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nashville public art

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

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Metro Art

The Riders

Between 2010 and 2015, Metro Arts sponsored a series of artistic bike racks by local and regional artists that are now scattered around town. One of the first to go in was this one, The Riders (2010) by Seth Conley. Being based at the foot of the Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, it’s seen by thousands of commuters and tourists every day, even more on a game day. The sculpture is something of a cheeky visual joke, a set of peloton riders racing along to which you to can attach your very stationary bike. (A peloton is a pack of riders who take turns riding in front, where they are fully exposed to the wind, while those behind draft off of them.) I’ve featured a few of these bike racks on the blog before – rarely do you see any bikes attached to them. Those scooters in the back, however, had been neatly placed all around the bike rack when I went to photograph it. They beeped at me a lot when I moved them. The artist, Conley, took a little work to verify, in part because none of his other work looks anything like this. But on his artist Facebook page, where you can see much of his art, there is a picture of the work when it was barely halfway done. Conley hasn’t updated that page since 2018, perhaps because his current job likely keeps him busy – Senior Creative Art Director at Wizards of the Coast, the home company of both Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. (His Instagram page is a little more up-to-date.)

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Located on the 400 block of First Street South, just south of Nissan Stadium and of Victory Avenue, across the street from the east end of the Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. This is in the middle of a giant parking lot. The only part that is reliably free is the part labeled “Cumberland Park Parking” right across the street from the bike rack.

Ariel

Sitting in one corner of Centennial Park is a small, playful kinetic sculpture with a little plaque that reads simply, “Ariel 1979 Lin Emery.”  Lin Emery is a 93-year-old artist from New Orleans who since 1972 has specialized in kinetic, moving sculpture. He art today is found in museums and galleries around the country and the world, including the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Foreign Art in Sofia, Bulgaria; and the Flint Institute of Art in Michigan. 64 Parishes has a nice write up about her and her approach to art. That such a significant artist would have a piece sitting in front of Metro Parks’ Centennial Art Center is probably because she did not have quite the stature in 1979 that she does now. Art auction sites are coy about values, but one auction site suggests starting prices for her pieces from a few thousand dollars for smaller pieces to up to $50,000 for the larger ones. It’s a shame to show this piece in still pictures, as it does move in the wind. This video includes some of Emery’s pieces in motion, including one that resembles the Nashville piece. There’s a bonus in the pictures below – my red Honda Fit!

A side note about the Centennial Art Center. The Metro Parks website indicates it was a swimming complex that closed in 1959. But, this article says that in 1961, two young African American men tried to swim at the pool in Centennial Park, housed in a building with Doric columns (which the art center has) and a few days later all public pools in Nashville were closed. I think someone has their dates wrong.

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Located at 301 25th Ave North. The museum and the sculpture are north of the lake in Centennial Park, more-or-less across the street (25th) from the Sarah Cannon Research Center (i.e., the Minnie Pearl Center). When the museum is closed, you can park out front – otherwise, use other nearby park parking.

 

Road to the Mountaintop

Along Charlotte, not far from the Capitol, lies William Edmonson Park, adjacent to the John Henry Hale Apartments, an MDHA-run affordable housing complex that was completely rebuilt a few years ago. As part of that reconstruction, the park was redone as an art park honoring William Edmonson, a decision that in part came out of community discussions. Edmonson was a local sculptor who, in 1937,  became the first African-American and the first Tennessean to have a solo show at the Modern Museum of Art in New York. The park contains three modern sculptures commissioned by Metro Arts (and an arrangement of limestone column fragments honoring Edmonson). This one, “Road to the Mountaintop” (2014) is by Thornton Dial. In many ways, this is quite appropriate. Like Edmonson, Dial was a self-taught African-American artist who devoted himself full-time to art in his 50s after losing employment. While Edmonson worked in readily available Nashville limestone, Dial, a former metalworker, used iron, steel and found objects to create his work. Road to the Mountaintop is made from steel, sheet metal, and automotive paint, and has a weathered look as a result. The main photos here are from October 2019, but the two at the bottom are from July 2016, and you can see some clear distinctions. Dial had this to say about his work (quoted in NashvilleArts Magazine):

“I make my art for people to learn from, but I only have made one piece to go outdoors before this one. I loved the idea that people would be driving down the street and looking at my art outdoors. More people can see it that way and maybe understand what it is that artists like me think and are trying to tell people. The piece is about Martin Luther King and Civil Rights in some ways, but it is also about the struggles that every person faces if they’re a woman or a man, a black person or a white person. We all got to struggle to get up. That’s our job, our duty.”

