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House of Blues Fences of Fame, Part 8

Travelling clockwise around Columbine Park in Berry Hill, coming from Bransford Avenue, you’ll find at the northeast corner of the park a building with a small water tower in its parking lot. That building used to be the main House of Blues property of several around the park. I say used to be, because although I named this series after the House of Blues because they sponsored all the murals around the park which were done by Scott Guion, the whole complex was bought in January, 2019 by Universal Music Group. (That story has a picture of Guion working on the first fence I featured in this series.) 

There are three murals associated with this building, two of which I’ve featured before. The mural above is unusual in that it features only one musical act. The only other mural in this series that features only one act is the garage door featuring B.B. King. It’s also unusual in that unlike all the other fences, Guion has not filled the fence end to end with portraits. Instead, he’s devoted almost half of this fence to a geometric pattern evoking flames. That may be because to really appreciate a portrait at the part of the fence farthest from the street, you’d have to be in the neighboring business’s parking lot.

Mississippi Sheiks mural Nashville street art

The musicians featured here are members of the Mississippi Sheiks, an influential country blues and string band group that recorded and toured in the first half of the 1930s, best known for the song “Sitting on Top of the World.” (Listen to it on YouTube.) The group went through a few lineup changes, but this portrait is of three of its key members, Bo Carter, Lonnie Chatmon, and Walter Vinson. Bo Carter was born Armenter Chatmon and was Lonnie’s brother. Another brother, Sam Chatmon, also participated in the group. Indeed, the Chatmon family had a long history of musicianship starting with Henderson Chatmon, the family patriarch who had been born into slavery. Mandolin player Papa Charlie McCoy (not to be confused the harmonica player named Charlie McCoy) also performed and recorded with the Sheiks.

It’s interesting that Guion has chosen to show them as somewhat see-through, like ghosts. The lake and forest behind them perhaps represent the Mississippi Delta region that they were from. The portrait is based on a photograph you can see here. In the original photo, the musicians are leaning against a wall, and they are photographed at an angle, while Guion’s mural is more straight-on.

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. The mural peeking out from behind the Sheiks is this one.

Located at 517 East Iris Drive, which is the address of the building with the water tower. The mural is actually found off of Columbine Place, and faces south, away from the water tower. Parking is available around the park.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 9 Part 10

An Elite Eagle

This is not a March 3 tornado anniversary blog post. Well, mostly not. Two days after the tornado, I posted a piece called “What We Lost in the Storm,” about the outdoor art in East Nashville damaged or destroyed by the tornado. A couple days later I also wrote about that happened in North Nashville and Germantown. For the East Nashville article, the featured photo at the top of the blog post, the one you saw if someone shared the article, was of Kim Radford’s eagle mural at Bill’s Elite Bail Bonding Company on Main Street. I noted at the time I had never actually done a proper blog spot about this mural. I am now finally correcting this.

Radford did the Elite Bonding eagle mural in August 2019. I had a chance to talk to her about it then, and my memory is that she told me that the owner wanted something patriotic, hence the eagle. This was one of Radford’s first outdoor murals in Nashville, and she has since gone on to be one of the more prolific muralists in town. For example, most of the murals at Grimey’s are her work.

Because of its themes, I had intended to save the Elite Bonding mural for a patriotic day, like July 4 or Veteran’s Day, and had there been no tornado, that’s exactly what I would have done. That this mural survived with only minor damage is miraculous, and a testament to both the arbitrary nature of tornado damage and the willingness of the business owner, Bill Tomlinson, to repair and restore his building instead of raze it and start over. When Radford originally did this mural, she continued the geometric flag pattern on the opposite, west-facing side of the building. That half of the building collapsed, and the roof was ripped off, but the wall with the eagle survived.

Eagle Mural street art Nashville tornado
The Elite Bonding Eagle by Kim Radford as it appeared on March 5, 2020.

