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

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Murals

Music Kitty

While Lower Broad is the honky-tonk heart of Nashville’s tourism industry, its hipper cousin is 12 South. It’s a district you find a lot more actual Nashvillians in, as it runs right through a residential neighborhood and has a lot of restaurants and bars popular with locals. So it’s a little less of a ghost town right now, but the lack of traffic again makes it easier to photograph murals, like this one promoting the Nashville Zoo. It was designed by Kate Johns, the Multimedia Designer at the Zoo, and produced by Stephan Sloan, who signs his work Never Xtinct. (Johns is credited on the mural as Kate Sarber, but having recently married, she changed her name. Mazel tov!) Sloan has a number of pictures featuring his progress in making this mural on his Instagram account – here’s the first and the last.

While it doesn’t directly reference them, the mural design is in part inspired by the zoo’s opening of a Sumatran tiger exhibit last Spring. Also known as Sunda tigers, they are seriously endangered.

Music Kitty mural Nashville street art

The Nashville Zoo is, of course, closed at the moment, but is worth your support when it opens. More properly called the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, it has an interesting past, originating as a plantation, later becoming a private wildlife park, before finally becoming a public zoo and wildlife park. It may be the only zoo that includes a plantation home you can visit. Until then, get your tiger fix at the mural on 12th Avenue South.

Located at 2315 12th Avenue South, on the north side of Trim. The mural faces towards downtown. As it is right in front of a parking lot, you might want to try visiting in the early morning, particularly once the pandemic passes.

The Dragon Mural

It’s a little odd to be adding this mural to the blog now. After all, it did first appear in 1995, making it one of the oldest outdoor murals in Nashville, and it was restored in 2015. But this is another pandemic post, because being in the heart of Hillsboro Village, popular with tourists and locals alike, just a hop-skip from Vanderbilt (which happens to own much of Hillsboro Village), there are cars parked in front of it pretty much 24/7/365. The quarantine takes away, but it also gives. The mural was originally done by Adam Randolph and David Glick, and originated as a community project that included students from nearby by Eakin Elementary. The inspiration for the design was the dragon in Fannie Mae Dees park, itself the recipient of a recent restoration. But time took its toll on the mural (see the first link in this post). Vanderbilt, which owns the building (there’s a reason that first link is to a Vandy PR site), the Hillsboro-West End Neighborhood Association and several Hillsboro Village businesses came together to sponsor the refurbishment, working with lead artist Andee Rudloff. (Glick and Randolph are no longer active artists, but were happy to see the work restored.) Also contributing to the restoration were the artists Ian Lawrence and Sterling-Goller Brown (the artists behind Eastside Murals), Stacey Irvin, and Novelty V. Habit. Like when it first went up, the community got involved. On October 31, 2015, there was a “Dragon Refresh” event that drew in community members to help in the restoration.

Dragon Mural Nashville street art

One notable difference between the original mural and the newly updated version is the sign. “Hillsboro Village Est. 1920” is a new addition of neighborhood pride.

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Located at 1801 21st Avenue South, at the corner with Belcourt Avenue, on the side of the building currently occupied by Posh Boutique. The mural faces Belcourt. This is Hillsboro Village – plenty of parking, almost none of it free. Free street parking is available if you are willing to walk a few blocks.

Glen Campbell, Rhinestone Cowboy

Here is more art in a time of pandemic. It’s unusual for me to have back-to-back posts about works in the same neighborhood, but there is something compelling about Lower Broad right now. The epicenter of Nashville’s tourism industry, it’s normally packed with people and raucous with sound – music, laughter, and the shouts and whoops from bachelorettes on pedal taverns. These days, it’s a ghost town, with only cops and the homeless, and two or three determined tourists. The Glen Campbell Museum and Rhinestone Stage only opened last month. On their Instagram page, they excitedly announced their first customers on February 1. By March 23, like much of the district, they were forced to close their doors by the pandemic.

Along the way, they got a spiffy mural, courtesy of Anthony Billups and Dean Tomasek of Music City Murals. On the museum’s Instagram page, you can see an image of it as a work in progress. It depicts Campbell dressed in rhinestone finery in a desert scene, where the Nashville skyline rises on the horizon like a distant mesa. “Rhinestone Cowboy” was, of course, Campbell’s signature song. While it is tempting to think that the line “I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway” is a reference to Lower Broad, that’s unlikely. The song was written and first recorded by Larry Weiss, a New York native who wrote it shortly after moving to Los Angeles, so it’s much more likely a reference to the one in New York.

