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nashville public art

Nashville murals, street art, graffiti, signs, sculptures and more

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Lost Art

All aboard! The Sylvan Supply Train Mural

Train Mural Nashville Street art

After Madison Mill closed its factory off Charlotte Avenue and moved to Ashville, NC in 2015, the dilapidated campus of buildings it left behind remained empty for several years. With its abundant walls and concealed spaces, it became a favorite target for graffiti taggers.

In 2016, Stonehenge Realty Group proposed turning it into a mixed-use project with retail and 400 apartments, but this stalled after significant objection from residents of the Sylvan Park neighborhood, where the old factory is located. The following year, Stonehenge proposed a new project to be called The Millworks on Charlotte that would only be offices and commercial space, minus the apartments. This project also failed to come to fruition, and it seemed the site might simply be torn down.

However, in 2018, Third and Urban, a real estate development company out of Atlanta, took over the site with their own plans for a retail and office complex. Before serious construction took place, the soil itself needed to be rehabilitated after sixty years of industrial production. But this time the efforts to develop the site finally bore fruit, and in August 2020, it opened as Sylvan Supply.

Which finally brings us to our mural. This dynamic portrait of an L&N Railroad engine barreling down on us is by the prolific local mural team Eastside Murals, who lately have been signing their work “Out East Boys.” According to the artists, the design was inspired by the rail lines that run alongside the complex and even go inside the buildings, no doubt put there to ease the delivery of wood and the shipping out of products when Madison Mill was churning out dowels for 60 years. The mural sits on the wall of a parking garage which faces down a long corridor in the middle of the complex. The effect is very much like a train hurtling down a tunnel, coming straight for the viewer.

This isn’t the only mural at Sylvan Supply. Indeed, this retail/office complex is something of an outdoor art gallery, much as it was when it was covered with graffiti art. I’ll be writing about the other pieces later, but just explore a bit and you’ll find the other art.

Located at 4101 Charlotte Avenue, at the corner with 42nd Avenue. The parking garage lies at the back end (south) of the complex, the part farthest from Charlotte Avenue. The corridor splits the main part of the Sylvan Supply down the middle. If you are coming from 42nd, just walk away from 42nd into the complex, and you will find it.

Turnip Truck (Charlotte Ave) Fairtrade Mural

Back in January, a big new mural appeared on The Turnip Truck’s big new store on Charlotte Avenue, courtesy of Tarabella Aversa. It’s actually part of a series of three murals around the country sponsored by Fairtrade America. Fairtrade works to support farmers and agricultural workers in developing countries, by supporting better prices for their goods, worker’s rights, combatting discrimination and child labor, and promoting environmental standards.

Turnip Truck Mural Nashville street art

This mural features Rosine Bekoin, owner of a small cocoa farm in Côte d’Ivoire. Aversa’s mural has her surrounded by cocoa beans. With the support of Fairtrade, she’s been able to get better prices for her cocoa, supplying such firms as The Hershey Company for use in their Kit Kat brand. She credits this help with getting her through a period of low cocoa prices and for being able to save to build herself a house.

Bekoin Portrait Nashville street art

Bekoin is unusual in Côte d’Ivoire for being a woman owner of a cocoa farm, as most are owned by men. The mural, besides promoting fair trade practices, is also emblazoned with the slogan “Support Gender Equality,” another priority of Fairtrade. One of the other murals in the series also features a woman and the gender equality slogan. In Denver, Giovannie “Just” Dixon created a mural featuring Natividad Vallejos, a coffee grower from Peru. The third mural is by Levi Ponce. It’s in Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard and features Segundo Alejandro Guerrero Mondragón, who is also a coffee farmer from Peru.

Fairtrade Mural Nashville street art

Prior to this mural, there was another mural on this wall. Back when this building housed Nashville Cash and Carry, a restaurant supply store, Murals and More, the commercial home of Michael Cooper, did a mural spelling out “Nashville” with letters made up of food and restaurant items.

Here’s the QR code found on the mural. It leads to a page describing the mural series on Fairtrade’s website.

