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

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Murals

Urban Roots

Uban Roots Mural Nashville street art

One casualty of the pandemic is that I don’t spend as much time driving around town as I did before, and so I didn’t discover this mural from February 2020, created at the tail end of the “before times,” until quite recently. That it’s somewhat hidden away in a less-trafficked part of Germantown didn’t help, but in a recent drive around the neighborhood, it’s one of a few new works of art I found there that have appeared during the months of the pandemic.

This particular mural is a production by the Murfreesboro artists Travis and Alicia Maynard, who work under the moniker Murfreesboro Murals. This is the second of their works featured on this blog, the other being a mural at Beaut Creations on Jefferson Street, which went up back in 2019.

While that mural also features flowers, that’s a coincidence and not a real theme for Murfreesboro Murals. Here it’s a nod to the sponsor, Urban Roots Market. Urban Roots bills itself as a purveyor of natural and CBD products and uses an image of roots in its logo. So a deeply rooted tree festooned with a wild abundance of flowers and symbols of Nashville makes sense.

Crowning the tree is the Nashville skyline, recognizable by its signature Batman Building. The seal from the Tennesse flag, a guitar and sax, and a musical score round out the Nashville symbolism. I tried playing the tune, but it’s not one I recognize.

The odd crop? I do like to show art in context, but really, it’s about not wanting Facebook to murder the crop when this article gets shared there.

Located at 1307 2nd Avenue North, near the corner with Monroe Street. The mural is on the south side of the building, facing towards downtown. Street parking is available on 2nd, and there is a small parking lot in front of the building.

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.

The Big Grey Bird of Elegy Coffee

Elegy Bird mural Nashville street art

I call this the Big Grey Bird because I own a copy of Birds of Tennesee and this screaming bird at Elegy Coffee doesn’t seem to quite fit with any of them. Maybe it’s a bird from somewhere else and maybe it’s a bird from the mind of the artist. To me, it looks a lot like a small parrot, but parrots generally have hooked beaks. But it doesn’t really matter, it’s still a great mural.

It’s the work of Nashville artist Brian Wooden. You may have seen some of his images of headless, sharp-dressed men around town, but he works in many styles, including a wild, cartoony style found on a mural further south on Gallatin Road at 1767 Designs

The choice to put a bird flying through a golden triangle doesn’t have much to do with the Elegy Coffee brand. Their logo is an all-seeing eye. But if you step inside, you’ll definitely see many touches of black, grey, and gold in their interior decor, so it fits with the cool, subdued color style of the restaurant.

This mural went up almost a year ago, and I confess I only noticed it a couple of months ago even though I live not too far away. That’s a feature of the pandemic. The pandemic blahs is also why haven’t been posting much lately, but there’s a lot of new work that came out this last year, and I’m going to try to get back in the swing of things and get it all on the blog.

Located at 2909A Gallatin Pike, right next to Walden Bar. The mural is on the south side of the building (that’s in the direction of downtown) and faces an alley that goes to the back parking lots. Free parking is hard to come by in this area, but there are plenty of paid lots along the alley that runs behind Elegy and Walden.

68 Years (An Off the Wall Project)

BLK.JHN Mural Nashville Street art

Back in April, 2019, I thought I had completed a series on the fourteen (and only fourteen) murals of the Off the Wall project. Well, while there was a hiatus in new murals for about a year, Tinsley Dempsey, the person behind this large outdoor gallery, has since managed to get more walls for the project, more artists, and apparently more funding. Three new murals have appeared since the end of what I will now call the first phase of the project, including one by Nino C. Flores that went in at the end of 2020 and and one from Tarabella Aversa that went in the previous April. Dempsey has said that she wants to run murals all the way down the 2900 block of Felicia Street, which would have murals wrapping all the way around the block.

This is presumably the first of a series of murals that will go on a long low wall that runs along Felica Street, and it went up back in March. It’s by the artist BLK.JHN. Like much of his work, it’s done in a vivid, pop-art style. I call the post “68 Years” because that’s how BLK.JHN titled the painting that he made that this mural is based on. The painting and the mural are in honor of his grandparents, who would have celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary on March 31. Sadly, his grandmother passed the day before he finished this mural. This isn’t the only memorial mural in the Off the Wall series. There’s a mural honoring Jessi Zazu, as well as a work by Omari Booker honoring his sister.

BLK.JHN seems to have only done a few murals, and this appears to be his first in Nashville. I would hope we see more, as his style is bold and works well in mural form.

Located at 2901 Felicia Street. That’s an imaginary address, as this is a back wall of the Abbot West Self Storage complex at 3020 Charlotte Avenue. It lies about 150 feet west of the corner of 28th Avenue and Felicia Street. There’s a small gravel parking lot right next to the mural.

