nashville public art

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



The Gulch Dog Park, Part 2 – Jason Skinner

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

Skinner Mural Nashville street art

This one is the second from the right (that is, the second going from north to south), inside the part of the park set aside for small dogs. It is by Jason Skinner, with an assist from the “For Becks” artist. At first I didn’t think this mural was signed, but it does say “bougettes and arrows” in several places, which is Skinner’s Instagram handle (“bougette” is an old French word for a pouch or bag.) Both artists work primarily in stencil, and there are various stencil designs on this mural. Arrows feature strongly, as does what appears to be a set of buildings. There are also some parachutists, a few Conway Twitty Twitty Birds, and a security camera. The heart-shaped balloon is by the For Becks artist.

There are also a couple of sayings on the mural. “The grass is always greener” is probably an allusion to the fact that this mural is on a fence. It is fact greener on the other side, where there are large bushes. We are also told that, “Change makes you interesting, being interesting makes you change.” There are some spots labeled “AD SPACE,” but there are no ads. Two large rocks sit in front of the mural, which is why I’ve added the angled photographs. You can also see from them that the mural wraps around the sides.

In this closeup of the heart-shaped “For Becks” balloon, you can also see what appears to be the face of an alien. Keep an eye out for stenciled balloons, Leggo men, and ice-cream sticks around town signed “For Becks.” They show up in a number of places.

For Becks Balloon Nashville Street art

Located at 1216 Pine Street, at the top of the hill. That’s the address of the dog park. This mural is actually closer to an alley that lies between Pine and Laurel Street, at the north end of the dog park. It faces east towards 12th Avenue South. This is The Gulch, so plenty of parking, none of it free. Well, not 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

The Gulch Dog Park, Part 1 – Cassidy Bidwell

Having just ended one series, I start a new one. But this one will be shorter than the “Fences of Fame” series, as The Gulch Dog Park only has six murals and a couple of interesting signs. 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 The Gulch, overlooking I-40, just uphill from the Turnip Truck. The artists who won the contest are largely new names in the mural world of Nashville, expanding the roster of our local muralists.

Working from the north to south (north is towards Broadway, south is away from Broadway), the first mural we come to is by Cassidy Bidwell. Bidwell is a local graphic artist and illustrator. Her illustration work, like that seen in this mural, tends to be brightly colored and has a strong pop-art vibe. Though I don’t know when she first created it, the central design of this mural, the record on a record player with the slogan “Lookin Pretty Music City,” first appeared on her Instagram account last May. In that post she lamented how quiet Nashville had become in the early days of the lockdown, and looked forward to it becoming normal. While it certainly hasn’t gotten back to normal, Nashville is definitely nosier right now.

Based on pictures from the announcement of the contest, I think the rock was already in place before the mural went in. This is a smaller part of the park, which is divided into two sections, one for small dogs (where Boswell’s mural is), and one for larger dogs at the south end of the park.

Located at 1216 Pine Street, at the top of the hill. That’s the address of the dog park. This mural is actually close to an alley that lies between Pine and Laurel Street, at the north end of the dog park. It faces east towards 12th Avenue South. This is The Gulch, so plenty of parking, none of it free. However, most Gulch parking is free for the first hour or even longer. Check the signage at each lot and garage.

Part 2

Smashville (The Stage on Broadway)

Sometimes it’s good to walk down an alley – you might find art! This particular alley is not super-secret. It lies between Ryman Auditorium on one side and a bunch of Broadway honkytonks on the other. And it contains one of the Smashville murals that the Predators commissioned Audie Adams to do around the downtown area. (Adams also goes by Audroc.)

This particular mural is on the back side of The Stage on Broadway, hence the logo next to snarling saber-toothed Predator. While usually I would crop a mural shaped like this vertically, I think the placement of this example, framed by the gutters and the gas meter, calls for a wider shot to give the full context.

The Predators have had a mixed season this year (2021), but as of this posting are still in contention. So why are they the Predators? What does that have to do with Nashville? When what is now the UBS Tower was being built in 1970, workers found the partial remains of a sabre-tooth cat, including some impressive fangs. Those bones are now found at Bridgestone Arena, home of the Predators. Hey, the Nashville soccer team chose a coyote as its mascot, after the coyote that managed to get in to a bathroom at the Music City Center. (His name is Tempo.)

This is part of a series of similar murals. I know of at least three others: one in SoBro, one at the downtown Jackalope, and another on the south side of Bridgestone Arena, which I haven’t written about yet. Given its proximity to the Ryman and Lower Broad, this one may be the most accessible to tourists, at least the kind of tourists who are here for the Ryman and Lower Broad.

