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nashville public art

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

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Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks

Properly, this piece is called “Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks,” though I think most Nashvillians know it as “the roller coaster looking thing down by the river.” It is far and away one of the most photographed and recognizable works of public art in Nashville. Right across the river from Lower Broad, and an easy walk from there over the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, it’s a major tourist site as well. So why haven’t I put it on the blog before? It is the blog avatar, after all. I don’t know, but I finally got it on the blog to mark a major milestone – 600 pins on the blog map. More about that later.

No, it’s not made from leftover pieces of the Opryland roller coaster, which is a persistent rumor in town. Rather, it’s the product of a national competition to build the very first piece of art commissioned under Nashville’s “Percent for Art” ordinance which sets aside one percent of any of Metro’s general obligation bonds for public art, administered by the Metro Nashville Art Commission, better known at Metro Arts.  The contest was won by Alice Aycock, who based her design on the history of the east bank as an industrial site. Completed in 2007, the piece is 100 feet tall, 100 feet wide, and 60 feet deep. It rests on the foundations of an old gantry crane that once lowered barges into the river.

In comments appearing on the City of Nashville website, Aycock described her creation as a work of static animation. “It changes as you move around it,” the artist explained. “It suggests a certain kind of movement, dance movements, which is why I refer to it as a Ghost Ballet.” (Source)

I personally find it fascinating and have taken hundreds of pictures of it. The first set of photos here show it in normal light from various angles, including what it looks like from across the river.

Ghost Ballet is also a pretty good flood gauge. Normally, the whole work is well above the river, and it’s possible to stand a good 20 feet below its base. When the small part I call “the boat” actually looks like a boat floating on the river, you need to pay attention to the weather, as the risk of flood is increased significantly.

I also like to create more dramatic shots of Ghost Ballet. In particular, the way it interacts with the skyline and the river provides lots of opportunities to create interesting shots.

About the 600 pins – I reached 600 blog posts back in April (and did not realize it at the time). There’s a lag mainly because early on when I started this blog I would use one pin for multiple pieces of art that were in one place. I don’t do that anymore. I also don’t remove pins for art that no longer exists. I would hazard a guess that ten to fifteen percent of the points on the map represent lost art. I try to keep posts updated, so check the link in the pin to see if I’ve noted it as lost. This is not a 100% guarantee though, as I don’t always know what is lost. The patterns on the map are obvious – there are key areas where you find a lot of art. In particular, you find many pieces along Main Street and Gallatin Pike, Twelve South, Downtown, Nolensville Pike, the Jefferson and Buchanan corridors, and Charlotte Pike. The main thing these places have in common is a large number of local businesses. National chains have recently begun to sponsor outdoor art, but this is still primarily a local affair.

Ghost Ballet is located on the East Bank Greenway, next to the Bridge Building. It’s just south of Nissan Stadium. There is in fact free parking. Look for the parking for Cumberland Park, which lies near the river south of the pedestrian bridge (the opposite side from the stadium).

 

 

All aboard the B1281 camper!

Some months ago I wrote about a mural on the back of the then not-yet-open Bar 1281, a “pop-up” backyard bar with Hawaiian and Japanese style food. It’s part of a larger development developed by Bento Box that’s largely finished. Of course, like most bars, Bar 1281 is currently closed, but they also have another mural, this one visible from the street. It appeared last June and was created by Wooden Wave, the Hawaiian-based husband and wife team of Matthew and Roxanne Ortiz. Given the Hawaiian theme of the bar and its Hawaiian roots, it makes sense that the artists are from Hawaii. Scroll through their Instagram page and you’ll soon see that camper vans and treehouses are themes they use a lot. I actually first photographed this last October but wasn’t happy with my pictures. One thing that has changed since then is the appearance of a metal Bigfoot, with a small headstone behind it that reads “Roo Nov 1977 – Mar 31, 1991.” I have found no explanation, but rest in peace, Roo.

B1281 mural Nashville Street art

Bigfoot sculpture Nashville street art

Located at 1281 Third Avenue South. There is some limited street parking on Third.

The AT&T Sculpture

This work took a little bit of sleuthing because it is not labeled. It’s certainly not secret. It lies at 4th and Commerce, at the foot of the Batman Building (aka the AT&T Building), almost directly across the street from the Ryman Auditorium. Certainly, it’s well known to people who work downtown and has been seen by a lot of tourists, and in 2005 it was featured on the cover of the Nashville Business Directory. It turns out that it’s a creation of Lin Swensson, who happens to be the daughter of the architect who designed the AT&T Building, Earl Swensson of ESa. It’s thirty-five feet tall and was unveiled on October 12, 1994. As the Tennesse Department of Community and Economic Development was one of the building’s original tenants, the sculpture was meant to be an abstract representation of Tennessee’s economic growth. The best way to describe it is with the artist’s own words:

The design consists of a granite spire tapering at the top – around the spire is an image of the state of Tennessee.  Out of the state of Tennessee image is a stainless ribbon representing energy emerging, twirling up to meet three kinetic rings representing the world.