Here are photos from the park’s dedication, where you can also see some of the other work in the park, works which I will put on the blog in the coming weeks. Oh, and the Nashville Scene’s park reviewer (which is apparently a thing) is not a fan of the park. I think it’s nice, myself.

On a related note, there was a recent attempt by Metro to sell the park in Edghill where Edmonson’s home used to be. It’s stalled for now, and the neighbors want their own art park honoring Edmonson. If it happens, it would certainly be a fitting honor.

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Located at 1600 Charlotte Avenue. The sculpture lies at the northeast end of the park, facing 16th Avenue North, near the intersection with Charlotte. The nearest street parking is one block north on Capitol Point.

Anchor in the Storm

Anchor sculpture public art Nashville

Of all the works sponsored by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, this is one of the more unusual. It becomes more understandable once you read about it on Metro Art’s website. This piece, “Anchor in the Storm” (2013), by Betty and Lee Benson, commemorates a moment when a quarry saved the local neighborhood. During the 2010 flood, 700 billion gallons of floodwater poured into the Reostone Quarry (located on Robertson Avenue just a few blocks from the sculpture), water that would have otherwise innundated the nearby neighborhoods of Charlotte Park, The Nations, and Crowley Wood. The rock, from the quarry, was carved and donated by the quarry’s owners,  Rogers Group. The log structure is a raft, representing the neighborhoods saved by the quarry. Of course, I imagine it mostly serves as some interesting whimsey for small children to climb on. (The mural on the water tank behind is by Eric Henn. Read about it in This one is BIG!)

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Located at 6105 Morrow Road, i.e. West Park. The sculpture is just a few feet from Morrow Rd, in the northeast corner of the park. There is plenty of parking at the park, and there is nearby street parking.

 

This one is BIG!

Forest Mural street art Nashville

When Metro decided it was time to renovate both the West Park Pumping Station and West Park itself, plans called not only for new facilities for the dilapidated park but, oh yeah, also a 210-million gallon overflow tank to deal with major storms. That is, a 37 foot high, 260-foot diameter tank, plunked right on park grounds. That’s not exactly something you can hide. So to soften the blow a bit, the city hired Eric Henn to brighten up an otherwise drab concrete monstrosity. (See the second slide show below for what its unpainted older twin off park grounds looks like.) I think I can say this is the largest mural by far in Nashville. Plug the numbers into the formula for the area of the side of a cylinder, 2πrh, and the mural, which goes all the way around the tank, comes out to about 30,222 square feet. (“r” would be 130 feet, half the diameter, and “h” is the hight, 37 feet. The roof, by the way, which Henn and his team also painted, adds about 53000 square feet.) The silo painting of the older man and two kids is about 200 feet tall, but even with a base of 30 feet or so on each side, that only gets you to about 6000 sq ft for the man about a third of that for the kids, so 9000 or so. The Nations Wall that is only a few blocks from West Park, and which I have not blogged about yet (you can see a few pictures here) is probably less than 9000 sq ft all together, and the Off the Wall project in its entirety is in a similar range. The big murals downtown also top out at 10,000 sq ft or less. So yeah, this one is big, and you have to a bit of hiking to see all of it – 816 ft plus a little more, since you can’t hug right on the wall. Henn has an album on his Facebook page detailing the production of this mural, as well as a video of one of his colleagues struggling to stay out of the mud. His web page in incomplete, but it does suggest water tanks are something of a specialty. You can read here about all the improvements to the park, and here is an infographic about what the tank and the pumping station do. The first slideshow is a walk around the tank going clockwise from the featured picture above. The second shows some more distant views, the unadorned twin, and a closeup.

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Located at 6105 Morrow Road. There is plenty of parking at the park. If the spots next to the community center are full, there is another lot past the water tank.