Interestingly, the mural is not technically on the museum, which is on the second floor of the building that houses the Nashville branch of Rock Bottom Brewery, and it sits in Rock Bottom’s patio.

Campbell Mural Nashville street art

Located at 111 Broadway, at the corner with Second Avenue, across the street from Hard Rock Cafe. To get up close to it, you’ll need to enter Rock Bottom. The entrance to the museum is on Second Avenue. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

Loser’s Postcard

Losers Postcard mural Nashville street art

As I’ve noted before, there’s a growing trend of murals designed to entice people (tourists mainly) to stand in front of them and get their portrait made. Not just because the mural is pretty, but because it’s designed in a particular way that it’s only really complete if someone is standing in front of it. The peacock at Chauhan’s is a great example, and the wings in the Gulch are the best known. A recent entry is this one, by Manuel Fuentes, is one of two murals he’s done for Loser’s Bar and Grill (look for the other one on the blog soon), just off Lower Broad, on Fourth. If you stand right under the “Greetings From Nashville Tennesee” the mural is complete. And you’ll always have Loser’s address, just in case. Sadly, as I write this, the bars and honkytonks have been shut down as part of the fight against COVID-19. Times are rough for the entertainment industry that draws all those tourists to Nashville. I’d note that visitor stats for this blog have cratered. I know from Google Analytics that half of my readership is women aged 18-35, the prime bachelorette demographic, and they ain’t coming to Nashville anymore. At least this is a hobby, not my living.

Based on his Instagram page, Fuentes has other murals, mostly in White House, TN. Whenever I get around to expanding the reach of this blog to surrounding counties, I’ll definitely feature them. This article also indicates that he has others in the works or already up in Davidson County, and I’ll definitely go looking for them. Maybe by the time I get them on the blog, the tourists will be back. Stay safe everyone.

Located at 111 Fourth Avenue South. The mural is on the south side of the building, facing towards the Hilton Nashville Downtown. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

Slow Burn

Continuity and change – it’s one of the most honored, if not hoary ideas in the study of history, the idea that as much as some things change, there are also things that remain consistent. As this Nashville Scene article notes, the little cinderblock building as 726C McFerrin has been host to a series of small joints that served up hot chicken, from The Birdhouse to Ruby Ann’s and now Slow Burn. The East Nashville spot is Slow Burn’s second, the original is up in Madison. The building, as you can see, has a mural for a sign, a mural that practically comes with its own hashtags, with shoutouts to local colleges and other institutions. It’s by an artist who goes simply by Cora, at least in her life as a professional artist.

Slow Burn Mural Nashville street art sign

Like every restaurant right now, Slow Burn is takeout only (and only cards, no cash) to minimize the danger of spreading COVID-19. These are difficult times for our local restaurants. If you are going to get takeout, do what you can to keep out local places afloat.

Located at 726C McFerrin Avenue, near the corner with Cleaveland Street. There is limited parking at this complex.

The green leaves of the Gulch

It’s a strange time to be writing about outdoor art in Nashville. This mural by California artist Ian Ross and sponsored by the Nashville Walls Project is about three years old. I’ve tried photographing it before, but even early on a Sunday morning, there always seems to be cars in the parking lot in front of it, blocking the mural. It’s a giant pay lot in the heart of the Gulch, a hotspot for Nashville tourism. But this is the time of coronavirus, and most of the tourists are gone, including around noon on a Saturday when I took this. Even at the famous wings mural by Kelsey Montague, only a couple of people were getting their picture made when I drove by and no one was waiting, when usually the line is a block or two long.

Ross Mural Nashville street art Gulch

Ross’s mural is a riot of green, swirls of paint suggesting leaves and flowers. It’s enormous and even wraps around the building on the top. There’s a video on Vimeo that shows Ross working on the mural, and it seems it was a little brighter when it was first made, though that may just be the light. Interestingly, though this project was sponsored by the Nashville Walls Project, it doesn’t appear on their website. Ross also works on canvas and is represented locally by The Studio 208. If we ever have First Saturday Art Crawl again, currently canceled because of the virus, maybe you can drop by and see some of his work.

Ross Mural Nashville street art Gulch

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The building the mural is on says “Cummings Signs,” but they are no longer located there.

