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nashville public art

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

The Listening Room, Selfie Edition

Selfie-bait is a growing trend in Nashville murals and the giant colorful headphones at The Listening Room Cafe is a case in point. I think it all began with the wings mural in The Gulch by Kelsey Montague, who specializes in murals designed to entice people to use them as frames for portraits. Much of the mural movement in Nashville is propelled by business owners who want people to get their pictures taken in front of their mural and of course check in on social media. This mural goes the extra mile. For one, The Listening Room’s Instagram handle, @TheListeningRoomCafe, is on the mural. And, like the mural at Zeal Church, there are instructions as to where the photographer is supposed to stand. Note the cable coming out of the headphones. It’s an arrow, leading to the perfect spot.

The artist is Ty Christian, who has been on this blog for a very different mural. Harmony is more in keeping with his other work, seen on his website (above) and his Instagram page. His mural for The Listening Room is not the only mural on this wall. Earlier I featured a fantastic hand-painted sign by Michael Cooper of Murals and More. I’ve seen at least as many people getting their picture taken with the sign, but admittedly I don’t drive down 4th Avenue every day.

Listening Room murals street art Nashville

Located at 618 4th Avenue South. There is some limited parking at the Listening Room and some street parking on Elm Street. As the mural faces a parking lot, your best bet is to visit early in the day, well before showtime. Enjoy the music and enjoy the art!

Hyatt House and the Melting LP

Nestled in the alcove that forms the entrance to the Hyatt House Nashville at Vanderbilt (actually a couple blocks north of Vandy) is this large image (it’s around ten feet high). It looks for all the world like a viny LP record that is melting, dripping in thin streams of color down the panel. If you’re just walking down the street, it jumps out in stark contrast from the white wall behind it, as you can gather from the context shots below. A deconstructed vinyl record in rapidly developing Midtown seems appropriate, particularly since it is just a few steps away from the Rock Block, itself threatened by growth. It’s by Eastside Murals, with a discreet signature on the side. Instead of their more common way of working by painting directly on walls, this work is on a large wooden panel. The wall it sits on is alternately smooth and rough, and you can see from the picture of the signature below, the artists shaped the wood accordingly. Is it coincidence that the void in the middle is the perfect place to stand to get your picture taken?

Dripping vinyl mural street art Nashville

Hotels frequently use art, sometimes on a grand scale, but I think a giant wooden panel painted by local artists on the outside of a hotel is a little unusual. It certainly fits with the theme that Nashville business, even corporate chains, see outdoor art as a necessary part of their business plan.

Located at 2100 Hayes Street. The mural is on the south side of the building facing Hayes, near the corner with 21st Avenue North. There is street parking on Hayes.

Arcade Alley

Michael Cooper of Murals and More is probably the most long-standing muralist in town, making outdoor art long before it became trendy in Nashville. Which is why highlighting this particular mural in Arcade Alley isn’t exactly breaking news. The signature, way down on the wall behind the last car on the right, gives the date of “6.25.99.” As such it ties with the mural at La Hacienda by Mitchell Torok as the third oldest mural in Nashville that I know of, after the Chromatics mural and the Hard Rock Painter Man. It is in Cooper’s usual trompe-l’oeil style, and is filled with the visual jokes he often incorporates, like a cat leaping out a window unnoticed by its humans as they steal a kiss. The shadows you see are also trompe-l’oeil  – I try to avoid real shadows in my pictures.

Arcade Alley gets its name because it bisects The Arcade, Nashville’s oldest enclosed shopping area. What was once Overton Allery was given a glass roof and redesigned to look more like the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II in Milan, though it was never that fancy. Originally, when it opened in 1904, the bottom floor was shops and the upper level was used for offices. Today, the bottom floor is mainly restaurants serving lunch and breakfast to downtown office workers, while the top floor is primarily art galleries. A good time to visit the galleries is during the monthly Downtown First Saturday Art Crawl.

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Located at 417 Union Street, on the east wall of the restaurant of the same name. It faces a parking lot. This is downtown, so lots of parking, almost none of it free.