QR Code Nashville street art

Loctaed at 5001 Charlotte Avenue. The mural is on the east side (opposite the entrance) of the building and faces 50th Avenue North, and overlooks Richland Park. Parking is avaliable around Turnip Truck and across the street at the park

Southern Pride, Queer Pride (and Skittles)

June is Pride Month, a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. It falls in June because the Stonewall Uprising, a pivotal moment in the gay liberation movement, began on June 28, 1969. There was a time when major corporations would have wanted nothing to do with such a celebration, but times have changed. Skittles (a subsidiary of Mars) has perhaps an obvious tie-in with Pride as rainbows are central to their marketing and of course the Rainbow Flag is a key symbol of Pride. (The original, designed by Gilbert Baker, had been lost for 40 years but was recently found and is on display in San Francisco.)

For this year’s Pride celebration, Skittles has sponsored a series of murals by Queer artists. The project is called the Skittles QueeR Codes, and one of them is here in Nashville, on the side of the Germantown branch of Jack Brown’s. (The name of the series references the QR codes found on each mural.) The Nashville version is by local artist Sara Moroni, whose business name is Sara Moroni Pizza – “serving hot and fresh slices of art.” Why pizza? It’s a reference to the different kinds of art she makes. There are many kinds of pizza and many kinds of art.

Her contribution specifically addresses the issue of being LBTGQ+ in the South. “Proud to be Southern & Queer,” the mural declares. It shows some of the diversity of the Queer community in the South. Moroni wrote on her Instagram page:

I understood how important it was to take full advantage and represent as many Queers in the South as I could. So, I designed this mural to highlight the diversity of Queer voices here in the South—to be as inclusive and intersectional as possible.

To my knowledge this is Moroni’s first mural in Nashville. I hope we get to see more from her.

By the way, this is not the first corporate-sponsored Pride mural in Nashville. Instagram sponsored one back in 2017 that as of this writing is still up.

There are three other murals in the series. Jae Lin created one in Austin, TX; there’s another by ARRRTADDICT in Atlanta; and Marlon Davila (aka 7ovechild) painted one in Newark, NJ. It’s interesting how each one of these artists chose to explore the theme of Pride in their murals in distinct ways.

Before Moroni’s mural went up, there was a sign on the side of this building for Local 456 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. I never got around to blogging about it (I was hoping to shoot it without vines), but here is what it looked like. The “J.A.T.C” refers to their training programs, called the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee. Local 456 has since moved out to Rundle Avenue (not far from Fesslers Lane and Elm Hill Pike).

Located at 1123 Third Avenue North, at the corner with Madison Street. The mural is on the south wall of the building, facing towards downtown and Jefferson Street. This is Germantown – there is some free street parking, but most available nearby parking is paid.

Feelin’ Lucky – Hawkers

One of the many things lost as a result of the closure of the long-standing East Nashville staple Family Wash was the mural of a giant multi-colored mule by Herb Williams that once adorned its building. But with a new restaurant in that spot, we also have a new mural.

Hawkers is an Asian street food chain based out of Florida that opened in the old Family Wash site on Main Street a few months ago. As such, it’s no surprise that the giant mural provided by Mobe Oner (aka Eric Bass) has a strong Asian theme. As part of their branding, Hawker uses an image of the familiar Maneki-neko, the Japanese beckoning cat. Wait, that’s what they are called? I didn’t know that they even had a name, but I learn a lot writing this blog.

Hawkers Mural Nashville street art

And yes, beckoning cat, not waving cat. In Japan, that’s a beckoning gesture. They are usually white, which is the color for luck, and in the upper left corner of the mural, Mobe Oner has placed the slogan “Feelin’ Lucky,” hence the title of this blog post. The Maneki-nekos are supposed to be based on the Japanese bobtail, but the flesh-and-blood cats are not nearly as chonky as their artistic counterparts. Maybe it’s all the Asian street food.

Hawkers mural Nashville street art

Only some of the cats in this mural are actually doing the traditional beckoning gesture. We seem them dancing, cooking, stuffing themselves with ramen, and taking selfies. The biggest one of all, appropriate to Nashville, is playing a guitar. You can watch a video of Mobe Oner working on the mural on his Instagram page.

Hawkers Mural Nashville street art

I had to take these pictures at an angle because the cramped parking lot and the addition of an upstairs patio. I was sorely tempted to stand on top of Bolton’s next door, something easily done, to get the picture, but I didn’t, and neither should you. The building is also home to part of the 615 Center complex, as you can see by the sign right next to the Feelin’ Lucky logo.

