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nashville public art

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

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Churches

We Are Nashville – Main Street

The best view of the We Are Nashville installation at 916 Main Street is where the Holleman Transmission building used to stand. It was taken down by bulldozers, in preparation for new development. But the photographic mural features the staff of the local fashion line Molly Green, whose Main Street branch once stood next door to Holleman, and which was almost completely destroyed by the March 3 tornado. We Are Nashville is an anonymous collaborative that for the last two years has been documenting who Nashville is today. They have begun to put up wheat-paste installations of the resulting photographs, with QR codes that lead to their website where you can learn the stories behind the images. The start of their campaign to present these photos and stories to the city coincided with the tornado and its aftermath, so it makes sense that some of the early installations are about the people and stories of the storm.

Three stories are part of this particular installation – the destruction of Molly Green, the damage to a historic home in Donelson and its surrounding neighborhood, and the aftermath of the storm in North Nashville and Germantown.

In the center and the far left, we see the people of Molly Green, standing in the ruins of their Main Street store.

We Are Nashville mural street art
From left, Brandon Hartwell, Proprietor; Kelsey Wells, Web and Social Director; Brittany Hartwell, Proprietor; Heather Johns, Visual Merchandising Director; Jessica Lanier, Store Manager; and Mary Lokey, Stylist.

If you were to stand where the photographer stood now, you would see the mural to your direct right, as the Molly Green building has been leveled.

The left side of the mural includes a closeup portrait of Molly Green staffer Heather Johns, but it’s mostly is a portrait of ten-year-old London outside her great-grandfather’s home, David Young Sr. Parts of the home date back to 1870, and if you click on the Donelson story above you’ll see it was more damaged than it appears in this photo.

WAN Molly Green Left

On the right side, we see an image from the immediate aftermath of the tornado in North Nashville. Here, parishioners of the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church on Monroe Street pray together after the storm, their badly damaged church in the background. (The We Are Nashville site does not identify the young man featured in the photo.) This same image is part of an installation at the largely destroyed Music City Cleaners building at Jefferson and 7th.

 We Are Nashville mural street art

A little ways away, about where I stood when I took the photo at the bottom of this post, there are three smaller portraits of Molly Green staffers. They are on the backside of Attaboy. The only deaths recorded in Davidson County from the March 3 storm were of two people who left Attaboy just as the tornado was approaching.

We Are Nashville mural street art
From left, Mary Lokey, Stylist; Heather Johns, Visual Merchandising Director; Jessica Lanier, Store Manager; and Brandon Hartwell, Proprietor.

These are obviously all temporary. Wheat-paste murals don’t tend to have a long shelf life. Like the recent also temporary installation at Jerry’s Artarama a few blocks away, they both memorialize the damage suffered from the storm as well as highlight the strength of Nashville as a community. There is something else about them that speaks to the temporary nature of all art. Just below the four portraits above stands the only remaining fragment of the largest work of art destroyed by the March 3 storm, the wrap-around mural by Eastside Murals that once covered all of Molly Green.

We Are Nashville mural street art

The photographs of the main mural also cover up an old graffiti mural by the UH Crew. You can see some of the process of the mural’s installation on We Are Nashville’s website.

Located at 916 Main Street. The mural faces east, away from downtown, towards McFerrin Avenue. There is street parking on McFerrin on both sides of Main Street.

You Belong (at The Russell)

Not many hotels are found in hundred-year-old churches, at least not in Nashville, which certainly makes The Russell stand out. So too does their mural and sign done, appropriately, by I Saw The Sign, run by Meghan Wood and a partner identified only as “Stinky.” The building is indeed a Nashville treasure. First built in 1904 as the Russell Street Presbyterian Church (also known as the Edgefield Cumberland Presbyterian Chruch) the building housed the Russell Street Church of Christ from 1913 until 2001. The building, which survived the catastrophic East Nashville fire of 1916, was severely damaged in the 1998 tornado. Unable to pay the costs of reconstruction, the congregation sold the building to developer March Egerton in 2001. He repaired it and sold it to The Power House Christian Center in 2003, which passed it on to Life Church International in 2013, who sold it to its present owners in 2017 (there are various organizations by those names).

There’s no missing the building’s history. Besides very obviously looking like a church, there are the magnificent stained glass windows. I include the outdoor views here, but off course they are even more spectacular from the inside. The hotel also honors the spirit of the building through its Rooms for Rooms program, where a portion of the hotel’s proceeds is given to organizations that assist the homeless.

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Located at 819 Russell Street, at the corner with 9th Street South. The mural faces 9th, while the stained glass windows are visible from both 9th and Russell. The historic plaque is by the entrance. There is street parking in this neighborhood. The lot across the street from the mural is hotel parking.

Hands of creation

I seem to be on a bit of roll with religiously-themed art on churches, having recently done Set Free and Hands of charity. But, it’s also obvious that churches in Nashville are beginning to branch out with their visual presentation, jumping into Nashville’s mural scene. Zeal Church on Charlotte has recently gotten into the game. The work is by a Texas artist named Chloe Bennett (not to be confused with the actress Chloe Bennet, whose name only has one “t” in it). Two easily recognized themes are included, the hands of God and Adam found in Michelangelo’sThe Creation of Adam“(1512) found on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, floating before a stylized Nashville skyline. Unlike many other depictions of Nashville’s skyline, this work does not depict the skyline in full, but rather just a few recognizable buildings, including, of course, the Batman Building (cleverly including a door on the wall). To my knowledge, this is Bennett’s only work in Nashville. The Zeal pastor, Jd Ost, studied in Texas and that may be the connection. Zeal also has a giant “Z” on its east wall (see below). I don’t know who did it, but there is a picture of the artists working on it on Zeal’s Instagram page. UPDATE: I have since learned that Bennett also did the “Z.”

