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

68 Years (An Off the Wall Project)

BLK.JHN Mural Nashville Street art

Back in April, 2019, I thought I had completed a series on the fourteen (and only fourteen) murals of the Off the Wall project. Well, while there was a hiatus in new murals for about a year, Tinsley Dempsey, the person behind this large outdoor gallery, has since managed to get more walls for the project, more artists, and apparently more funding. Three new murals have appeared since the end of what I will now call the first phase of the project, including one by Nino C. Flores that went in at the end of 2020 and and one from Tarabella Aversa that went in the previous April. Dempsey has said that she wants to run murals all the way down the 2900 block of Felicia Street, which would have murals wrapping all the way around the block.

This is presumably the first of a series of murals that will go on a long low wall that runs along Felica Street, and it went up back in March. It’s by the artist BLK.JHN. Like much of his work, it’s done in a vivid, pop-art style. I call the post “68 Years” because that’s how BLK.JHN titled the painting that he made that this mural is based on. The painting and the mural are in honor of his grandparents, who would have celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary on March 31. Sadly, his grandmother passed the day before he finished this mural. This isn’t the only memorial mural in the Off the Wall series. There’s a mural honoring Jessi Zazu, as well as a work by Omari Booker honoring his sister.

BLK.JHN seems to have only done a few murals, and this appears to be his first in Nashville. I would hope we see more, as his style is bold and works well in mural form.

Located at 2901 Felicia Street. That’s an imaginary address, as this is a back wall of the Abbot West Self Storage complex at 3020 Charlotte Avenue. It lies about 150 feet west of the corner of 28th Avenue and Felicia Street. There’s a small gravel parking lot right next to the mural.

The Gulch Dog Park, Part 6 – Allison Paoli

Paoli Gulch Mural Nashville street art

This is the sixth and last in the series I’ve been 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 Gulch, overlooking I-40, just uphill from the Turnip Truck. The artists who won the contest are largely new names in the Nashville mural world, expanding the roster of our local muralists.

This mural is the sixth from the right and one of two in this series that’s found in the part of the park set aside for large dogs. It’s all the way on the far left end of the dog park. It’s the work of Nashville artist Allison Paoli. Paoli is a difficult artist to research. That blog I linked to hasn’t been updated in four years, and her Twitter account has been dormant almost as long. I think she had an Instagram account at one point, but if so it’s been deactivated. I do know that besides being a visual artist she is also a published poet.

What this abstract piece is meant to be I’m not sure. It might be three very abstract dogs or something else entirely. Since Paoli stopped publishing on social media well before she did this mural, I can’t tell you what she might have to say about it. Nevertheless, it’s a bright, lively mural that brings some color and fun to the dog park.

Located at 1216 Pine Street, at the top of the hill. That’s the address of the dog park. There’s an alley that lies between Pine and Laurel Street that leads to the dog park entrance, and this mural is off to the left if you are coming up the hill from 12th Ave South. It’s the closest mural to Pine Street (though you’ll need good shoes to come from that way, given the steep hill). This is The Gulch, so plenty of parking, none of it free. Well, that’s only true 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 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

The flowers of 5th+Broadway

One of the largest developments of late in the Lower Broad area is the massive open-air mall, food court, and office building known as Fifth + Broadway, or just 5+B. It’s certainly been a hit with tourists, and it’s often packed, particularly on the weekends, even in these pandemic times.

And every new big project in Nashville needs murals, doesn’t it? The mall area of 5+B is L-shaped, and off the corner of the ground floor of the “L” is a covered walkway with a massive flower mural by Tarabella Aversa. Aversa is one of our more prolific local muralists, and flowers often feature strongly in her work, such as the double mural she did for Walden on Gallatin.

This mural, which went up back in March, is even more intensely floral, jam-packed with warmly colored carnations, with shades of pink, purple, yellow, and orange. A giant mural like this one can be a bit overwhelming for the selfie-seeker, so Aversa has added a black diamond near the middle to frame your next portrait.

Flowers mural Nashville street art

I can tell you it works. This is a difficult mural to photograph, both because of the tight angles and overhead lighting, but also the people passing by and all the folks who want their photo with it. Many use the diamond frame, but some seem to prefer a field of flowers behind them.

Aversa also decorated some doors that are on the opposite wall from the main mural. The lighting for them is even more difficult, but I think my photos accurately represent what you’d see if you visited them. For other views, check out Aversa’s own post about the mural, which includes a shot of her working on it.

