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Not all heroes wear capes

Masked doctor mural Nashville street art

I don’t often report on very new art, but this seems timely and relevant. The artist who goes by JamersonSGC and signs his work “Low Key Art” only put this up about a week ago. He writes, “You are my superhero.. be safe..#nurse #doctor.” Ironically, this corner on Lafayette Street, a corridor Jamerson has done a lot of work on, usually has people congregating, as it did when I went to photograph this mural. A lot of it comes down to the fact that social distancing is a matter of privilege. Some people because of their income or housing situation really can’t, and some people, like our medical personnel, like our grocery workers and delivery folks (to name a few) have jobs that require them to take risks. We should honor those risks, and seek ways to help the people who don’t have adequate housing, income, and medical care to shelter in place.

Jamerson has some other work on this building I’ll feature later.

Located at 125 Lafayette Street, on the building that houses Southside Market and Deli and Big G’s. The mural faces Lincoln Street. There is some street parking in the immediate area.

Melrose Forever

Sitting near the busy intersection of Kirkwood Avenue and Franklin Pike on the backside of Melrose Mini Mart sits this tribute to three Tennesse R&B greats: Clifford Curry, Dobie Gray, and Bobby Hebb. Curry lived in Knoxville, and he recorded in Nashville, while Ray was born in Texas and lived in Nashville as an adult, and Hebb was a life-long Nashvillian. Curry was a master of Carolina Beach Music and was inducted into the Beach Music Hall of Fame, and is perhaps best known for “I Can’t Get Hold of Myself.” Gray and Hebb had bigger, iconic hits you all know but may not know who was behind them. While Gray had other hits, it’s “Drift Away” he’s best known for, though younger audiences may know the 2002 duet/remake with Uncle Kracker better than the original 1973 edition. Hebb is the guy behind “Sunny.” That link, by the way, is to a stripped-down live version, since y’all already know what the studio version sounds like. You can hear it in your head right now, yes? All three men have passed in recent years; Hebb in 2010, Gray in 2011, and Curry in 2016. The mural is by Steve Ford, a Nashville artist who sells his work at Lazy Lane Graphics, and specializes in “Southeastern Sports Art,” i.e., art about your favorite college football teams from the South. As far as I know, this is his first mural in town.

Located at 2609 Eighth Avenue South (Franklin Pike). The mural is on the north side of the building, facing towards downtown and the Dollar General at 2605. You can usually park in the parking lot between the two stores, but any day but Sunday, cars from the auto repair place attached to Melrose Mini Mart are likely to be parked in front of the mural.

La Hacienda Taqueria

Facing the front parking lot of La Hacienda Taqueria, one of the original Mexican restaurants on Nolensville Road, is a mural that has been seen by tens if not hundreds of thousands of people by now. But it’s unsigned, and most people would have no idea who might have made it. Even the staff just points to the signature on the main mural inside, which was clearly done by the same artist. It reads “M. Torok ’99.” Well, there is a painter and muralist named “M. Torok” with a deep connection to Nashville, Mitchell Torok. Torok, who now resides in Texas, had a long career in country music as a performer and, in partnership with his late wife, Gail “Ramona” Redd, a songwriter. He is best known for the songs “Mexican Joe,” (which was an even bigger hit for Jim Reeves) and “Caribbean,” and he and Redd wrote successful songs for a number of other artists. But before he became a recording star, he got a dual degree in Art and Journalism from Stephen F. Austin University. He must have had a reputation as a visual artist in Nashville because he  “was commissioned to paint a 110-foot, five-panel mural titled “The History of the Grand Ol’ Opry”, which was on display in the Ryman Auditorium until it was remodeled for live performances.” (Wikipedia) (That remodeling happened in 1994.) He also painted an 85-foot long mural called “Elvis-A-Rama” detailing the life of Elvis Presley, which was last seen in a museum owned by Jimmy Velvet that closed in 2006. It’s unclear what happened to that mural. The La Hacienda murals, including the ones inside, are a little worse for wear, but still going strong. The outdoor one featured here has been broken up by the construction of an outdoor seating area, but you can see that hidden part below in the slideshow. And being from 1999, it is definitely one of the oldest outdoor murals in town. That I know of only the Chromatics mural (1993) and the renovated painter mural at the Hard Rock Cafe are older (date unknown, but it was hidden for decades by an adjoining building that was torn down in or just before 1994, when Hard Rock opened). The Angels Will Rise/Seventh Letter mural came just after La Hacienda, in 2001. As of this writing, Torok at 90 years old is apparently still alive and painting and writing in Texas, making him perhaps the oldest and certainly one of the oldest artists I’ve featured on this blog. UPDATE: I have since discovered the mural on the side of Nudie’s on Lower Broad is dated 1993.

Hacienda Mural street art Nashville

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Located at 2615 Nolensville Pike. The mural actually sits on the north wall (facing downtown) of La Hacienda Supermercado next door at 2617. There is parking in front and in the rear of the restaurant (the rear parking is reached from Grandview Avenue). If you want any chance to see it without cars parked in front, arrive before 10:00 a.m., which is when the restaurant opens each day.