Located at 626A Main Street. the mural is on the west side of the building, facing towards downtown. There is retail and street parking available nearby.

Ham Baby

Back in 2008, Mitchell Delicatessen opened at 1402 McGavock Pike and quickly became a neighborhood favorite. They became so popular that by 2013 they needed to move to a larger space, though just down the street and across Riverside Drive, to 1306 McGavok. Not long after that, Mitchell’s acquired a mural on its west side (see below). I never wrote about that one, mostly because I never got around to finding out who the artists were. I was informed by Kim Radford, the creator of the newer mural featured above (it went up in April and May, 2018), that the original mural had been done by some of the employees at Mitchell Delicatessen. By 2018 the old mural had begun to deteriorate, and the owners were ready for a new one.

Old Mitchell Mural Nashville street art

The old mural had been a little obscure in its imagery. The sandwich and the guitar are obvious, as was the sunrise based on a Tennessee state flag. On the other hand, why the original artists chose to include what appears to be a large cockroach and some Pac-Man like figures is less clear.

Radford’s mural is a different story. She chose to call it “Ham Baby,” and boy is it ever. This is a deli, and of course they serve a lot of ham, but a giant anthropomorphized sow with a “Greetings from Nashville” bikini definitely has presence. Her wink and flower tattoos only amplify the over-the-top nature of this fun mural. You can see closeups of the mural on Radford’s Instagram page. Indeed, she put up a whole series of posts on the mural’s creation. See links below.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve.

Both of my pictures of the two murals are taken at an angle because of a fence and retaining wall that separates Mitchell’s parking lot from the driveway below and which obscure a more direct shot.

Located at 1306 McGavok Pike. The mural is on the west side of the building (in the direction towards Gallatin Road). There is some limited parking at Mitchell Deli. Be aware that the parking at the end of the driveway in the alley is reserved for another business. There’s paid parking to the east just off Riverside, on the other side of Village Pub.

Do the Dew, Again

This colorful mural by Atlanta artist Kevin Bongang is not the first “Do the Dew” mural in Nashville. PepsiCo launched their “Do the Dew” global advertising campaign back in 2015, and as part of that campaign they have sponsored a number of murals. In early 2019, Eastside Murals produced their own “Do the Dew” mural on the old Family Dollar near Five Points. That was one of the many murals destroyed by the March 3, 2020 tornado. Indeed, the building it was on completely collapsed.

Almost exactly two years after that first Nashville “Do the Dew” mural went up, Bongang created this one. This is at the Citgo station at Fifth and Main, an intersection that is something of a gateway to East Nashville.  (The other main one would be Woodland and Fifth, near where the giant EAST mural is found.) The bulk of people coming from downtown pass by this spot as they come to the east side. Before this new mural went in, there was a small, rather quirky mural on this wall greeting drivers that focused more on Nashville themes.

Bongang’s mural fills the whole wall and spills around the corners on to the other walls (see below). While highlighting the “Do the Dew” theme, it’s more of a wild pastiche of images, including several birds. The mural faces across the river towards Nissan Stadium, which may explain the football, and the musical notes are likely a nod to Nashville’s status as Music City – or they may just be birdsong. This by the way is not Bongang’s first Nashville mural. He has a few others in town, including one just a few blocks away at Center 615.

Located at 500 Main Street. The mural is on the west wall, facing towards Fifth Street and downtown. There is parking at the Citgo.

Wooden at 1767

For a couple of years, one of the most popular posts on this blog in terms of page views was “Beto Forever,” about a large mural on Gallatin memorializing the graffiti artist Ronald “Ronnie” Bobal, who used the name “Beto” in his work. But no mural lasts forever, and perhaps it was simply time, or the new building owner wanted to go in a new direction, and now that mural has been replaced by this riotous image by Brian Wooden.

Wooden is also known for his images of headless, sharp-dressed men, but here he has given 1767 Designs (a company that makes art and furniture from material recovered from demolished homes) a much more colorful and cartoony work, with a tightly-packed mish-mash of machinery, faces and flowers. If you look on his blog, linked above, or his Instagram page, you’ll see that while he’s worked in this style for a long time, lately he’s been focused on it more.

If you want to know more about how this mural was made, there are a couple of videos on Wooden’s IG page that show him working on it.

Located at 2611 Gallatin Pike. The mural is on the south side of the building. Parking is readily available.

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