Ariel

Sitting in one corner of Centennial Park is a small, playful kinetic sculpture with a little plaque that reads simply, “Ariel 1979 Lin Emery.”  Lin Emery is a 93-year-old artist from New Orleans who since 1972 has specialized in kinetic, moving sculpture. He art today is found in museums and galleries around the country and the world, including the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Foreign Art in Sofia, Bulgaria; and the Flint Institute of Art in Michigan. 64 Parishes has a nice write up about her and her approach to art. That such a significant artist would have a piece sitting in front of Metro Parks’ Centennial Art Center is probably because she did not have quite the stature in 1979 that she does now. Art auction sites are coy about values, but one auction site suggests starting prices for her pieces from a few thousand dollars for smaller pieces to up to $50,000 for the larger ones. It’s a shame to show this piece in still pictures, as it does move in the wind. This video includes some of Emery’s pieces in motion, including one that resembles the Nashville piece. There’s a bonus in the pictures below – my red Honda Fit!

A side note about the Centennial Art Center. The Metro Parks website indicates it was a swimming complex that closed in 1959. But, this article says that in 1961, two young African American men tried to swim at the pool in Centennial Park, housed in a building with Doric columns (which the art center has) and a few days later all public pools in Nashville were closed. I think someone has their dates wrong.

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Located at 301 25th Ave North. The museum and the sculpture are north of the lake in Centennial Park, more-or-less across the street (25th) from the Sarah Cannon Research Center (i.e., the Minnie Pearl Center). When the museum is closed, you can park out front – otherwise, use other nearby park parking.

 

Come together, again

More than a year ago, I wrote about a then brand new mural by Brian Wooden on Gallatin, and mentioned that it had a twin that I wrote “will probably be on this blog someday.” Well, that someday is today. As with the “Come Together” mural on Gallatin, this one is part of a national campaign against gun violence called “End Gun Violence Together” sponsored by Blake Mycoskie and the company he founded, the shoe and apparel company TOMS. The Gallatin version is on a black wall, and it’s mostly white and grey and for contrast. Here Wooden has opted for a blue version, to make it pop out of the white wall better. There are many more murals based on this design around the country, and you can find many examples on the Instagram page of Tyler Ramsey, an artist who is helping TOMS promote the mural campaign. None of the sites associated with the campaign seem to have information about who created the original design.

Come Together Nashville Mural street art

Located at 123 12th Avenue North. The mural faces an alley at the back of the building,  coming off of Grundy Street. If you are at the entrance to Chauhan Ale and Masala House, walk towards the interstate. The large gravel parking lot nearby is usually reserved for valet parking. There’s street parking on 12th after 6 pm and under the bridge to the north all day. Street parking is also available on Grundy.

 

Down below the overpass

A few months ago, these images appeared beneath the bridge where I-40 rises over Jefferson Street. They seem somewhat primitive in style, perhaps done by an untrained or inexperienced artist. They include tigers, musical instruments, a car, and sports equipment. To the far left, barely visible because of the glare towards the outer part of the wall, is a basketball and a racquet. More visible are the tigers, the car, and the instruments. The tiger to the far right has a football to one side and another basketball on the other. The tigers are probably the most important clue. While nearby Tennesse State University does indeed have a tiger mascot, it’s also true that McKissack Middle School, just a little farther away, uses a tiger for its mascot. Given the style of the art, I’m betting that some unnamed McKissask student (or students) produced these works. About a block east, on a trestle bridge that borders Wilson Ladies Salon (2043 Jefferson Street) there is a pig riding on the hood of a car that clearly seems to be by the same artist(s). I’m not including it here, because Wilson has a pretty fantastic sign that needs a post of its own, and I’ll include it in that post. This mural is on the southwest side of the overpass. At the other end, across the street, and at the northeast end of the overpass, is the mural featured in Jefferson Street Gateway to Heritage. And just to the right of this mural, on a wall facing Jefferson Street, is one of the first murals I wrote about on this blog, which is featured in Freedom Riders on Jefferson. This overpass is a busy place for art!

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Located at the southwest end of the overpass, which splits Jefferson between the 2400 and 2500 blocks. There is a fence that makes it impossible to walk directly to them. You have to start a half-block east where the exit ramp connects with Jefferson Street. There is no “No trespassing sign” – the fence is probably meant mainly to protect the landscaping. Parking is problematic. You used to be able to park under the bridge on the north side, but that is now marked “No parking.” You’ll have to park a block or more away and walk.

