A few weeks ago, Chauhan Ale and Masala House celebrated its 5th anniversary. Chauhan Ale and Masala is the first restaurant of what has become a small restaurant empire in Nashville founded by Maneet Chauhan, a celebrity chef perhaps best known as a regular judge on Chopped. As part of the celebration, Anthony Billups and Dean Tomasek of Music City Murals produced this peacock, a peacock notably missing its head. But that’s no accident. The Chauhan peacock mural nicely exemplifies one of the key drivers of the mural art scene in Nashville. Business owners want you to stand in front of the murals on their stores, get your picture taken, and check in on social media. Here’s Chef Chauhan doing exactly that in front of this very mural, modeling the way it’s supposed to be done. For this mural isn’t missing its head, it’s just waiting for you to put your’s in the right place to finish the image. This isn’t the only mural in town designed so specifically with selfies and portraits in mind. The two Kelsey Montague murals, both the balloon and the wings (of the almost continuous line) come to mind, but they are hardly the only ones. Of course, not everyone remembers to check in, but if you look close, you’ll notice that’s taken care of here because the key tags are already in the mural. So here’s to the selfie, creating work for artists all over town!
Located at 123 12th Avenue North. The mural faces the 1200 block of Grundy Street, on the north side of the building. The large gravel parking lot nearby is usually reserved for valet parking. There’s street parking going north on 12th after 6 pm and under the bridge to the north all day.
A couple years ago, what had been the south wall of the Turner Supply Company sported a double mural collaboration between Nathan Brown and Chris Zidek, who signs his work Zidekahedron, which I featured in the post From me to you. But this is go-go Nashville, Turner Supply has moved on, and the new tenants wanted something else. Actually, two tenants wanted something else, the local branches of the chains Patagonia and Superica. The original mural had a Brown piece on the left (west) side of the wall, with Zidek’s piece on the right (east). Now there’s no Zidek piece, and a new Brown piece is on the right, on the side of Patagonia, while there’s a hand-painted sign on the left on the side of Superica, which I’ll feature whenever I figure out who the artist is (It would be nice if it were credited anywhere by Superica, but I haven’t found such credit yet). The new Brown piece, while very much reflecting his style, does seem to evoke mountains, bringing to mind the great outdoors Patagonia wants you to associate with their brand. It’s also another example of a national brand sporting a local mural, though this not such a stretch for the brand image of Patagonia. This wasn’t an easy photo to shoot, as there is a building right across the road which makes it very difficult to get a straight-on picture, which is necessary because of the wooden slats. I had to hold the camera to my side and take a bunch of pictures hoping I got the right shot. A lot got left on the cutting room floor! I also had to do two different shoots, because the first time, I didn’t realize anything was under the wood slats!
Located at 601 Overton Street. The mural actually faces Mansion Street, on the south side of Patagonia. You can put some coins in the meters along Overton, but many of the nearby paid lots have one-hour free parking to encourage shopping in the Gulch, so make it part of your Gulch crawl and enjoy the art!