Camino y Raíces/Roots & Routes

Roots

There’s mixed media, and then there’s mixed media. The sculpture of a stack of books at the Downtown Library featured in Heavy reading is made from stones from five continents. “Camino y Raíces/Roots & Routes” in Azafrán Park contains coins from no less than 77 countries. Azafrán Park, which opened in August, is the result of a partnership between Conexión Américas and Metro Parks and Recreation, among others. It sits on the north side of Casa Azafrán, where the Park building featured in Color me gone – soon once stood. It serves to provide a community space, particularly for children, in a section of town that has little open green space. This piece was produced by Jairo Prado in collaboration with students from the Opportunity Now program. As explained in this Nashville Arts interview with Prado, the students came from Glencliff, Nashville School for the Arts, Overton, and Hume Fogg. The mural, by its title and its coins from many lands, speaks to the different origins of many Nashvillians, particularly the immigrant community along Nolensville and Murfreesboro Pikes. Prado of course also designed and led the production of the mosaic that adorns the front of Casa Azafrán, Migration. The coins for this mural were collected at Casa Azafrán, in the community and even at the airport! This is a bit of an art hotspot. The mosaic faces the giant photo mural from Oz Arts Inside/Out, Part 1. The mural featured in Hidden away is really hidden now, as there is a concrete wall in front of it, but it can still be glimpsed from the side and through some holes in the wall. And there’s a mural on that concrete wall I’ll feature later, as well as some mobile giant snails from Cracking Art and a colorful block arrangement for kids to play on. All of it will probably be on the blog eventually.

Located at 2187 Nolensville Pike. There is parking in front and behind Casa Azafrán.

Coloring the community

ENBBQMain

The folks who own East Nashville BBQ Company may or may not have the very most colorful BBQ shack around, but they are certainly contenders. Many hands went into this mural, which is how artist Andee Rudloff often does things. In this project and others, such as the one featured in Down by the river, she contracted with a group of people who collaborated with her on both the design and the production. Here, the main collaborators were the children and families of the Boys and Girls Club of Middle Tennesee (Cleveland Park Club) and the Cleaveland Park Neighborhood Association. It’s also a Nashville Metro Arts Commision project, which helped fund it through its THRIVE Community Arts Project. There were other sponsors as well – check the list of names on the sign that’s featured in the slideshow below. As is often true with Rudloff’s collaborative works, there’s a video showing how the mural came together (the video is by Stacey Irvin). It shows Rudloff brainstorming with the kids, then painting the black and white outline of the mural, followed by the community pitching in to fill in the white spaces with color. It all came together June 2, 2016, and continues as a colorful marker of community spirit. Added bonus: There’s a couple of pigs out front – see the slideshow.

UPDATE: This building has been demolished, and the mural with it. No word on the pigs.

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Located at 829 Lischey Avenue, at the southeast corner of Lischey and Cleveland Street. The mural faces west towards Lischey. There is parking at the BBQ place and some street parking on Lischey. Load up on pork and enjoy the art!

 

Bee Cycle

BeeCycle

It is fantastic that there is dedicated funding to produce works of public art in Nashville. Unsurprisingly, Metro Arts sometimes comes under fire for the projects it funds, because everyone is an art critic, and for perhaps being too focused on downtown. But they’ve also funded a lot of work that has become important to the fabric of this community. It’s hard to imagine the riverfront without the Ghost Ballet, otherwise known as that weird roller-coaster to nowhere. One of the more innovative things Metro Arts has funded is a number of funky bike racks around town, though I rarely see bikes attached to them. This one, called “Bee Cycle,” (November 2016) is the work of Randy Purcell, a local artist. The work itself was inspired in part because Purcell uses beeswax in his paintings. Purcell says the rack is his first work of public art.  Here’s hoping he does more!

Located at the Hadley Park & Community Center at 1037 28th Ave North. The bike rack is located on the south side of the building. If you enter the park from 28th street entrance, the rack is right off the traffic circle on the left side of the building, near the B-Cycle station. Ah, the name of the rack is also a pun! There is parking at the community center and on nearby streets.

Oh give me a home

Buffalo statues street art NashvilleDown at the very southern end of Dickerson, there is a herd of buffalo. Sure, they’re bronze, but still, we’ve got buffalo! Installed in 2009 as part of a joint Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency and Tennessee Department of Transportation funded revitalization project for Dickerson Pike, they harken back to the road’s origin as a trail used by buffalo to get to nearby salt licks. They are certainly an eye-catching addition to the neighborhood. The artist is apparently a person or company named  “Cembrock,” but I can find no more information on that.

Located on the traffic island just south of the intersection of Dickerson and Grace, where First Street and Dickerson merge. Access is tricky, as you have to cross Dickerson on foot to get to the island. The nearest parking is at the Nia House Montessori school, but when school’s in session you’ll need to park at the convenience store at the intersection with Grace.

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