The damage to it is modest. Mostly what looks like damage is actually places that weren’t painted in the first place because something was covering that part of the wall before the storm. There is a stripe that looks like a repaired crack on the right of the mural. In fact, there used to be a gutter there. That stripe was never painted in the first place. The only real damage is a few dings and scratches. A few quite reminders of the storm, if you know what to look for.

I didn’t get any pictures of the completed mural before the storm. For that, you’ll need to check Radford’s Instagram page – here it complete, and there also several shots of the mural in progress. I do have my own nighttime shot of the eagle in progress.

Elite Eagle Mural Nashville street art

Located at 940 Main Street. The mural is on the east side of the building, facing away from downtown. There is plenty of parking here and at nearby businesses.

Welcome to Nashville

This is another “only on Christmas” picture. This mural sits on a storage building in a Premier Parking paid lot attached to Nashville Pedal Tavern. Now if you’re local, that’s quite a pair. Neither one is exactly a favorite of Nashvillians. But hey, everyone’s got to make a living. And because of the bachelorettes and the row of bars along this stretch of Demonbreun, the lot is usually packed with cars, blocking the mural.

Not on Pandemic Christmas! It’s by Music City Murals, business home of Anthony Billups and Dean Tomasek. It’s a very Nashville mural. It features an enormous guitar, and the Cumberland River, with some folks enjoying a rowboat ride on the water. And the guitar neck leads to the Nashville skyline in front of a glorious sunset as seen from the east side of the river, including our city’s signature, the Batman Building. Just as the Eiffel Tower is all you need to say “Paris,” the Batman Building says “Nashville.”

Welcome Mural Nashville street art

It’s also interesting in that it can only be fully appreciated by looking at it from the corner. It’s a continuous image that wraps around the south and east sides of the building, forcing you to stand back from the corner to take it all in. Also, one of the dangers of it being in a tight parking lot, it’s been damaged. It’s pretty obvious someone backed into it, right below the word “Tennessee.”

Welcome Mural Nashville street art

Located at 1504 Demonbreun Street, at the corner with 14th Avenue South. The largest part of the mural faces east towards downtown. There’s obviously parking here, but not much free anywhere nearby. (Pro-tip: If you want to sound like a local, learn to pronounce “Demonbruen.”)

Drum Cat

It’s a little unusual for a mural to be geared to two businesses, but this little gem on the side of a small building next to Mas Tacos Por Favor guides you to both businesses it holds, Drum Supply and and Relik Vintage. It used to be three, as Drum Supply once cohabited with Nelson Drum House, which has since decamped to Gallatin Pike.

Appropriate for a mural for two businesses is that it’s the product of two artists, Folek Kelof and Christian Branger. That the design features a drum makes a lot of sense, and while I don’t know where the cat comes from, it certainly looks like the sort of thing you’d find on a vintage T-shirt.

While the mural itself is about a year old and has weathered the past year fine, the signatures have faded. If you look at this photo Folek posted to his Instagram account right after the mural was painted, you’ll see the signatures are bold, and the Instagram accounts of both Relik Vintage and Drum supply are clear, along with the hashtag #NashvilleCat. Those account names are now almost invisible, while the signatures are faded and the hashtag can be only faintly seen.

Relik Vintage dodged a bullet. They used to be on Woodland. A few months before the tornado, they moved to McFerrin. When the March 3 storm came, their old location was devastated. Scrolling through their Instagram page, I recognized murals that used to be in the alley behind their Woodland shop being used as backdrops for people modeling their clothes. Some of those you can read about here in my post about the storm’s aftermath.

Located at 730 McFerrin Avenue. This is a very busy commercial corner, and while there is business parking and street parking nearby, you may have to do some walking.

