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What we lost in the storm

 

In Nashville, and communities to the east, homes and businesses have been shattered and destroyed, lives lost. Much of what has been broken will take months to rebuild, if ever. Families without homes, employees without paychecks. In the face of that, what’s a little art?

In the last few years, there has been a mural renaissance in Nashville, and it’s been my honor to chronicle it. Arguably, it really started in East Nashville over four years ago, with Chamber East doing much to cajole eastside businesses to take a chance on art. And many ultimately did, so many that the east side, from Fifth and Main to well up Gallatin Road, became the most art dense neighborhood in Nashville. Art is part of this neighborhood’s identity. So when a tornado plowed down Main and through Five Points and beyond very early Tuesday morning, it inevitably took a lot of art with it.

One image more than any other has been the symbol of the tornado damage, Basement’s East’s fallen wall of concert murals with its still intact version of the I Believe in Nashville mural (based on a design by Adrien Saporiti of DCXV Industries). A simple image that speaks to the neighborhood’s musical heritage and its enduring strength.

Basement East mural street art Nashville tornado

Other losses attracted fewer news cameras, but were still quite devastating. This pile of painted concrete blocks is all that’s left of the murals that once wrapped around Hunt Supply Co., a skateboard gear supplier whose building completely collapsed.

Hunt Supply mural rubble

Before the storm, it looked like this:

Hunt Supply Mural street art Nashville

Hunt Supply and Gold Electric Tattoo across the alley are something of neighborhood secrets. You need to know to walk up the alley behind Beyond the Edge to find them, or what’s left of them now. The front side of Gold Electric once had a really fun mural, now shattered in the wake of the storm.

I never blogged about it, nor learned the artist, because I was waiting to get a “clean” picture of the other Gold Electric mural, a memorial to founder Mike Fite. Employee cars were always parked in front of it. Sadly, on the night of the tornado, one was still there and was seriously damaged.

Fite memorial mural street art Nashville tornado

Not so secret was the “Do the Dew” mural by Eastside Murals on the old Family Dollar, just steps away from Gold Electric Tattoo. The building was probably slated for demolition and “mixed-use” development, but it was still a shock to see such a bright and colorful wall collapse, along with the rest of the building. Look close at the rubble and you can see a section of the mural. 

Eastside Murals also created the largest mural that was lost to the tornado. Molly Green at McFerrin was a total loss, the building left in ruins, the ice-cream-colored walls painted by Eastside reduced to rubble.

The alley between Main and Woodland has also been for some time a place filled with art. Almost all of it is by the UH graffiti crew. It included well-made graffiti tags, trippy caricatures, and even a surreal sky. The surreal sky, which I dubbed “Panda Sky,” had already been damaged by construction, but now just a slip of it is left. The hypnotic “Under Hypnosis,” of which the word “under” has collapsed, is by the artist Sterbo.

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One of the most devastating losses is a work that first appeared on this blog in a piece called “A True Survivor.” No, it’s not a mural, but it’s still a work of art that has been part of the eastside’s image for decades. The Weiss Liquor sign crumbled in the storm and with it a lot of history.

Right behind this building is another piece I never got around to blogging about, in part because it had been partially painted over by another piece I’ve only tangentially blogged about, the giant concert mural by Jason Galaz on the back of Crying Wolf. A fence painted by someone who’s signature I never figured out was partially painted over with a list of concert performers by Galaz. Regardless, the fence collapsed.

A more total loss was a large piece of art about art. The facade of Jerry’s Aratama had been covered in art by Hannah Holgate and Marshall Hall, right down to the parking lot itself. The parking lot art is fine, including the signs, but the facade of the building collapsed, largely destroying the mural.

Two more total losses are found in the alley behind Smith and Lentz Brewing. There was a lovely, bizarre fence by Andee Rudloff and Max Grimm that belonged to the house behind Smith and Lentz. Only a single post remained when I checked on it Wednesday. And on the backside of Smith and Lentz was another Eastside Murals piece I never blogged about, I think because it didn’t seem too public behind the bar’s fence, now ripped down by the storm. You can see what it looked like intact on Eastside’s Instagram page.

