Particularly because of the work of the Norf Collective, the Jefferson Street corridor has seen a recent explosion of murals and other public art. One of the oldest pieces on Jefferson, which helped kick start the public art movement along this historic street, is a Michael Cooper (of Murals and More) piece at the I-40 underpass. This 2009 piece was a collaboration between Cooper and local high school students. Cooper took drawings and designs from the students and turned them into a coherent mural. After Cooper drew it, students joined in painting it. The mural honors the Freedom Riders. Jefferson, of course, has long been the beating heart of the African American community in Nashville, and students from the three universities along the road, Fisk, Meharry Medical, and Tennesee State, were active in the Freedom Riders and numerous other activities in the Civil Rights era. The placement of the mural is poignant for another reason. I-40, I-65, and I-440 cut the Jefferson Street neighborhood into pieces, doing everlasting damage that the community continues to work to repair. Nashville is hardly the only city where the interstates were built through the heart of African American neighborhoods. It was a common practice. If you have wondered why some protesters have taken to blocking interstates, there’s definitely a history there. This mural has been vandalized in the past, which forced Cooper to coat it with a clear coating that makes vandalism easier to remove.
Located on the southwest side of the I-40 underpass on Jefferson Street, at the beginning of the 2500 block. Street parking is available across the street, though traffic can make crossing hard. Some parking is available at nearby business.