This may at first just appear to be a picture of an old brick building, found on 8th Ave South just south of the railroad bridge, a building which until recently housed the Downtown Antique Mall. Look closer though, and a faded set of signs emerges. Damage on the taller part of the building has erased part of the original sign, and banners, one for the departed antique mall, one advertising the building for lease, hide much of the long thin signs down the length of the building. (There’s a clip from Google Street View below that doesn’t have the leasing sign.) They advertise a firm that was called G.P. Rose & Co. According to the 1919 edition of Grain and Farm Service Centers, Vol 43 (scroll down to the bottom of page 1143, the linked page) G.P Rose & Co. was founded in 1884, the successor to Smith & Rose. The company featured direct access to the L & N and the N.C. & St. Louis Railroads (there are still tracks behind the building, and rail traffic still passes by regularly) and was powered by three 35 h.p G.E. engines (in 1919, anyway). There were two buildings at the time that could hold a total of 95 thousand bushels and handled wheat, oats rye, field seeds, and cowpeas. As the signs on the building say twice, “A Feed for Every Breed.” It’s quite conceivable the sign goes back to 1884. If so, it would have been originally painted 136 years ago. It’s also possible the sign is somewhat younger or was substantially altered at some point – being sure will take more research. But it’s very likely to be one of the oldest painted signs in Nashville, if not the very oldest. Nashville was a much smaller place back then, as can be seen from the 1889 G.M. Hopkins Atlas of Nashville, and there aren’t many candidates left. For instance, you can see a few faded letters high up on 423 Broadway, present home of the downtown version of Mellow Mushroom, which seem to read “—WELL BROS & Co” that may be from the late 19th century, but that’s about it for Lower Broad and its cross streets. The 1889 Hopkins Atlas also explicitly shows G.P Rose, though back then 8th Ave was called Spruce Street (see the excerpt below). I also found on eBay a collection notice signed by Mr. G.P. Rose himself, dated April 29th, 1885 (which I bought!) – you’ll find it at the bottom. It would be really nice if this sign was spruced up. That will likely depend on the building’s next tenant, assuming it’s not torn down.
Located at 606 Eighth Ave South. It’s possible to park for a while in the space just south of the building, between it and Norris Architecture next door. Otherwise, you’ll need to park on the other side of 8th Ave.
The small piece of Nashville wedged between 8th Avenue South and the Gulch is increasingly mural dense. As it should be, as tourists are beginning to really discover this spot, where, if you are lucky, some of the last free downtown parking spaces can be found. Stock and Barrel, their name a reference to their emphasis on bourbon and burgers, originated in Knoxville and is a relative newcomer to the scene. Their muralist, to my knowledge, is as well. Adam Newman (you’ll find his Instagram page a little more informative) seems to be new to the mural movement here in Nashville, but his evocative piece for Stock & Barrel leaves me hoping we’ll see more work from him in the future. I like how he just cut off the final “E” in “Nashville.” It’s the only vowel he used anyway, so why not cut it off?
Located at 901 Gleaves Street. The mural is on the west side of the building, facing Peg Leg Porker (which has its own new mural). There is street parking nearby, but most of it is metered. If you’re lucky and you look hard, you’ll find the free spaces (for now), mostly on 10th Avenue.
This one is just barely public art. Down at the bottom of the post is what you can see if you stay on the regular path. Maybe in winter, it’s a little more visible. It’s really a double that brings together two Nashville artists known for their stenciled solitary men, Brian Wooden and an artist who signs his work “For Becks.” Wooden does the usually headless men in suits (though sometimes not), while For Becks does the Lego men. Here, their work is found side by side. This grainy photo proves Wooden’s piece has been their at least a couple of years, while the For Becks piece is much more recent. They are not very accessible – if you want a selfie with one, there are easier places – just check the Instagram pages linked above. These are at the base of a platform that is part of the Rolling Mill Hill Greenway, itself part of a ramp that connects the City View Apartments above with the Nashville Trolly Barns below (that’s where Pinewood Social is). To get to it, start at the bottom of the ramp and either jump the railing, or at the very beginning of the lower part of the ramp, you can squeeze between the railing and a low wall for about 30 feet to gain access to the area where the mural is. And if you climb up the first part of the ramp, you’ll see some miniature Wooden stencils, these just of headless men in jackets, but no legs (see below).
Located at 9 Lea Avenue. That’s the address of the closest business, Emma, which is on the backside of the trolley barns, behind Pinewood Social. City View Apartments, up above, are at 500 Rolling Mill Hill Greenway, off Middleton Street. If you’re at the apartments and can see the Batman Building, head in that direction, keeping near the river. If you are at the Trolley Barns, head away from the Batman Building, towards the big hill next to the river with apartments on it. If you’re coming from below, the two large figures are above where the ramp makes an almost 90-degree turn before heading up. The mini mural is at the place where the ramp makes a U-turn. Parking is problematical in this area, but a lot less so nights and weekends.
