It says it there right on the sign. “Good Food Since 1939.” Many a Nashvillian has fond memories of Elliston Place Soda Shop. I’ve had a few burgers there myself. Recently, escalating rents almost forced owner Skip Bibb to close the restaurant for good, but Nashville developer Tony Giarratana bought the restaurant to prevent that fate, promising to renovate and reopen it this year. Recently it was announced that the soda shop would move next door, into a larger 1907 building that once housed the Cumberland Telephone Exchange. That means that everything in and on the old building that Giarratana plans to incorporate in the new site must be removed from the old. The three-dimensional neon sign that once welcomed customers has already been taken down, leaving behind this hand-painted sign (and Purity Dairies ad, who probably paid for it). It’s not clear how old it is, but the only other example on the internet of a hand-painted Purity mural I could find is in Smyrna, TN and it dates back to the late 1950s. Given the wear-and-tear on this one, that’s a probable approximate date for the Elliston sign as well. It certainly can’t be pre-1946, when Ezell’s Dairy became Purity. Since Elliston Place Soda Shop is going into a new building, the fate of this sign is very much up in the air. Interestingly, in the very rough rendering for the new shop, a version of this sign is included. In fact, it’s actually a cut-and-pasted photo of the old sign. Either way, this one is almost certainly endangered art.
Located at 2111 Elliston Place. The sign is on the east side of the building, facing towards downtown. There is metered parking on Elliston Place, and some free parking on nearby streets.
When the building at 912 Main street was torn down (a building I talked about in A few words and then who knows), this part of the east wall of 914 was exposed. It’s the same wall that contains the mural featured in Or you could just watch the video, which is on the long-exposed south part of that wall. It’s a Jack Coyle piece, and I decided to go ahead and put it on the blog because I imagine this space will soon be a construction site. Note also that the clearance of the site at 916 (formerly Holleman Transmission) makes the mural in A few words and then who knows much more visible (I put new photos up), but all the murals here might be threatened, either with destruction or simply being hidden by whatever comes next. For that matter, it 914 is ever town down, the mural featured The cats are loose would be lost, as it’s on the backside. So check all of them out soon, as you may not be able to for long. Call them all endangered art.
Located at 914 Main Street. The mural is on the west side of the building, facing downtown. There are a few spaces in front of 914, though your best bet is probably parking across Main on McFerrin, and there’s a light to help you cross.
Of late, Nashville’s “Rock Block,” located along Elliston Place, has been under threat. First, Gold Rush closed. More recently, there was a controversial move to rezone the lots at Elliston Place and Lousie Avenue, currently the site of three small buildings collectively known as the Louise Douglas apartments, to allow a 15-story hotel to be built on the spot. Such a building would tower over longtime music venues The End and Exit/In and radically alter the character of the neighborhood, not to mention eliminate some of the only reasonably affordable housing left in Midtown. After much public outcry, the rezoning measure was withdrawn, though the long-term future of the area remains uncertain. One troubling feature is the apparent closure of Obie’s Pizza, which lies in front of The End and just east of the apartments. It hasn’t been open in a couple of months or so. There is a sign on the door that says they will reopen soon, but the number at that link I gave for them has been disconnected, and there’s no sign of activity. So their mural, made for them by Tyler Z. Key, in all likelihood will disappear sooner than later. Call it endangered art. The mural has been edited at least once. On Key’s Instagram page, you can see that the mural once had a large signature at the bottom reading “TiiKii Art.” If you look close, you can see where it’s been painted over next to the blue hand. Key apparently decided to go with a more subdued signature, reading “TZ Key.” Either way, check it out soon while you still can.
Located at 2217 Elliston Place. The mural is on the west side of the building. There’s some free street parking in the area, but not a lot. You can probably get away with parking in the lot in front of the mural for a short time if you just want to grab a picture.
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.