Zeal Z sign street art Nashville

Zeal is also aware of the social media game. On the sidewalk in front of Bennett’s mural, there’s a helpfully placed box where you should stand to get an ideal photo (see below). You know, in case you weren’t sure.

Zeal Instagram sign street art Nashville

Located at 5807 Charlotte Pike. The mural is on the north side of the church facing Charlotte. The church and the nearby Kroger have plenty of parking.

Set Free

Madison is not awash in outdoor art, so this particularly bright and bold recent addition to Madison’s visual fabric really stands out. It’s on the side of  Set Free Church on Gallatin. Set Free, housed in an historic storefront, is a church that emphasizes charity, particularly towards the homeless. That’s appropriate, as it’s set in one of the less prosperous parts of Davidson County. The artist is Max Gramajo, who goes by Maxx242. He’s based out of Southern California in the Los Angeles area, and as far as I know, this is his first work in the Nashville area. The pastor at Set Free, Roosevelt Sargent, who goes by “Pastor Flo,” also has connections to the Los Angeles area, so it’s not so surprising this Los Angeles artist wound up doing work in Nashville. (Sargent has a picture on his Instagram feed that shows the mural in progress.) I like how even a Californian knows to put the Batman Building in a Nashville mural! Also credited in the signature box (see below) are Jason Galaz and Milton Chavez (and on his Instagram post about the mural the artist also credits “Super Dave.”)

Set Free Mural street art Nshville

Signatures

Located at 505 Gallatin Pike South.  The mural is no the north side of the building facing Harris Street.

An invitation

Balloons mural street art Nashville

Part of what drives the mural explosion in Nashville is social media. To be more precise, business owners are increasingly aware that having a mural on their building is an invitation for people, tourists mainly, to have their picture taken with the art and hopefully check in on Instagram or Facebook. Even if they don’t, the art drives foot traffic. Some murals are specifically designed for this. Note the work of Kelsey Montague. She does murals all over the world meant as selfie bait. Her original wings mural in the Gulch draws long lines, and the newer, temporary one was an instant sensation. The owners of the East Nashville branch of BoomBozz, a beer and pizza joint recently installed in the old church at Russell and 10th Streets, understand this dynamic. Thus this Mobe Oner piece on the back corner of the building. Who doesn’t want their picture with these balloons? If it helps sell pizza, all the better. (There’s more Mobe Oner art inside, but this is an outdoor art blog.)

Located at 1003 Russell Street. There is street parking nearby, but it can be hard to come by. A pay lot is nearby, across the street. Grab some grub (and a selfie!) and enjoy the art.

Angels and monsters

PresbyFull

The mural that graces the parking lot of the Downtown Presbyterian Church is difficult to photograph, as it faces a narrow lot and there are usually cars parked in front of it. Turns out, Sunday evening on Labor Day weekend is the time to get a clean shot. The work, done in 2007, is by four artists. The giant angel and the billy goat are by John Grider, the long-legged beasts are by Isaac Arvold, the colorful mountain by Drew Peterson, and the geometric “clouds” are by Eric Inkala. The mural indicates that it was made possible by the church and by Twist Art Gallery, which closed a few years ago. Grider has done both the goat and the angel in other places. There are other murals close by, including one that faces this same parking lot I haven’t featured yet.

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Located at 154 5th Ave North. That’s the address of the church. The mural is actually on the side of 415 Church Street. The parking lot is best accessed from the alley that parallels Church Street behind the Presbyterian Church. This is downtown, so lots of parking, virtually none of it free.

Going up!

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I have been remiss in posting about art found in the “skyscraper” district, something I aim to fix. I start small here with a single door, on the east side of the Downtown Presbyterian Church. It’s the work of Sarah Shearer, done in 2009, and she even has a blog post detailing her progress as she put the work together.

Located at 154 5th Ave North, in the alley on the east side of the building. The church is at the corner of Church and Fifth and is worth a look itself. Walk up the alley. There’s more art up there I’ll feature later. This is downtown, so parking lots and garages abound, none of them free.

 

With mind and spirit soaring

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That’s the motto of the Episcopal School of Nashville, who commissioned Chip Boles to produce this mural to grace their parking lot/basketball court. Boles, whose mural work seems to be mostly in indoor locations, used the theme as inspiration for “Nashville Community,” as he has dubbed the mural. Familiar Nashville icons grace the mural, though I’ve seen more possums than raccoons myself! There is also a more abstract piece behind it that pushes the limits of the term “public art.” While the Boles mural is clearly visible from Woodland Street, the other piece (last picture at the bottom), while outdoors, can only be clearly seen if you get up on the porch of the school building, which you would need permission from the school operators to do. We’ll call it “hidden art.” My guess is it is also temporary student art.

Located at 419 Woodland Street, just west of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, near the corner of 5th and Woodland. The parking lot has a gate, but it is often open after hours. During the school day this is, of course, a working school, so you should probably not approach without permission. The Boles mural is fairly easy to see from the street if the gate is locked.

A saint among us


Religion has, of course, always been a major force driving humans to create art, and the Catholic Church has long been one of the world’s great art patrons. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and School is hardly the only church in Nashville that has invested in public art, just the first featured on this blog. There will be more!

Joseph, carrying his traditional carpenter’s tools, can be found at 1225 Gallitan Pike South, just north of the cemeteries that are themselves just north of Briley Parkway.

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