The Gulch Dog Park, Part 6 – Allison Paoli

Paoli Gulch Mural Nashville street art

This is the sixth and last in the series I’ve been doing covering the murals in the dog park in The Gulch. In the summer of 2019, MarketStreet Enterprises, the city-appointed master developer of The Gulch, opened a contest for new murals for a dog park that was then still under development. The new dog park lies at the top of a hill on the west side of The Gulch, overlooking I-40, just uphill from the Turnip Truck. The artists who won the contest are largely new names in the Nashville mural world, expanding the roster of our local muralists.

This mural is the sixth from the right and one of two in this series that’s found in the part of the park set aside for large dogs. It’s all the way on the far left end of the dog park. It’s the work of Nashville artist Allison Paoli. Paoli is a difficult artist to research. That blog I linked to hasn’t been updated in four years, and her Twitter account has been dormant almost as long. I think she had an Instagram account at one point, but if so it’s been deactivated. I do know that besides being a visual artist she is also a published poet.

What this abstract piece is meant to be I’m not sure. It might be three very abstract dogs or something else entirely. Since Paoli stopped publishing on social media well before she did this mural, I can’t tell you what she might have to say about it. Nevertheless, it’s a bright, lively mural that brings some color and fun to the dog park.

Located at 1216 Pine Street, at the top of the hill. That’s the address of the dog park. There’s an alley that lies between Pine and Laurel Street that leads to the dog park entrance, and this mural is off to the left if you are coming up the hill from 12th Ave South. It’s the closest mural to Pine Street (though you’ll need good shoes to come from that way, given the steep hill). This is The Gulch, so plenty of parking, none of it free. Well, that’s only true if you stay too long. Most Gulch parking is free for the first hour or even longer. Check the signage at each lot and garage.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

The flowers of 5th+Broadway

One of the largest developments of late in the Lower Broad area is the massive open-air mall, food court, and office building known as Fifth + Broadway, or just 5+B. It’s certainly been a hit with tourists, and it’s often packed, particularly on the weekends, even in these pandemic times.

And every new big project in Nashville needs murals, doesn’t it? The mall area of 5+B is L-shaped, and off the corner of the ground floor of the “L” is a covered walkway with a massive flower mural by Tarabella Aversa. Aversa is one of our more prolific local muralists, and flowers often feature strongly in her work, such as the double mural she did for Walden on Gallatin.

This mural, which went up back in March, is even more intensely floral, jam-packed with warmly colored carnations, with shades of pink, purple, yellow, and orange. A giant mural like this one can be a bit overwhelming for the selfie-seeker, so Aversa has added a black diamond near the middle to frame your next portrait.

Flowers mural Nashville street art

I can tell you it works. This is a difficult mural to photograph, both because of the tight angles and overhead lighting, but also the people passing by and all the folks who want their photo with it. Many use the diamond frame, but some seem to prefer a field of flowers behind them.

Aversa also decorated some doors that are on the opposite wall from the main mural. The lighting for them is even more difficult, but I think my photos accurately represent what you’d see if you visited them. For other views, check out Aversa’s own post about the mural, which includes a shot of her working on it.

This quite beautiful mural and its smaller companions tell a larger story about what’s going in the mural scene in Nashville. Where there are tourists, there will be murals. Sure, murals go up for a lot of other reasons, but tourism drives a big part of the movement. And corporate sponsors are becoming more common. The vast majority of sponsors are still local businesses, but corporate sponsors are seen more and more, so much so that soon I won’t even bother to comment.

Located at the 500 block of Broadway. From either the Broadway entrance or the Rep. John Lewis Way North entrance, simply walk until you get to the interior corner, and you will find it. This is downtown, so lots of parking, very little of it free.

East Nash at Koi

East Nash Mural Nashville street art

It’s not often that I feature something brand new, but this piece is so unusual in Nashville outdoor art, I wanted to put it up right away. This particular style is simply not seen in any other Nashville murals that I am aware of it, and it really caught my eye.

It’s on the west side of Koi Susi & Thai on Main in, where else, East Nashville. It’s the work of John Ha, a Los Angeles-based artist with Nashville connections. Ha works in a number of styles and seems to be known best for his take on traditional Chinese and Japanese paintings of koi. This sign, however, is done in a style he calls his Geometrics. He says on his website:

My geometrics are less about the imagery and more about color association. The artwork is abstract and structural. The precision and accuracy in placement is key to a successful pattern. The prism of colors and sequence of shapes creates a retro movement with a modern feel. 

I think he’s right and I don’t think my photo does complete justice to the way this mural seems to shine and pop out of the wall. For anyone coming down Main from downtown, it does become a bright splash of color welcoming all to East Nashville and the Five Points area.

Ha does not have a strong social media presence, so I can’t say precisely how he wound up doing this piece at Koi Sushi & Thai. However, he clearly has Nashville connections, once having had a gallery called HA Factory on 5th Avenue. As best I can tell, it was open in 2011 and 2012 and perhaps longer, but has not been there for a few years (the site is currently a Boost Mobile).

Located at 923 Main Street. The mural faces west, towards downtown. It faces Koi’s parking lot, so there’s parking available, but if you want a clear view of it, avoid the lunch and dinner rushes.

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