It’s been a while since I’ve put any “wild” graffiti on the blog, but this one caught my eye recently and I really like it. That skull in the middle of the tag is common in Nashville graffiti. A good example is the one featured in Staying power. This tag was surprisingly difficult to research because it lies in the midst of a massive development project, Capitol View. Capitol View lies on the north side of the part of Charlotte Avenue that was recently renamed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, centered on 11th Avenue. When fully finished, it will take up six entire blocks running between MLK Blvd and Clinton Street three blocks north, while bordered by George L. Davis Blvd to the west and the railroad that roughly parallels 10th Avenue to the east. And about 10th Avenue – many of us have come to rely on Google Maps to stay up to date, but as of this writing it very much isn’t, (but it might be by the time you click that) and I could not make what I remember seeing jibe with the map. At one time, Gay Street crossed 10th Avenue and went under a railroad bridge to connect to a large, decrepit parking lot. That lot is now “Building E” of Capitol View and has a big sign on it that says “500,” as it’s official address is 500 11th Avenue. And the stretch of 10th that used to run between Nelson Merry Street and Lifeway Plaza? It’s been turned into an almost-finished park, that according to Capitol View’s Master Plan, will apparently be open to the public and linked to the greenway system. To get it, you have to go under the bridge, right where this graffiti is. Which means this graffiti probably counts as endangered art. Check it out soon.
UPDATED: This has been painted over.
Located just east of 500 11th Avenue. There is a driveway that runs between Lifeway Plaza and Nelson Merry and parallels the railroad, and the underpass where this is found is right in the middle of that stretch. There is an entrance to a parking garage right in front of it where you should able to park as a visitor for short periods of time.
Sometimes I present brand new art on this blog, or things very few people have seen, and sometimes it’s something everyone has long known about. The dog and children mural near 6th and Church downtown is definitely one of those. There are reasons. When I first started this blog (around the time this mural was created in 2016) I found the big murals downtown a little intimidating to write about. Eventually, I got over that, but the dog mural remained an issue. It’s impossible to photograph the entire mural head-on unless you are ten feet tall (I am not) or you own a drone (I don’t), and I was never satisfied with my photos. Even the artists’ photo of it on their Instagram account, clearly taken on a ladder, clips a bit of it off. Who are the artists? Well, there is only one signature on this mural – “Herakut.” That, however, turns out to be a team of two German artists, Hera (Jasmin Siddiqui) and Akut (Falk Lehmann). Animals and children populate a lot of their work, certainly in their murals, often with some kind of commentary. Here in their Nashville mural, a giant dog has rescued a little girl from an addiction to her phone, one that still grips her brother – but the dog will take care of that too in time. Not surprisingly for a giant mural by international artists in Nashville, this mural was sponsored by the Nashville Walls Project. On their site, you can see some images detailing the production of this mural, and even a dog that might have helped inspire it.
Located at 204 Sixth Avenue North. This is downtown, so lots of parking, little of it free. There is, in fact, some free street parking on this block of Sixth – maybe you’ll get lucky!
Because I’ve been doing a lot of travelling lately, I was out of town for the third-year anniversary of this blog, which happened on June 30. Much has happened since the second anniversary of this blog. For one, the outdoor art scene continues to blossom here in Nashville. New murals appear seemingly every day, and at my usual three-posts-a-week pace I’ll never catch up! And the world has noticed. Do a quick Google search for “Nashville street art” or “Nashville murals” or related searches, and you will find dozens and dozens of articles, blog posts, and various guides to whatever the author considers to be the best, the prettiest. or most “Instagramable” murals. And while this blog doesn’t show up very high in those searches, traffic has been steadily improving. The first year, the blog got a few hundred views a month. In the second, 1000-1500 views a month. In the third year, that number hovers in the low 2000s. Still small fry, but the moving in the right direction. And unlike any of those articles or “guides,” I really am trying to chronicle it all!
