Someday I will finish the Norf Wall gallery project. I had thought to just do one big post on everything that’s left, but I think I’ll save that for the ones I don’t know the artist and which have things stacked in front so the pictures aren’t great. This is not one of those. It’s signed “TA” and is obviously the work of Thaxton Waters, who first appeared in this blog in A Soul Break. The main panel includes images of Mahatma Gandhi, the Dali Lama, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. The last one really looks like Etta James to me, who would not be out of place given her role in bridging white and black culture.
Located about half about half a block south of where 18th Ave North dead ends into Herman Street, and under Dr. D.B. Todd Jr. Boulevard. Parking is very easy here. The tire company that occupies this space seems to be fine with people exploring to view the art. See the map post for Part 1.
This is post number 300. For this post, I’m updating on the art I know is now gone. The photo above is an Emily Miller piece once found at the corner of Main and McFerrin. Much of Miller’s work is deliberately temporary, drawn on paper and glued to outdoor walls. Her pieces are more durable than you might think, however, and in fact, this one was deliberately removed when the building was repainted. That’s the fate of most of the works listed here – they have been painted over. Others are gone because the building they stood on is gone.
The blog itself is getting a little better all the time. Statistics wise, since I started it in July 2016, 5450 people have visited the blog for a total of 11,006 page views. Modest, but it has been growing. From a couple hundred views a month when I got started, 800 and 900 has become common, it looks like the blog is about to close in on the second month in a row and third overall for more than 1000 views. The empire grows slowly.
All art is temporary, outdoor art in particular. A list, probably incomplete, of art I have chronicled that is gone or substantially erased. (I will be updating these posts in the coming weeks):
As in the UH crew, one of the most prolific graffiti crews in town (and which I really need to create a category for). This colorful door is found on the loading dock of Horton Paper Service, Inc. That page is from a database of businesses. Horton doesn’t seem to have much need of an internet presence. Some of your more traditional industries don’t, I’ve found, the kind of industrial places you’re likely to find graffiti. The immediate neighborhood around here actually has a lot of art, including the Norf Wall Gallery site and A bird in the bush, among others.
Located at 614 18th Avenue North, behind Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School. This stretch of 18th runs parallel to a bridge where Dr. D.B. Todd Blvd sails over a railroad. It’s often possible to park under the bridge, and there is street parking (though I’ve never tried it during school hours.) Put on some sturdy shoes and check out all the art in the neighborhood!
I don’t know much about the abandoned factory on the 800 block of 17th Avenue just south of Herman Street. I know the original deed is dated 1920, and that the property currently belongs to Fisk University. I know also the county assessor’s office values the factory itself at exactly zero dollars and zero cents. The land is a bit more — $326k. It makes sense. The building is probably prohibitively expensive to repair. It’s a shame though – people once made their living here. Now it’s abandoned, crumbling down by the railroad. It’s the kind of place both the homeless and graffiti artists can sometimes be found. I encountered no one when I visited the site, but it is obvious that people sleep here, including in the smokestack, in the very place workers once shoveled coal into the fire. The factory and nearby walls are plastered with tags, mostly from the UH crew, a prolific Nashville group. There’s at least one Betor memorial, so at least a little of this is fairly new (Betor died last December). There are more tags under the adjacent bridge. I’ll feature them in a later post.
Located by the bridge over the railroad tracks on the 800 block of 17th Avenue North. The factory is on the west side of the road. There is a fair amount of vegetation, and if you venture very far, you’ll be out of sight of the road quickly. Street parking is available.
Thousands of people pass by this exuberant graffiti installation every day and never see it (or maybe get just a tiny glimpse). It lies underneath Spring Street, alongside the railroad tracks that wend their way through the spaghetti junction where Spring, Dickerson, Main and Ellington Parkway all come together, and with Jefferson and I-24 just a little way away. Make that tens of thousands, maybe more, come close every day but never see it. I first caught glimpse of these murals from quite a distance – you can just see them from where Foster Street crosses the railroad tracks, but it was a longer distance down the tracks than I cared to walk. After much map studying and driving around, I realized the best access was right off Ellington, where there is a pull off area right under the bridge. There is also a good sized homeless encampment just south of the bridge, also hidden from view of the many thousands of drivers who pass through here each day.