This quite beautiful mural and its smaller companions tell a larger story about what’s going in the mural scene in Nashville. Where there are tourists, there will be murals. Sure, murals go up for a lot of other reasons, but tourism drives a big part of the movement. And corporate sponsors are becoming more common. The vast majority of sponsors are still local businesses, but corporate sponsors are seen more and more, so much so that soon I won’t even bother to comment.

Located at the 500 block of Broadway. From either the Broadway entrance or the Rep. John Lewis Way North entrance, simply walk until you get to the interior corner, and you will find it. This is downtown, so lots of parking, very little of it free.

East Nash at Koi

East Nash Mural Nashville street art

It’s not often that I feature something brand new, but this piece is so unusual in Nashville outdoor art, I wanted to put it up right away. This particular style is simply not seen in any other Nashville murals that I am aware of it, and it really caught my eye.

It’s on the west side of Koi Susi & Thai on Main in, where else, East Nashville. It’s the work of John Ha, a Los Angeles-based artist with Nashville connections. Ha works in a number of styles and seems to be known best for his take on traditional Chinese and Japanese paintings of koi. This sign, however, is done in a style he calls his Geometrics. He says on his website:

My geometrics are less about the imagery and more about color association. The artwork is abstract and structural. The precision and accuracy in placement is key to a successful pattern. The prism of colors and sequence of shapes creates a retro movement with a modern feel. 

I think he’s right and I don’t think my photo does complete justice to the way this mural seems to shine and pop out of the wall. For anyone coming down Main from downtown, it does become a bright splash of color welcoming all to East Nashville and the Five Points area.

Ha does not have a strong social media presence, so I can’t say precisely how he wound up doing this piece at Koi Sushi & Thai. However, he clearly has Nashville connections, once having had a gallery called HA Factory on 5th Avenue. As best I can tell, it was open in 2011 and 2012 and perhaps longer, but has not been there for a few years (the site is currently a Boost Mobile).

Located at 923 Main Street. The mural faces west, towards downtown. It faces Koi’s parking lot, so there’s parking available, but if you want a clear view of it, avoid the lunch and dinner rushes.

The Gulch Dog Park, Part 5 – Katie Tucker Gossett

This is the fifth 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 Gulch, overlooking I-40, just uphill from the Turnip Truck. The artists who won the contest are largely new names in the Nashville mural world, expanding the roster of our local muralists.

Like the piece by Joe Geis, this one is blocked in part by a fence, though not as badly as the one by Geis. This one is by Katie Tucker Gossett, a local artist who does a lot of face painting as well as portraits of pets. You’ll find her business home at CityWide Art. The mural is the fifth from the right and the first one in this series that’s found in the part of the park set aside for large dogs. Thus the subject, a pug, seems slightly out-of-place, but it’s a very cute pug and we can put its placement in the big dog’s park down to artistic license. Why not, right? And it’s not just any pug, it’s Oscar! Here he is posing in front of his portrait, in a harness that matches the blue background in the mural.

What’s that about never performing with dogs and children? Here I am, talking more about the dog than the artist. She’s actually done some other murals and signs in town, so you’ll be seeing her on this blog again.

Pug Mural Nashville street art

Located at 1216 Pine Street, at the top of the hill. That’s the address of the dog park. There’s an alley that lies between Pine and Laurel Street, and this mural is just to the left if you are coming up the hill from 12th Ave South. It is at the entrance to the part of the park for large dogs, near the middle of the whole dog park. It faces east towards 12th Avenue South and the Turnip Truck. This is The Gulch, so plenty of parking, none of it free. Well, only 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 Part 3 Part 4 Part 6

The 700 (not really) Flowers of 12 South

It’s not 700 flowers, but this blog post does result in the 700th pin on the map – more about that later.

It’s difficult to talk about this mural. It’s been up for several years, and it’s undoubtedly been in many, many social media posts. It’s a splash of beautiful color at the southern end of the very trendy and very popular-with-tourists 12 South neighborhood. (You are so Nashville if you’ve ever said, “I remember when it was just called 12th Avenue South”). Do a search for something like “best murals in Nashville” and you are bound to find it. It shows up in a lot of people’s lists of the Nashville murals you must see.

And yet, I’m only now putting it on the blog. The mural right across from it, which I think is a little younger, appeared on my blog over four years ago. There’s a simple reason – I’ve never known who the Flower Mural artist was.