The featured mural of the eagle at the start of this post is by  Kim Radford and lies on the east wall of Elite Bonding. I never got around to writing about it because I was saving it for a patriotic holiday. (While it’s relatively intact, the work Radford did on the other side of the building is largely gone, the wall having collapsed. Here’s what the eagle looked like undamaged.) I suppose there’s a lesson to be learned about impermanence and not assuming everything will always be what you expect. Another example of this is the East Nashville “EN” murals, which are sponsored by Chamber East. I’ve never put one on the blog for some reason. The one by Troy Duff at Burger Up is intact, but given the state of the building, it’s hard to say if it will last.

East Nashville Burger Up

Tuesday, after the storm, I had more visitors to this site than I’m used to. People wanted to know what it all used to look like, to see what had been lost, to remember what things that had been broken looked like when they were intact. If you want to help artists who have been hurt by the storm, start here. Here is a page with more general information about volunteering and donating for tornado relief.

East Nashville will rebuild, it will prosper, thought scars will remain. And I predict that Nashville’s artists will be in the thick of it.

By the tracks

It’s been a few weeks since I post any “wild” graffiti to the blog, though for all I know this was done with full permission of the owners. Owners of what? Hard to say. This piece is found on a small concrete building that lies at the corner of 11th Avenue North and Harrison Street, just below the tracks. This is part of an industrial area squeezed between what developers like to call North Gulch to the south and Hope Gardens to the north. It’s an area that has resisted development, a pocket of warehouses and factories a few blocks from the State Capitol. Two long-standing industrial firms are found right across the street. On both sides of 11th Avenue going north and to the east along Harrison Street, is the “campus” of John Bouchard and Sons, a machine shop and iron casting factory that goes back to 1908.  A little farther down Harrison, on both sides of the road, is a branch of U.S. Smokeless Tobacco. While the company goes back to 1822, its Nashville factory on Harrison only goes back to 1996. But its presence suggests this small area will remain industrial. A large plot half a block north of the graffiti mural was recently leveled, tearing down what used to be a Goodwill warehouse that had been severely damaged by fire. The new owners of the site? U.S. Smokeless Tobacco. So, no condominiums, at least not yet.

The little concrete building itself is probably railroad property, though abandoned. For a long time, it was completely screened by trees and occupied by at least one homeless individual. Today, the trees are gone, and a security car is often parked next to it, no homeless to be seen. On the other side of the tracks lies Solis North Gulch Apartments, which start at a little over $1500/month and go up quickly, but the corner of Harrison and Eleventh is likely to stay out of the development craze for some time to come.

UH Graffiti Nashville mural street art

Located at the corner of 11th Avenue North and Harrison Street. Street parking is available, but be aware large trucks come through here frequently.

A return to the alley

Almost a year ago (I took these pictures last March) a set of UH crew tags replaced the UH crew tags that once been on the backside of Main Street Liquors and Main Street Market, and which I featured in Back in the alley. The style of these new tags is distinct from the earlier ones, but UH is a versatile crew. This alley and nearby spaces feature several examples of their work. Sadly, one of their best, a trippy mural which I featured in Panda sky, which was on the back of what used to be Make Nashville and is just steps from the tags above, has recently been largely destroyed in a renovation project to its building, 947 Woodland. Change is a constant, and that’s certainly true for outdoor art in Nashville. One change – the building these tags are on used to also include a repair shop called Transmission Exchange. Now it’s been replaced with Crazy Gnome Brewery. The Five Points area used to be the place in Nashville you got your car repaired. That legacy is almost gone.

UPDATE: This mural was damaged by the March 3, 2020 tornado. Its fate is uncertain. See What we lost in the storm.

Main Street Tags graffiti street art Nashville

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Located at 944 Main Street. The installation is in fact in the alley, which can be accessed from 10th Street or McFerrin Avenue. There is some parking in this alley if you are just visiting.