The installation was quite a process that involved closing streets and heavy machinery. Swensson herself is apparently still sculpting, but based on her website, it appears her main focus now is healthcare art consulting.

This slideshow takes you on a clockwise walk around the sculpture.

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Located at 333 Commerce Street. The sculpture is in a small well just off the corner of 4th and Commerece. There are benches where you can sit and observe the sculpture, or more likely, have lunch. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

A Splash of Color

For twenty years, these colorful dancing figures have graced the side of the Watkins Park Community Center. They, along with the mosaics and other figures that adorn the entrance, are called “A Splash of Color,” and were done in 2000 by Doug Stevenson, Ronnica Stanley, and Lynn Harroff.  I got their names from the Metro-Owned Artwork Conditions Assessment Report (pdf), but otherwise, I’ve been able to learn little about them. It’s likely they were associated with the community center at the time. Since then a tree has grown up that obscures the center figures, but otherwise, as the report states, their condition, and the condition of the mosaics, is quite good. Pretty impressive for painted wood exposed to the weather. And they definitely bring color and life to an otherwise drab building. Some differ, but I believe bringing beauty to public spaces is a good use of Metro dollars, though, in these tough budget times, we probably won’t be getting anything new for a while. Good thing these relics are holding up well.

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These are the mosaics and other figures at the entrance.

Watkins Figures mural mosaic Nashville Street art

Located at 617 17th Avenue North. The figures along the wall face south towards Jo Johnston Avenue, while the entrance is on 17th Avenue. The community center has parking, and street parking is available nearby.

The new art of Patagonia

A couple years ago, what had been the south wall of the Turner Supply Company sported a double mural collaboration between Nathan Brown and Chris Zidek, who signs his work Zidekahedron, which I featured in the post From me to you. But this is go-go Nashville, Turner Supply has moved on, and the new tenants wanted something else. Actually, two tenants wanted something else, the local branches of the chains Patagonia and Superica. The original mural had a Brown piece on the left (west) side of the wall, with Zidek’s piece on the right (east). Now there’s no Zidek piece, and a new Brown piece is on the right, on the side of Patagonia, while there’s a hand-painted sign on the left on the side of Superica, which I’ll feature whenever I figure out who the artist is (It would be nice if it were credited anywhere by Superica, but I haven’t found such credit yet). The new Brown piece, while very much reflecting his style, does seem to evoke mountains, bringing to mind the great outdoors Patagonia wants you to associate with their brand. It’s also another example of a national brand sporting a local mural, though this not such a stretch for the brand image of Patagonia. This wasn’t an easy photo to shoot, as there is a building right across the road which makes it very difficult to get a straight-on picture, which is necessary because of the wooden slats. I had to hold the camera to my side and take a bunch of pictures hoping I got the right shot. A lot got left on the cutting room floor! I also had to do two different shoots, because the first time, I didn’t realize anything was under the wood slats!

Patagonia Mural street art Nashville

Patagonia Mural street art Nashville

Located at 601 Overton Street. The mural actually faces Mansion Street, on the south side of Patagonia. You can put some coins in the meters along Overton, but many of the nearby paid lots have one-hour free parking to encourage shopping in the Gulch, so make it part of your Gulch crawl and enjoy the art!

Hunt Supply Co.

When is hidden art not hidden art? When it’s only visible from an alleyway, but that alleyway has a fair amount of foot traffic. Hunt Supply Co. supplies all your skateboarding needs and is found in an alley a couple doors back behind Beyond the Edge in the Five Points district. According to Google Maps, the alley is called “#929 Alley.” As a long-time resident of Lockeland Springs, which borders Five Points, this is news to me. Hunt Supply has been in place for a few years, long enough to acquire multiple stages of art. For some time, there was an Emily Miller wheat-pasted and skateboarding paper wolf just below the sign (see at the bottom). The current work is by David Wright of Manecoon Sign Company and an artist he credits as @_wanted_1 on Instagram (that account has no pictures or information). It features a western scene, which may or may not have much to do with skateboarding, but the wolf at the end mimics Miller’s piece. If you check out the Instagram page of Jason Hunt, the store’s owner, you’ll see a fair amount of wolf imagery, and the shop dog, Harley, has something of wolf-like look. There’s a large sign in the back which was also done by Wright.

UPDATE: This building and all its art was destroyed by the March 3, 2020 tornado.

Located at 118 South 11th Street D. The “D” means “behind.” There is a path that reaches from 11th to Hunt Supply, but the real front of Hunt Supply, and the main mural, faces the alley. The alley can be reached from the 1000 block Woodland Street between Five Points Pizza (at 1012) and Boston Common, aka Batter’d & Fried (at 1008 A). It can also be accessed from the 1000 block of Russell Street, next to the YMCA Community Action Program building at 1021, or from the paid parking lot next to Beyond the Edge.