Located at 412 Broadway. That’s the address of The Stage on Broadway. The alley lies between and runs parallel to Broadway and Commerce Street. It’s closer to Broadway than Commerce, and it runs along the south side of the Ryman. If you can find the alley, just look for The Stage’s neon sign sticking out into the alley. The mural is right next to it. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

Tennessee Tough

This mural is hard to miss, given its enormous size (135 feet long, 26 feet high) and its prominent location right across Korean Veterans Boulevard from the Nashville Music City Center. Being that it faces a parking lot, it’s a little difficult to get a “clean” photo, but I finally caught it without cars. It was, not surprisingly, sponsored by the Tennessee Titans, and went up back in September as part of Titans Kickoff Week for the 2020 season. It’s the work of Mobe Oner (Eric Bass), one of Nashville’s most versatile muralists.

Titans Mural Nashville street art

The mural was inspired by Nashville’s response to the March 3 tornado and the pandemic. According to Titans Creative Director Surf Melendez:

“Tennessee Tough really just explains the resiliency of the people of Tennessee. Tennessee Tough are people who get their hands dirty for a living and do what they have to do, like our first responders, essential workers and teachers. Tennessee Tough is our football team.”

Titans Mural Nashville street art

The mural shows an unnamed Titans player with the number “615” (the Nashville area code) on his jersey. Below his arms are the names of all of the counties of Tennessee. Above his arms are a series of quotes from various Tennesseans (or in the case of John Lewis, people associated with Tennessee.) From left to right:

  • “Teamwork is what makes common people capable of uncommon results.” Pat Summit, from “Reach for the Summit”
  • “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Tennessee Williams, from “A Streetcar Named Desire”
  • “The triumph cannot be had without the struggle.” Wilma Rudolph, from a Chicago Tribune interview
  • “We’re ready to go to work for you because you’re our family.” Jon Robinson, from the press conference presenting him as the new Titans General Manager
  • “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” John Lewis (a frequent quote of his)

The mural includes an augmented reality experience, created by MVP Interactive. If you go to the Titan’s page for the mural, you can get a QR code which will start the process (click on “Launch Augmented Reality”). It works on pictures, so try it on the image at the top of the screen (if you are on a computer). The quotes pop out of the mural, and the football player becomes 3-D and spikes the football.

Titans Mural Nashville street art

This press release from the Titans includes a video of Bass working on the mural as well as discussing the process of creating it. He apparently had a lot of freedom in creating the image. You’ll also find an extensive photo essay of the mural’s creation there. The long-term future of this mural is perhaps questionable. The building it sits on, an office and industrial building, is a rare survivor from the industrial past of this neighborhood, and the land it sits on is undoubtedly worth millions – many millions.

Located at 424 6th Avenue South. That’s the address of the parking lot. It lies between 6th Avenue S and Rep. John Lewis Way South (aka 5th Avenue S), just south of Korean Veterans Blvd, and faces to the north. This is downtown, so lots of parking, not much of it free. If you are willing to walk a few blocks, there is some free street parking to the south.

Frankie Pierce Park, Part 3

In August, 2019 Anthony Billups of Music City Murals and Olasubomi Aka-Bashorun did a series of murals in the new Frankie Pierce Park. The murals all honor one of Nashville’s most important Black activists, J. Frankie Pierce.  Pierce was a civil rights activist who played an important part in the women’s suffrage movement in Nashville, and who opened the Tennessee Vocational School for Colored Girls in 1923, which remained open until 1979.

There’s a long Pierce mural on the east side of the park. On the southwest side, there are two Pierce murals flanking a railroad underpass, the southernmost of which I’ve already featured. Today being the first day of African-American History Month, it’s a good time to wrap up this series. This third mural lies across the street from the second one. Here we can read a short biography of Pierce’s life and work in the form of a newspaper article, and learn about her campaigns for civil rights and women’s suffrage.

Frankie Pierce Park is a green space that includes a children’s playground that was built as a public-private partnership between Capitol View, a massive multi-block development, and Metro Parks. It lies in a triangle of land between two elevated railroad lines that separate Capitol View from Capitol Hill.

Today, the neighborhood the park is found in is know as Capitol View, after the enormous development project. There are even developers and real-estate agents who like to call it “North Gulch,” which is truly awful. But as the “newspaper article” that makes up the mural notes, when Frankie Pierce was alive, this patch of land was called Hell’s Half-Acre. Founded during Reconstruction, the neighborhood was populated by Blacks and immigrants. As it lay outside of city limits at the time, it was a place where saloons and all kinds of vice flourished, but was also home to a rich African-American culture. It was razed in the 1950s as part of a Capitol Hill Redevelopment plan, and largely remained empty (or used as parking lots) until the Capitol View development project was built. Gentrification, or just outright destruction of neighborhoods, is not a new problem in Nashville.

