Nashville Strong.” Or, the “balloon” could be the “O” in the word “WOW” – take your pick. Like the graffiti art on Gallatin I featured in my last post, this work is inevitably temporary, but for the time being it lends a splash of color and hope for these difficult times.

Balloon graffiti mural Nashville street art

Located at 606 Main Street, across the street from the East Baptist Church of East Nashville, and next to an abandoned car wash. The murals are on the west side building, which faces downtown. There is parking at the building.

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