In a less-trafficked part of Midtown, there’s a block with a lot of colorful art. On 17th street, the Eclipse Mart (now closed) has a couple of murals and right off that is Prison Alley, which is filled with graffiti murals, as is the east side of Printer’s Press, around the corner on State Street. The south side of Printer’s Press has these two murals, a collaboration between Kevin Bongang, an Atlanta artist who signs his work @bongangart, and Brandon Donahue, a local artist and TSU art professor. Bongang is responsible for the colorful extended sign partially obscured by shrubbery (if you look on his site he has some angled close-ups that help you see what’s behind the bushes), while Donahue did the Legos and the boy climbing over the wall (see below). Bothmen were also part of the Off the Wall project, as well as they now painted over Impermanent installation once found on 57th Avenue North. (I do plan to put the two graffiti walls on this blog at some point.)
Located at 1618 State Street. Street parking is available.
I try usually to present “clean” images of outdoor art – just the art, all the art, and nothing but the art. But sometimes, context is everything. And the artist, Folek (also known as Folek Kelof), did exactly the same thing on his Instagram page, only with more tires, which I felt gave me permission to branch out this time. This mural is a sign for CrossFit Rising Sun, a relatively new gym in an also pretty new complex on Trinity that includes the new Grimey’s location. Their logo is a cross between a rising sun and a kettlebell weight, which Folek has imposed on a fiery sky. And in the “clean” image below, you can better see the Nashville skylike gracing the kettlebell. It looks almost like a movie poster to me! By the way, did you know “CrossFit” is actually a brand name? I did not. I learn so much writing this blog!
Located at 1056 E Trinity Lane #104. Crossfit Rising Sun is on the back half of a building it shares with Living Waters Brewing. (Which has its own mural, soon to be on this blog.) The Rising Sun mural is on the east side of the building. There is parking for the various business at this complex.
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.
This photo is at an odd angle because of how narrow the alley is that hosts these three murals. The lie on the back (east) side of the Industrial Fire and Safety Inc. building on Ash Street in the Pie Town section of SoBro. The first two are by Audie Adams, who as part of Thoughts Manifested was a major contributor to the murals on the north and west side of the building as well. (See Part 1 and 2 below.) Somehow, Adams got a much better angle on the “wasp” mural than I did. Some of that may have been a better camera, but lying on the ground helped too! The brown mural at the end is by Jeff Bertrand. The image of the woman with a starry headdress shows up in some of his other pieces. Since I took these photos, a piece of fencing went up blocking this alley from the north side, perhaps to discourage homeless individuals from sleeping here. If you look close in the slide show below you’ll see there is no mural next to the last shot of the wasp mural. That’s because I photographed it first, in April 2017, when it was by itself, and took the other photos that October 2017 (I am nothing if not current!) after all the murals were finished.
Located at 608 Ash Street. The new Division Street extension complicates access somewhat. The mural above faces into a parking lot and alley on the north side of the building, on the opposite side from Ash. It’s easily accessed through the parking lot entrance on Ewing Ave between Middleton St and Fogg St, or down the alley that forks off of 6th Ave a little south of Lafayette Ave. Parking here is easy.
In a small shop in the collection of galleries and other businesses at 919 Gallatin Ave is a business with a long history. Delgado Guitars had its start as a family business in 1923 in the city of Torreón, Coahuila, in north-central Mexico. Over the last century, the family and the business moved many places, eventually winding up in Nashville. And over those years Delgado Guitars has maintained both instrument making traditions and Mexican cultural traditions. Thus the very Mexican subject of calacas and calaveras found in the mural on their front door. Calacas are the skeletons, often in fancy dress, that are so important in Mexican art, particularly in representations of the Day of the Dead, while the calaveras are brightly painted skulls also common in Mexican art. They have a long history, as political satire, but also as a reflection of Mexico’s roots in Mayan, Aztec, and other Amerindian cultures. The artist who produced this work comes from another part of the world. Olasubomi Aka-Bashorun was born in Lagos, Nigeria and grew up in Oklahoma. He now has a gallery in The Arcade, the DBO Gallery. While the Delgado mural is a different theme from much of his work, its bright, strong colors are very much like his other paintings. This mural verges on hidden art. Not only is it impossible to see from the road, but also, since it’s on a door, you won’t see it when Delgado Guitars is open! So you’ll need to come twice, right? Certainly you will if you want to see both the guitars and the mural.
Located at 919 Gallatin Avenue. There is a fair amount of parking available at the venue.
This lovely skyline with a bit of a watercolor vibe stretches the “public art” definition a little bit. It can be seen from Antioch Pike, but it’s definitely blink-or-you-miss-it. It’s found on the training center of the Nashville branch of Stratus Building Solutions, which bills itself as “leading the way in health and environmentally conscious commercial cleaning services.” It’s by Hannah Holgate, an artist who also is the Frame Shop manager at Jerry’s Artarama on Main Street (where she partnered with Marshall Hall to produce the mural on the facade of the art store, which I’ll post about later). She says it’s her first solo mural, which makes it a pretty good start! Hopefully, she will be doing more murals in the future.
Located at 2123 Antioch Pike. It’s located on a building behind the main building you see from the road, facing approximately north. There is parking here, but this is also a working business so you might want to ask politely before driving around to the back, particularly on a work day.
Feeling hypnotized? Certainly, this mural was meant to play with your vision. It appeared recently on the back side of Gym 5, and is by a local artist who goes by Sterbo (or terbosterbo). This alleyway is a busy place for art. Turn around from looking at this mural and you’ll see the one in Panda sky, and just to the left is a set of elaborate graffiti tags that cover what used to the elaborate graffiti tags found in Back in the alley. I’ll blog about the new tags sometime soon. This particular wall has seen a series of not very interesting scribbled tags. With some exceptions, taggers tend to be respectful of murals, so maybe the new mural will put a stop to that. In the meantime, it’s here to mess with your head. The symbol at the end is one used by Sterbo as something of a signature (see photos below).
UPDATE: This mural was severely damaged by the March 3, 2020 tornado. The part of the wall with the word “under” on it collapsed. Repairs will probably result in the destruction of the rest of the mural. See What we lost in the storm.
Located at 952 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.
Normally I would try to avoid posting a photo of a mural with stuff piled in front of it, but the tables and chairs on this patio at Gabby’s Burgers & Fries are a permanent part of the decor. Gabby’s opened in 2009 in what for many years had been the site of the historic Hap Townes restaurant beloved by many. Seriously, click right now and read that article by one of Nashville’s greatest writers, Tim Ghianni. I’m sorry I never got a chance to eat there, but apparently, the burgers at Gabby’s are pretty good. Along with a new menu came new art. The website link for the artist Vince Herrera painted on the mural is dead, but it wasn’t too hard to track down his Facebook and Instagram pages. On Instagram, you can see a fewphotosthatshow the process and reveal a few features now blocked by furniture, as well as telling us that Herrera has help from Mari Cristina. Apparently, this mural went up in July 2013. I’ve driven by that spot many times, but only noticed it recently. From the road, it is in something of a blink-and-you-miss-it spot. Take the time to look behind buildings – sometimes there’s art back there!
Located at 493 Humpries Street. The restaurant is actually at the corner of Chestnut and Hagan streets, near Greer Stadium, while its parking lot faces Humphries. The mural is on the back side of the building. There is parking at Gabby’s and nearby side streets.