Here you can see the “newspaper” mural with its companion, looking out of the park towards the Capitol View development.

Underpass murals Nashville street art

Located at 130 Lifeway Plaza. That’s the address of the park. The mural is found on the south end of the park, on the southern railroad underpass, right off of Nelson Merry Street. The easiest parking is off of Nelson Merry, which you can see in the bottom image, and at Capitol View.

Part 1 Part 2

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.”)

The lost murals of the AT&T 2nd Avenue Art Wall

At 6:30 in the morning on Christmas Day, 2020, an RV packed with explosives blew up on 2nd Avenue in downtown Nashville. The target was a building owned and operated by AT&T that houses important telecommunications equipment for much of the Southeast. While it is extraordinarily unlikely that the bomber knew or cared, the RV was also parked in front a major art installation that was completely destroyed in the bombing.

I have documented the eight murals that adorned the AT&T building, and you’ll find links for all of those pieces at the bottom of this post. The murals first went up in 2018. The project was curated and organized by Ashley Bergeron, owner of  The Studio 208, a gallery that lies a block-and-half from the bombing site and which was damaged in the explosion. The murals were all done by women artists, and were printed on vinyl and pasted onto the building’s first-floor windows.

According to Bergeron, the idea was to bring “life, light and positivity” to a drab building out of character with the richly detailed historic buildings around it. The artists involved were Beth Inglish,  Erin Elise LaughlinCassidy Cole, Emily Leonard, Tess Davies, Jade Carter, Catron Wallace, and Elise R. Kendrick. According to Inglish, it took Bergeron years to implement her vision, but she persisted. Ultimately many partners made the murals possible. They were sponsored by AT&T, the Nashville Downtown PartnershipThe DISTRICTNashville Metro Arts Commission, and The Studio 208.

Back when the project went in, Bergeron had this to say about the murals:

The abstract artwork flows from one set of windows to the next using color, texture, and shape so that you are continually surprised while walking down the block. I want art to be accessible to all, and I get overwhelmed with joy when I see beautification in a public space.

From a press release

Now of course, all of that is gone. A video taken from the body cam of one of the police officers who responded in the minutes before the bombing shows the RV parked in front of the murals. At about the one-minute mark, you can begin to see the murals begin to come in to view on the left. As the officer gets closer to the murals, it’s possible to see exactly where the RV was parked – in front of the murals by Davies and Carter (see Part 5 and Part 6 below). All the murals were destroyed by the explosion, with small pieces of them scattered in the street.

Because they were vinyl murals glued to the windows, they weren’t pulverized, but rather shattered. One observer said what was left looked like colored glass on the ground. John Partipilo, a photographer who was on the scene before it was cleaned up, was able to recognize pieces of Inglish’s mural (which was farthest from the blast) because he’s familiar with the colors she uses. Bergeron herself thought she saw one the murals intact from a distance, but now knows that was impossible, a trick of the mind. Carter told me she has found it hard to put into words what the loss of the murals means.

In this picture by Partipilo, you can see scraps of color that I believe are from Inglish’s mural. (See Part 1 below). The red stripes on the ground appear to be a grid, probably put in place by investigators.

Murals remnants Nashville street art
Photo credit John Partipilo

This second shot by Partipilo looks down the face of the AT&T building. It was probably taken right in front of where Inglish’s mural was, and down the sidewalk you can see more colored scraps. Some years ago the AT&T building was reinforced to strengthen it against bombings, and the black area behind the window frames appears to be a reinforced concrete wall.

Bomb shattered murals Nashville street art
Photo credit John Partipilo

This is the second time in less than a year I’ve had to report on a large amount of art suddenly and violently destroyed. After the March 3 tornado of 2020, I wrote about the art that was lost and damaged in both East and North Nashville. Now we are here again, this time because of the work of man, not the forces of nature. But the same resilience of the post-tornado era is also visible here. Bergeron would like to replace the murals with new work, with the original artists if possible. That of course depends on many things, including the future of the AT&T building. Inglish told me that the art wall will be missed, but she believes that Bergeron’s determination will “bring beauty to the streets of downtown again soon.” Catron echoed that idea, saying, “I believe, like a Phoenix, we will rise out of the ashes of this calamity to restore and refreshen our world. I would like to paint that.”

Because to the constraints of creating a collage, the murals in the picture at the top of the post are not in the original order. From left-to-right, top to bottom, they are by Inglish, Kendrick, Cole, Leonard, Laughlin, Carter, Wallace, and Davies. On the wall, the original order, left-to-right, was Inglish, Laughlin, Cole, Leonard, Davies, Carter, Wallace, Kendrick.

Located (formerly) at 185 2nd Avenue North. It seems superfluous to talk about parking, but when this site can be visited again, remember that this is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

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