Located under Spring Street, as it passes over the railroad tracks that parallel Ellington Parkway. The easiest way to reach this site is to get on Ellington at or north of Cleveland Street, heading south. Just past the Spring Street/I-24/I-65 exit, there is an area where you can pull under the bridge. It may also be possible to reach it by foot from the west side of the bridge just west of 5th and Main. Google Earth shows a gravel “road” starting from First Street North at A-1 Fun Cycle that parallels the tracks up to the spot – maybe if you have a dirt bike? To be clear, I have no idea if any of this is legal, and there is a large homeless encampment less than 100 feet south from where the murals are.
Sometimes, when searching for outdoor art, you wind up in less than pleasant places. The easternmost support of the Jefferson Street bridge, where Jefferson passes over an unnamed access road just before reaching Cowan Street, is not a place Nashvillians would ordinarily take tourists, and unless you work at one of the industrial sites nearby, nor is it a place Nashvillians would visit themselves. Unless you are homeless, or a graffiti artist. There’s plenty of evidence of people spending time here – discarded bottles, food wrappers, and the like, as well as a mattress it’s hard to imagine anyone sleeping on. But the seclusion that some homeless people appreciate also attracts graffiti artists, given access to a large concrete wall. There are many layers of tags here, with each artist painting over the previous one. If you ever visit, you’re likely to see some names other that what I captured when I found it. Someone has labeled the current crop “usual suspects,” hence the blog title. There is also an interesting “eye” on a nearby pylon (featured below). I should note that the panel on the far right currently has a reference to sexual assault. It’s not clear what the meaning is – I have chosen not to include a close-up of that part.
Located under the Jefferson Street bridge just west of Cowan, next to the Cross Point Church. To reach it, take Oldham Street west towards the river and turn right on the access road just after the railroad tracks. Just before you get to the bridge, there’s a dirt road on the right that leads to the graffiti. I suspect this will get paved as part of the large construction project underway just past the bridge. This is an industrial area, so try not to park where you’ll block large trucks.
Rolf and Daughters is one of the top restaurants in town, with a national reputation. And it’s got a special mural to go with that reputation. This mural, put up in 2014, is the work of Shantell Martin, an artist based in Buffalo, NY who is known for her black and white line compositions that mix words, faces, and other imagery. On her website, there’s a page where you can see how the mural progressed. Be sure to scroll to the bottom to catch the photo of the Rolf and Daughters staff posing in front of the mural.
Located at 700 Taylor Street in Germantown. The mural faces south, dead across the street from where 7th Avenue North dead ends into Taylor. There is street parking available, though depending on time of day you might have to walk a bit. R&D only reserves a portion of their tables. The rest are for walk-ins. Reserve a table, or try your luck. Either way, enjoy the art!
This tag is found on the wall of a nondescript small warehouse on Hermitage Avenue. I don’t know what it says, and I don’t recall seeing a similar one around town, so I’m not sure if it’s by a local artist or a visitor. Grafitti artists will often leave their mark on cities they visit. I do though think it’s elegant in its simplicity, standing alone on this long brick wall. Google Maps shows it in a March 2016 photo, so it’s at least a year old.
Located at 280 Hermitage Avenue. The mural is found on the east side of the warehouse, facing a small open lawn. This is an industrial area, so not much street parking. You will probably have to park at one of the local businesses.
It helps to drive around. Keep going down that road, you might find something. The art along the Cumberland River Greenway between Van Buren and Taylor is no surprise to anyone who uses that greenway, but no doubt far less known to everyone else, other than the patrons and employees of the businesses nearby. Although very close to downtown and to the development in Germantown, this is an industrial area with roads that dead end at the river, so not a lot of traffic. Along this stretch of the greenway, all of the buildings have something on them, and it’s fairly easy to divide it up given the different styles. The backside of Bearded Iris Brewery stands out as the most detailed and elaborate installation. And look, it’s signed! These are names associated with the TM crew, with a giant logo at the far north end, and the MFK crew, which is prominently tagged nearby. An interview with Paser reveals, by the way, that I deciphered UH wrong in a previous post – it’s Urban Heroes. I’ll have to go back and do some updating! We also see Rex2 (Bryan Deese) whose whon up a lot on this blog. I also include the Bearded Iris logo, featured prominently on the other (west) side of the building.
Located on the Cumberland River Greenway between Taylor Street and Van Buren Street. Bearded Iris Brewing is at 101 Van Buren. The graffiti mural is on the back (east) side of the brewery. Lots of parking there, and given the quiet nature of the area, street parking is fairly easy. Grab a beer, or go for a walk or a ride, and enjoy the art.