Local art comes to Kroger

I have written many times on this blog about how national chains don’t do local art. They have their centralized branding, and that’s that. Good luck finding any local outdoor art anywhere near Rivergate Mall. It can, in fact, be done, but that example is on a local business. Lately, however, things are changing. Top Golf is a recent example, and of course, the local version of Cracker Barrel’s faux-local chain Holler & Dash has its mural. (Cracker Barrel recently bought Maple Street Biscuit Company and plans to rebrand all of its Holler & Dash sites, so that mural may be in danger.) But Kroger is not pretending to be local and is a much more traditional firm than Top Golf, so a big, giant, neighborhood-celebrating mural for its grand reopening done by local artists, Eastside Murals to be precise, is a significant development. I’ve noted that more and more local companies are seeing outdoor art as part of the cost of doing business in Nashville, and maybe now at least some of the big corporate firms are also beginning to get that message. I’ve also noted that art breeds art, and Main St/Gallatin Pike from 5th Street to Trinity Lane is one of the most art-dense neighborhoods in Nashville. The Eastland Kroger sits right in the middle of that stretch. This particular mural came about as a result of Kroger collaborating with The Studio 208 owner Ashley Segroves, who’s been a strong advocate and promoter of mural art in Nashville for several years. Says Seagroves:

Kroger worked with The Studio 208 and Eastside Murals to collaborate for a uniquely East-side vibe. The coolest part of the story is that one of the artists, Sterling [Goller-Brown], grew up behind me on Eastland Ave. I watched him learn to play drums. Full circle and so fascinating since Kroger wanted to stay as local as possible.

The most obviously local part of the mural, besides the words “East Side” and the train trestle bridge from Shelby Park, is the map. If you are used to maps having north at the top, you’ll be a little confused. North is actually to the left, where the grapefruit and peaches are. On the flipped map below, the red “K” in the center of the red circle is where Eastland Kroger is. The map is a little abstract, so ignore the inconsistencies.

Eastland Kroger Map Mural street art Nashville

Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come. The visual fabric of Nashville would be greatly improved if more national chains followed Kroger’s example.  Also, I must note this Channel 4 story about the Kroger grand reopening. It says only that the mural was done by “a local artist.” Really? It’s actually signed. Please everyone, unless an artist wants to remain anonymous, or is genuinely impossible to identify, credit them for crying out loud.

East Kroger mural street art Nashville

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Located at 711 Gallatin Avenue. The mural is on the south side of the building, facing Eastland Avenue, behind the pharmacy. It’s a grocery store, so lots of parking is available.

La Mexicana Market

“Caniceria” means “butcher shop,” so the pig and birds in this mural probably aren’t long for this world, despite the pig’s jaunty hat. Of course, we see other things you can get at La Mexicana Market, like agua fresca and tortillas. The picture above is part of a larger work (see below) that includes some of the usual themes of cacti and Old Mexico often found on Mexican grocery stores and restaurants. The mural is signed “Vera 2014,” which is short for Jose G. Vera-Gonzalez, who seems to do a fair amount of art for local Mexican restaurants, mostly indoors. This is the first example of his work on this blog, but there will no doubt be more. As I have noted before, the artists who decorate Hispanic and other ethnic businesses in town are important contributors to Nashville’s visual fabric, but they don’t get the same attention as the artists usually featured in “best Nashville murals” articles. Don’t you want your picture taken with that pig?

Market mural street art Nashville

Mexico mural street art Nashville

Located at 989 Murfreesboro Road. There is a fair amount of parking at the market.

Bare Bones Butcher

Cow mural street art sign Nashville

Some months before Bare Bones Butcher opened, it seemed likely a butcher was going into the new building at 51st and Illinois in The Nations. Either that or maybe a Mexican folk art store. Their quite visible sign (by their own account) is a product of I Saw The Sign, Meghan Wood’s hand-lettered sign and mural company. Their work is all over town and you’ve no doubt shopped at one of their clients, or at least driven on the interstate near the football stadium. While their work is generally more understated than that of many of our local muralists, by helping a number of local businesses up their graphics game, I Saw The Sign has become an important contributor to Nashville’s “look.”

Located at 906 51st Avenue North. There is parking on the backside of the building and on nearby side streets. Get you some fresh cuts and enjoy the art!

First One

Sign mural street art Nashville

Who doesn’t love a great sign? First One Market on East Old Hickory Boulevard has a wonderfully chaotic sign, welcoming friends, extolling revolution, letting you know who’s boss (well, someone is boss, it’s not really clear) and assuring you that this is the place you can get your phone charged. Is the fist raised in protest holding a cup with a straw, or a walkie-talkie? I’m not sure, but I am sure it qualifies as art. I discovered this, by the way, when I decided to drive the entirety of Old Hickory Boulevard, minus of course the part that lies beneath the waters of Percy Priest Lake. Take a day and give it a try. It’s a great way to really get a grasp on the diversity of Nashville and Davidson County.

Located at 660 East Old Hickory Boulevard. The mural/sign is on the east side of the building. There is plenty of parking. Load up on cheap tobacco and beer and enjoy the art!

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