Jerry’s Artarama

Of course an art supply store has a mural. This is particularly true if that art supply store is in Nashville. When the Nashville branch of Jerry’s Aratama moved from Antioch to East Nashville two years ago, it acquired a mural even before it opened. The mural appropriately features many of the colors you might want to create art from, pouring out of tubes of the primary colors, red, blue and…wait, yellow? Ok, not actually the primary colors. But you can get green from blue and yellow, so close enough. The main mural is a joint work by Hannah Holgate, who has been on this blog before, and Marshall Hall, who is making his debut here. Both Holgate and Hall work in the frame shop at this store. I live in this neighborhood, and pass this mural every day, so why has it taken two years to put this very obvious mural on the blog? I got pictures of it a long time ago, but after that, the artists added their signatures, so I needed new ones. And the combination of an empty parking lot and good light eluded me for months. But it is just as well, as I can add the tubes of paint Hall recently put in every parking space (minus the handicapped spaces). There are eighteen in all, and all a little different. This is a very art dense spot, and as a result, this may be the most image dense article on this blog! It’s worth noting that Jerry’s Artarama is a national chain, breaking the rule that national chains don’t so local outdoor art. But of course, this is an art supply chain, and that rule is beginning to break in Nashville anyway. The slideshows below are 1) closeups of the mural and 2) four sets of the paint tubes, running east to west. There are also some signs in the parking lot, painted on artist’s palettes. You might notice some pallets (not the artist kind but the moving stuff kind) in a couple photos – those seem to be a permanent feature of the site.

UPDATE: The main mural on the wall, including the corrugated metal door, was severely damaged in the March 3, 2020 tornado. Most of it was lost, and what’s left of it will probably have to be replaced. One of the signs was damaged, but the parking lot is fine. See What we lost in the storm.

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Located at 713 Main Street. Obviously, there is parking, though you will inevitably park on top of some art. A good strategy is to get there before they are open (10:00 am every day except Sunday when they open at noon) and park next door.

Jefferson Street Gateway to Heritage

Like in so many other cities in the United States, when the interstates came to Nashville, the were driven straight through the heart of a vibrant and historic African American neighborhood, the Jefferson Street corridor. As part of The New York Times’s 1619 Project, Princeton historian Kevin M. Kruse spelled out the history of this terrible legacy, focusing on Atlanta but telling a story that applies just as well here. Stitching back together what was torn apart isn’t easy, but the Jefferson Street Gateway to Heritage is an attempt to move in that direction. Jefferson Street is chopped up by interstates twice, but the worst spot is where I-40 sails over almost two blocks, between 26th Avenue and where 24th should be. Perhaps appropriately, it is there where one finds the center of this ongoing Metro-backed beautification process that seeks also to address Jefferson Street’s history. One of the key figures in kick-starting this process was Dr. Learotha Williams, a history professor at Tennesse State University (and colleague of your intrepid blogger). In the first phase, finished in 2012, the design firm Edge led a community-driven process that led to a new plaza under the bridge, featuring columns with plaques honoring various figures from the neighborhood’s history, and a giant mural by James R. Threalkill and Michael McBride. The Jefferson Street this mural shows is geographically fluid (Meharry Medical College is shown next to TSU, not its actual neighbor Fisk University), but fully captures the dynamism of the neighborhood’s past and present. The focus is on Jefferson Street’s deep musical history, which is a recurring theme in other modern Jefferson Street murals, such as the ones featured in Guitar heroes and Back in the Day. The mural also features lost businesses, like the Ritz Theater, while linking to the present with a reference to J.U.M.P., the Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership. The historic plaques on the columns (click to see some closeups – this story describes all the people featured) were done by FORMS+SURFACES and the landscape design was done by LOSE Design.

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Jefferson History mural street art Nashville

Located on the north side of the 2400 and 2500 blocks of Jefferson Street. The mural is on the east side of the site. There are also more history-themed columns on nearby blocks of Jefferson. Street parking is available starting at about 2600 Jefferson St.

 

Line it up

The tricky part about photographing this Sterbo (aka TerboSterbo) mural is knowing exactly where to stand and how high to hold the camera. Notice that the artist included the two utility poles as part of the installation. I think I did a fairly good job of lining up the lines on the poles with the lines on the wall, but I know I didn’t get it quite right. With the gentrification in Salemtown and Germantown, art has been spreading for a while (including the piece in the most popular post on this blog, ever), but not as much as 12 South or the Gallatin/Main/Five Points region – yet. That this is a more residential area prevents some of that, but some of the condos and apartments have outdoor art, such as the piece in Swoosh! This Sterbo piece is on a decidedly ungentrified place – Plumbers of Nashville, which despite that link doesn’t have its own internet presence or is even found on Google maps. But now they have a very colorful wall.

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Located at 1800 5th Avenue North. The mural actually faces Buchanan Street, near the middle of the 400 block. Street parking is available.

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