Many of the observations I made in the post I wrote about the second year anniversary remain true. The relationship between art, tourism, and gentrification remains strong. It’s still true that most art, particularly murals, is found on local businesses, not chains. Nashville business owners are getting the message – murals generate foot traffic, and they encourage people to take a picture and “check in” at the business, which amounts to free advertising. And art very much still breeds art. Businesses and building owners are encouraged to seek out artists for their site when they see their neighbors doing the same thing.
Having recently traveled to New Orleans and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I can say that our mural/outdoor art scene compares well to those areas. One mistake we did not make, which until recently New Orleans had, was to put onerous permitting limitations on art. I would also say that while there are definitive art districts, in particular 12 South and Downtown, we do a good job of spreading art out – just look at my map.
I continue to be concerned about the impact of gentrification, notably on the less celebrated artists who have decorated Hispanic and Black-owned business. In particular, the work of the artist I have dubbed the “Unknown Buchanan Street Artist(s)” is endangered. That’s one reason I do this blog, to archive what is an inherently ephemeral form of art.
For now, this will continue to be a Davidson County-only blog. When I think of some of the massive collections of work I have yet to chronicle, notably the Elliston Place garage and the dozens of musician portraits in Berry Hill, it’s hard to think about expanding. For that matter, I have dozens of files under the heading “Future Blog Posts,” most of which I need to do more research for or reshoot photos (I have gotten very picky about the pictures I use.) But visiting the Metroplex (as Dallas-Ft. Worth is known), I realized if I lived there I would have to do an area-wide blog, and I think I will have to do so here as well in time. The surrounding counties have developing outdoor art scenes of their own, often by the same artists who work in Davidson County. It’s really the same scene, and singling out Davidson County is somewhat artificial.
The header photo is the mural at Chromatics. The artist who made it, TACKZ, recently contacted me, which reminded me that, to my knowledge, only the refurbished Painter Man at the Hard Rock Cafe on Lower Broad is older. The Chromatics mural is a true survivor, dating back to 1993. We definitely have a very different outdoor art scene than we did in 1993. We actually have one now! I intend to continue to chronicle it as best I can.
In the alley that lies between Second and Third Avenue downtown, on 200 block, there is art. Most of it is courtesy of Herb Williams, who produced a series of dancers on doorways in the alley, as well as an abstract piece in one of the windows. Collectively they are called “Taking Flight,” and are based on images of dancers from the Nashville Ballet. They are filled with butterflies, not unlike his “Deer Dissolve” mural less than a block away, that’s part of the gallery featured in Guitars and Automobiles. This series came about as a result of a project by the Downtown Partnership, which led neighbors through a visualization session with images and samples of other city alleys and streets to see what might be possible in this alley. This led to repaving the alley and removing trashcans, as well as installing the murals and the wrought-iron fence, which was sponsored and designed by Anderson Design Studio and built and installed by Ferrin Ironworks. Ferrin also did the metal rose attached to the fence. The pictures above, read left-to-right and top-to-bottom, start at the northwest part of the alley and go down the back of Third Avenue, then turnaround and head back north on the back of Second Avenue. (The same order as the series in the slide show below.) In order, they are 216 Third Avenue North (turquoise on black and the abstract piece), 214/The Lofts at Noel Court (yellow on red), 212/Saturn&Mazer Title Services (shades of green with a raised knee) and 208/The Studio 208 (leaping man with yellow sticker). Going up the back of Second Avenue North, we see 215/The Hammonds Group (metal rose and leaping turquoise woman), 217/Anderson Design Studio (red and yellow on brown), and 219/The Market Street Building (shades of green on light grey).
Located between Third and Second Avenue along the 200 block. Access is about halfway down either block, or from Church Street. This is downtown – plenty of parking, almost none of it free.