 

Blek, Barista, and Beethoven

It’s not often that a graffiti artist gets written up in the local news, his arrival in town excitedly heralded by local arts groups. But Blek Le Rat is not just any graffiti artist. He’s an internationally known French street artist, known to some as the “godfather of stencil,” that is, the use of stencils to make images on walls. He toured the U.S. south in late 2018, creating works in the Texas cities of Waco, Houston, and Austin, and also here in Nashville. He left stencils at Montgomery Bell Academy and the one above at the Germantown branch of Barista Parlor. In this video interview with WPLN, he explains that he came to Nashville because it is the capital of music and because he thinks his work would be ignored and unappreciated in a more outdoor art-dense city like New York. The subject is a young Beethoven, who Blek presents in more modern dress, imagining how the old master might present himself to the Nashville of today and its music. He also thinks “the real America is in Nashville, a city like Nashville.” The video is worth watching because it captures a lot of his process as he produced the Beethoven portrait. It’s not as simple as spraying a stencil! The picture below gives you a sense of context.

Bleck Beethoven mural

Further down the wall is the work of another stencil artist, For Becks, who is local. I’ve featured his Lego Men before. Here we see one of his “Like” stencils, which are popular on Instagram, including this one.

Barista Like mural street art Nashville

Located at 1230 4th Avenue North. Both murals actually face the 300 block of Monroe Street. The Blek piece is obviously at the corner with 4th, while the For Becks piece is almost all the way down at the other end of the wall, near the back of the building. Street parking is available on 4th.

With a Capitol View

Graffiti Capitol street art mural Nashville

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.

Elliston Parking Garage – Part 3, Folek

Folek mural street art Nashville

This mural is a slight departure for this blog, as it in some sense inside. But from the lighting, you might notice it’s exposed to sunlight on one side. This piece by Folek Kelof, who signs his work with just “Folek,” is part of the Elliston Parking garage project organized by the Nashville Walls Project. The first two (see below) and the ones on the top floor are fully “outside,” while the rest are “inside” the parking garage, but ae very much exposed to the elements, and you don’t need a key or even to open a door to see them, so I think they fit. The mural seems to be flowers done in a style that implies graffiti. I don’t know any mural in town that looks quite like it.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 4

Located at 207 Louise Avenue, just off Elliston Place. This piece is on the bottom floor on the south side of the building. Most of the parking in this area is pay parking. The garage is permit parking, at least on workdays.

A few words and then who knows

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.

Graffiti mural street art Nashville

graffiti mural street art Nashville

Rasmo graffiti mural street art Nashville

Pink Graffiti mural street art Nashville

UPDATE: When Holloman Transmission was torn down, this mural became much more visible. Presumably, it will soon be hidden by new construction.

Graffiti tags mural street art Nashville

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.

Three years and counting

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!

Kind mural street art Nashville
As it was last year, the subject of the most popular post on this blog.  Read about it in The Kind Way.

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.

Cash mural street art Nashville
Despite, or perhaps because it no longer exists, the subject of the second most popular post on this blog. See The Johnny Cash Mural

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.

Restaurant mural street art Nashville
One of the “Unkown Buchan Street Artist(s)” murals that may be threatened by gentrification. See Catered 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.

Bird Mural street art Nashville
Still my answer when people ask me about my favorite mural in Nashville. In part, because you are very unlikely to find it on Instagram. See A bird in the bush

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.

Nations Wall – Part 7

This is the seventh 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 seventh piece going from left to right (roughly north to south). The Nashville Walls project credits Eshor for this mural. While there seems to be no website or social media associated with that name, the hashtag #eshor on Instagram has a number of images you can explore. The lower tag is “Venser.” (I chose this partially blocked view of that tag for the featured photo because of the way Facebook crops shared links. See a full, angled view below.) This doesn’t seem to correspond to any of the artists that the Nashville Walls Project credited. Searching #venser on Instagram produces some similar tags and at least one other example of the two tags together (see the fourth photo in that set), but rare enough that I assume they are by two different people.

Graffiti mural street art Nashville

Images of the entire wall with all the murals together can be found in Part 1.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10

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.

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