I try very hard to identify the artists who add so much to the visual fabric of our great city. Sometimes that research is hard. Not all artists are good at promoting themselves, maybe deliberately. I remember one mural where the artist basically asked me, “How the heck did you find me?” Patience, and a lot of real work.

I think more often it’s the fault of the sponsor. I don’t how many times I’ve seen on Instagram or Facebook some business crowing about their new mural or fantastic sign, without breathing a word about the artist’s name. It’s really satisfying to figure those ones out. I think these business owners are missing the boat, and they’d get more social media synergy (whatever that means) by naming the artist.

But the Flower Mural of 12 South (also known as the Flower Garden Mural of 12 South) has defeated me. Some bloggers who write about Nashville art that I respect have also failed to come up with the name. And a couple of different businesses in that building have come and gone since it went up, so no help there. Maybe the Flower Mural Artist wants to be anonymous. If that ever changes, I’ll update this post.

About the 700 pins – I reached 700 blog posts way back last December (and did not realize it at the time). There’s a lag mainly because early on when I started this blog I would use one pin for multiple pieces of art that were in one place. I don’t do that anymore. I plan to correct some of that, and also see if I’ve failed to put some pins in for some posts. So I will probably get to 800 a lot quicker. I also don’t remove pins for art that no longer exists. I would hazard a guess that ten to fifteen percent of the points on the map represent lost art. I try to keep posts updated, so check the link in the pin to see if I’ve noted it as lost. This is not a 100% guarantee though, as I don’t always know what is lost. And why so long since December? Well, particularly this summer I dropped from my usual three posts a week to barely one. I want to pick the pace back up, though I may never get back to a consistent three each week.

The patterns on the map are obvious – there are key areas where you find a lot of art. In particular, you find many pieces along Main Street and Gallatin Pike, Twelve South, Downtown, Nolensville Pike, the Jefferson and Buchanan corridors, and Charlotte Pike. The main thing these places have in common is a large number of local businesses. National chains have recently begun to sponsor more and more outdoor art, but this is still primarily a local affair.

The mural is located at 2900 12th Avenue South. That’s the address of the 12 South branch of United Apparel Liquidators. It’s on the south side of the building. It lies right across a small alley from Epice. Unless you visit in the wee hours of the morning, and maybe even then, you will take delight in the wonderous smells coming from Epice, and you will have a sudden craving for Lebanese food. You should listen to this craving, and march right into Epice and get your fill! (Well, during opening hours, of course.)

McDougal’s on 12th

The pandemic was tough for restauranters, but some forged ahead and opened new places right in the thick of it. One such operation was McDougal’s Chicken, long a mainstay of the Hillsboro Village community (though sadly for me, it opened about a decade after I finished my grad work at Vandy, or I would have been there a lot). Last summer, McDougal’s opened a new branch at the heavily trafficked corner of 12th Ave South and South Street.

And as is the case so often these days, a new store means a new mural. In this case, a bright and colorful sign by Anthony Billups of Music City Murals. I can’t say exactly when it went in because I wasn’t doing a lot of driving around last summer, but I imagine it went in around the time of the new location’s opening last June.

Billups has taken the McDougal’s logo with its crowing rooster and red-and-white sign and expanded on it. The logo always had a Sun behind it, but Billups has added the rays of a magnificent sunrise, not unlike the rays found in his mural for Star Struck Vintage. I’m not sure why the chicken place has a flying pig, but that’s also a motif Billups has used elsewhere. There’s no need, of course, after the tornado and the pandemic (not to mention the Christmas bombing that happened after this mural was made) to explain what “Music City Strong” is about.

And of course, there is a Nashville skyline with its signature Batman Building. That said, if you are standing at this branch of McDougals, you can’t see the Batman Building. Also, the Batman Building is north of 12th and South Street, so the Sun wouldn’t rise in that direction, but it’s all artistic license and there’s no need to be picky.

I have featured the original Hillsboro branch of McDougal’s before on this blog. Early on in the blog’s history, I wrote about the giant metal chicken on top of their building, but eventually, I realized that those metal chickens are some kind of mass-produced product, and I stopped putting them on the blog.

Located at 901 12th Avenue South, at the corner with South Street. The mural faces 12th Avenue. There is parking at the restaurant. so why not grab some chicken and enjoy the art!

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