A Landmark Reborn

I don’t normally report on something that has just been installed, but this is an important story. In terms of outdoor art, one of the most devastating losses from the March 3 tornado was the Weiss Liquors sign. Prominently placed on Main Street, it was one of the icons of the east side. If you scroll down to about the middle of this post you’ll see what it looked like after the storm, smashed and broken into several pieces. What I once called a true survivor was unable to survive taking a direct hit from a major tornado.

The Weiss family had no intention of simply leaving it at that. Two days after the storm, the pieces of the sign were collected for storage at Bozeman Signs. Ultimately, the Weisses contracted with Fortify, a Nashville fabrication and design company to rebuild the sign. The work was done by Nick Redford, Fortify’s owner, and Kyle Davis. It was not possible to rebuild the sign using the original panels. Instead, Fortify built and painted new panels, replicating the original as closely as possible. Much of that progress can be seen on the Weiss Liquors Instagram page: here, here, here, here, here, and here. In time, the Weiss family plans to hang the original pieces inside the store.

And on Saturday night, November 28, a small crowd gathered to see the newly installed sign lit for the first time.

There are still many scars from the storm that came in the early hours of March 3. Some have been fixed or replaced quickly. Others, like the Weiss Liquors sign, have taken some time. Others will linger much longer. But at least this icon is back, built stronger than ever and all shiny with a fresh coat of paint. You can knock East Nashville around, but we always get back up.

Located at 824 Main Street. Impossible to miss. There is of course parking at Weiss, and at the storage center next door. The parking lot can be tricky on weekend evenings.

Damaged Stripes

This is a tale of a pristine, precise mural and architecture gone awry. Nathan Brown has produced a number of works in Nashville and elsewhere. Many of his works use what I have sometimes called his “colorful geometry problems” style, though the geometry for this piece at the Stay Alfred Sobro is fairly simple. (I used the Yelp link for that hotel because their own website is quite useless.) There was of course the complication of getting the stripes on the two layered walls to line up, which is a testament to Brown’s skill.

The picture above captures almost all of the mural. As you can see from some of the pictures of it on his website, to really capture all of it you need to be up a few floors in the building across the street, which I didn’t have access to. The other thing that is clear in those pictures – the lower wall is undamaged. Sometime since this mural went up in June, 2016, water leaks severally damaged the wall and the mural. If you look close, you’ll see a series of holes along the wall which are presumably for water draining. Nashville sits on a bed of ancient limestone that is often very close to the surface, and water can move around in strange ways. Obviously, the engineers didn’t get it right here.

The crack creates an illusion. It really looks like the damaged area is a deeper layer, like a few layers of plaster have been peeled off the wall, but that’s not the case. The damage, dirt, repair, and weathering create a trick of the eye. It’s a shame the mural is damaged, but a lot of the great masterworks are damaged, and people still trek to museums and archaeological sites to see them.

On Brown’s Instagram page, you can see a short video of him working on this mural. Blue painter’s tape is absolutely involved.

Located at 310 Peabody Street. That’s the address of the hotel. The mural faces the 400 block of Fourth Avenue South, right at the corner with Peabody. This is downtown. Lots of parking, almost none of it free.

One Way

Apparently, the Berry Hill Square shopping center has been having some trouble in its parking lot. The entrance off Thompson Lane is a little oddly designed, so it wouldn’t be surprising if traffic flow weren’t some kind of issue. So what’s the answer? Build a fence right at the entrance, and get a muralist to paint it. Or how about two, or even three? This mural is signed by Tarabella Aversa, and it features large images of lush flowers found in some of her other work, such as the murals featured in Flowers of Walden. But she must have gotten help from WHAT.Creative Group (Jake and Hana Elliot), as their signature is on the bottom as well. This went in back in February, and if you compare an image from back then to the mural now, it’s obvious it’s taken a little damage. One of the hazards of being in the middle of a parking lot, no doubt. Somebody probably backed into it.

Located at 718 Thompson Lane, right in front of the Applebee’s, and across the street from Guitar Center. It’s in a parking lot, so of course parking nearby is available.

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