Located at 200 12th Avenue South. Well, that’s the official address of the building. The main mural faces 11th Avenue South, on the block between Laurel Street and the Demonbreun Street bridge, which sails over 11th. The pieces of the mural that are shown in the second slideshow are found at the corner of 12th Avenue South and Demonbreun. To get to them from the main mural, take the exit at the far left of the second photograph on this page, and turn right on 12th. This is the Gulch, so lots of parking, all of it in pay lots and garages, but most of it is free for an hour or more.

ABLE

Back last July, a new mural appeared in the Stocking 51 development. It promotes the nearby fashion store found in that complex, ABLE. ABLE employs low-income women from around the world, seeking to help them achieve a living wage and a measure of independence. Some of their work, notably their jewelry, is made by women here in Nashville, while other products, including leather goods and clothing, are made by their partners abroad. The mural naturally features women and the company’s motto “She’s worth more.” It’s by  Sarah Liz Tate, a Nashville illustrator who appeared on this blog a month ago for her Crieve Hall mural, which is actually more recent than the ABLE mural. On Tate’s Instagram page, you can see some shots of the mural when it was half done. This mural does replace another mural by Chloé Meyer, which was a mural based on her winning 2018 entry in Georges Debouef wines annual contest for the art that will be on their label for the most recent vintage of Debouef Beaujolais Nouveau. All art is ephemeral, so perhaps it’s short life is appropriate for a mural honoring such an ephemeral wine.

On a happier note, Tate got married last weekend. Mazel tov!

Located at 5026 Centennial Boulevard. There’s parking there and along 51st Avenue North, though it can be tough, particularly around lunchtime.

 

Memories of Lower Broad’s Past

It’s faded, and it’s flaked a bit. But the mural of a street more in keeping with New Orleans than Nashville is looking pretty good for its age. For this mural on the side of the building currently housing Nudie’s Honky Tonk has been greeting revelers on Lower Broad since 1993. Of course, in 1993, Lower Broad was a very different place than the tourist mecca it is today. The bars were a little seedier, and where Layla’s is now there was an Adult World. The 1993 date also means this mural ties with the mural at Chromatics as the second oldest mural in town. That I know of, only the renovated painter man at Hard Hock Cafe is older. In Printer’s Alley, on the side of Bourbon Sreet Blues, there’s a remnant of a mural that may be from the same artist and time period.

Nudie's Mural street Art Nashville

Who that artist is is unclear. The mural is signed, right by the lampost at the end with the horse and buggy. It reads, “B. Hedrick.” I have not been able to pin down who this is, but I’m going to continue to research it. That I was able to take these pictures at all is due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally, as this lot is some of the only parking on Lower Broad, there are lots of cars here. But after videos of crowds partying in Nashville drew criticism from around the world, Nashville Mayor Jim Cooper called on the bars and restaurants in the district to close or restrict seating. Some refused to comply, but by Monday afternoon, the crowds on Lower Broad were notably smaller. It’s a tough situation, as a lot of employees are going without paychecks, but it’s also important to fight the spread of this disease.

Nudie's Mural street Art Nashville

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Located at 409 Broadway. The mural faces east, towards the river. Even if you are willing to pay, parking nearby is hard. Expect to walk a bit, or catch a ride. Once the crowds come back, your best bet to see it is early in the morning, particularly on weekends, when there will be fewer cars.

Terra-Drift

About a year and a half ago, the California artist Skye Walker came through town and did three murals as part of his Sea2Sea Mural Tour, which you can follow on his Instagram page. (Check the hashtag #sea2seamuraltour.) The first one, featured in Keep a Breast, is on the Hair World Beauty Supply at 2503 Gallatin and promotes breast cancer awareness and testing. The second, Gaia, is part of a beautification project by merchants and residents of 2nd and 3rd Avenues North. This one, which Walker calls “Terra-Drift,” found at the Hair World at 500 Gallatin, came about because the owner of Hair World liked the Keep a Breast mural so much, he commissioned another mural for the second location. The picture above actually crops the mural, which is very long and thin, and hard to photograph because of obstacles, as you can see below. The artist has a nice drone shot that takes it all in on his Instagram page.

Hair World Mural street art Nashville

In some way, this is a tornado-related post. Hair World stays busy, and there are always cars parked in this lot and along the length of the mural. But the store lost power for a few days, and I was able to shoot it car-free for once. This mural lies only about four blocks north of Five Points, where there was so much damage from the storm.

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Located at 500 Gallatin Avenue, at the corner with Mansfield Street. The mural is on the north side of the building. For now, there is a large parking lot available, but the closed bank that goes with the parking lot is for sale, so the future of the lot is uncertain. Street parking is available nearby.

 

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