While Eddie’s Cee Bee on Lafayette has been closed for some time, the artist JamersonSGC continues to use the building as a canvas. This impressive collection of human and animal portraits emblazoned with the words “Day Dreamin” is found on the back of the building where the old loading dock sits unused. Jamerson (who labels much of his work “Low Key Art”) sometimes likes to edit and reshape his work. See for example the evolution of Low key bee into The full bee (an update). In an original draft (see below), instead of the two people an elephant and possibly a second zebra were taking shape. All that remains of those two animals is the elephant’s tusk, which is engraved with Egyptian hieroglyphics and links the woman and man together. As the fate of the Cee Bee building is uncertain, the long term prospect for this mural is anyone’s guess. But watch this space – Jamerson might decide to revise it again!
Located at 109 Lafayette Street. The mural is on the east side of the building, facing Clairborne Street. There is parking in the area in front of the mural, and in the lot on the other side of the building.
This is an old graffiti mural on Main Street in East Nashville I have passed many times thinking, “I should put that on the blog,” but I never got around to. It was an old reliable I could always do some other day. Well, not anymore. RECORD SCRATCH! Stop! I got this building confused with the one next door, that hosts Holleman Transmission. THAT building is soon to be replaced with a new boutique hotel. But not apparently this one. So the blog post I wrote and have now rewritten about this mural about to be gone, along with the others on the building, was wrong. For the moment. Those murals, by the way, are one by Eastside Murals featured in The cats are loose that is on the back of the building, and an Andee Rudloff piece featured in Or could just watch the video on the opposite side from this graffiti mural. I wrote originally that all would be lost, but not so fast. That said, I wouldn’t count on this property staying quiet for too long in go-go Nashville. This piece has tags for the UH crew, and there are others, such as ICR, Tier, Rasmo, Saeph, and Left, but as usual, some of the tags are a mystery to me. So I’d go ahead and get your photos because you never know.
UPDATE: When Holloman Transmission was torn down, this mural became much more visible. Presumably, it will soon be hidden by new construction.
Located at 914 Main Street. The mural is on the east side of the building, facing an alley. For now, you can park for free in front of the building. Once construction starts next door, that might be complicated.
This is the tenth and last in the series on The Nations Wall, a massive set of murals on the west-facing wall of Music City Tents and Events, organized by the Nashville Walls Project. It’s the tenth piece going from left to right (roughly north to south), and thus also the one the far right. This last one is by Emily Elizabeth Miller, an artist known for doing mixed-media murals, where part of the mural is painted, generally the background, while another part, often the central and main theme, is a paper drawing plastered on to the painted backdrop. She also does installations that are just the paper drawing. Naturally, this leads to a gradual decay of the paper as it is exposed to the weather and sunlight, meaning the mural is also inherently dynamic. The picture above was taken when the installation was about a year old. This picture from Miller’s Instagram feed gives you a sense of what it looked like new. While it seems to be fairly resilient, if you want to get your photo with the elephant, you might want to go soon!
Again, this is the last in this series, as there are no more murals to chronicle from this project. Images of the entire wall with all the murals together can be found in Part 1.
Located at 5901 California Ave, Nashville, TN 37209. The murals actually face the 1300 and 1400 block of 60th Avenue North, across from the intersection with Pennsylvania Avenue. Street parking is possible nearby.
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.
Able Restaurant Equipment on Nolensville is no more. While the building that once housed the business still hosts two versions of this sign, the store closed some months ago. As I’ve written before, vintage hand-lettered signs in Nashville like this one are under threat. Of course, a sign is always under threat if the business closes, but it’s also true that the rapid pace of development in Nashville increases the threat. There’s a small signature at the bottom crediting “Post Sign Co.” I have been able to find no evidence of a sign company by that name. It may have passed out of existence pre-internet, or just so long ago that all internet traces of it have disappeared. That much of the sign is in Spanish suggests the possibility that this was one of the earliest Hispanic-oriented businesses on Nashville, if the sign actually goes back to the ’80s. If it was done later, then perhaps Able was merely responding to its changing neighborhood. The sign above on the north side of the building is the better preserved of the two signs (the south-side sign is below). However, recently it was defaced with some very carefully hand-lettered and quite vulgar insults I won’t reprint here. If a future owner wishes to preserve the sign, the graffiti is on the white part and could be easily painted over.
Located at 2601 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, TN 37211. There is some parking available in the alley behind, and along Grandview Avenue one block west.