The Spirit of Nashville

The “Spirit of Nashville” posters are all over town. You’ll find them in offices, restaurants, and homes all around Nashville. They are the product of Anderson Design Group  (formerly part of Anderson Thomas Design, Inc.) and first appeared in 2003 when founder and lead designer Joel Anderson got the idea for a calendar of hand-drawn retro posters capturing the essence and history of Nashville. Realizing they had far more than twelve ideas, ADG has been producing new posters ever since for the series. There’s even a book that has gone through multiple editions, Spirit of Nashville—The Art & Soul of Music City.  According to their store’s web page about the series, “This project has been a 16-year collaboration of 17 ADG staff artists, researchers, historians, illustrators, printers, calligraphists, and designers.”

The art on the outside of the building, including the large Sprint of Nashville mural, are all metal prints from the series. The mural is a variation of a 2019 design by Anderson himself called “Spirit of Nashville: Leaning Cowboy,” and you can get a print in several sizes. There are many designs honoring all kinds of Nashville icons and institutions. On the first picture of the building below, you can see two large posters (there’s another around the backside), “Music City Pinup Girl” and “State Flag Skyline.” In the middle of the is a small plaque – “Photo Opportunity.” ADG knows something about selfie culture!

Below are some other pictures of the building, and the signs on the ADG store. I put in two angled shots because a couple of the posters are hidden in a straight-on view, and the poster on the backside of the building (“Music City (Man)“) is at the end of the slide show.

Anderson posters Nashville mural street art

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Located at 116 29th Ave North. Street parking is available.

A return to the alley

Almost a year ago (I took these pictures last March) a set of UH crew tags replaced the UH crew tags that once been on the backside of Main Street Liquors and Main Street Market, and which I featured in Back in the alley. The style of these new tags is distinct from the earlier ones, but UH is a versatile crew. This alley and nearby spaces feature several examples of their work. Sadly, one of their best, a trippy mural which I featured in Panda sky, which was on the back of what used to be Make Nashville and is just steps from the tags above, has recently been largely destroyed in a renovation project to its building, 947 Woodland. Change is a constant, and that’s certainly true for outdoor art in Nashville. One change – the building these tags are on used to also include a repair shop called Transmission Exchange. Now it’s been replaced with Crazy Gnome Brewery. The Five Points area used to be the place in Nashville you got your car repaired. That legacy is almost gone.

Main Street Tags graffiti street art Nashville

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Located at 944 Main Street. The installation is in fact in the alley, which can be accessed from 10th Street or McFerrin Avenue. There is some parking in this alley if you are just visiting.

 

The Once and Future Elliston Place Soda Shop

Elliston Soda Sign mural street art Nashville

It says it there right on the sign. “Good Food Since 1939.” Many a Nashvillian has fond memories of Elliston Place Soda Shop. I’ve had a few burgers there myself. Recently, escalating rents almost forced owner Skip Bibb to close the restaurant for good, but Nashville developer Tony Giarratana bought the restaurant to prevent that fate, promising to renovate and reopen it this year. Recently it was announced that the soda shop would move next door, into a larger 1907 building that once housed the Cumberland Telephone Exchange. That means that everything in and on the old building that Giarratana plans to incorporate in the new site must be removed from the old. The three-dimensional neon sign that once welcomed customers has already been taken down, leaving behind this hand-painted sign (and Purity Dairies ad, who probably paid for it). It’s not clear how old it is, but the only other example on the internet of a hand-painted Purity mural I could find is in Smyrna, TN and it dates back to the late 1950s. Given the wear-and-tear on this one, that’s a probable approximate date for the Elliston sign as well. It certainly can’t be pre-1946, when Ezell’s Dairy became Purity. Since Elliston Place Soda Shop is going into a new building, the fate of this sign is very much up in the air. Interestingly, in the very rough rendering for the new shop, a version of this sign is included. In fact, it’s actually a cut-and-pasted photo of the old sign. Either way, this one is almost certainly endangered art.

Located at 2111 Elliston Place. The sign is on the east side of the building, facing towards downtown. There is metered parking on Elliston Place, and some free parking on nearby streets.

 

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