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

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Murals

Turnip Truck (Charlotte Ave) Fairtrade Mural

Back in January, a big new mural appeared on The Turnip Truck’s big new store on Charlotte Avenue, courtesy of Tarabella Aversa. It’s actually part of a series of three murals around the country sponsored by Fairtrade America. Fairtrade works to support farmers and agricultural workers in developing countries, by supporting better prices for their goods, worker’s rights, combatting discrimination and child labor, and promoting environmental standards.

Turnip Truck Mural Nashville street art

This mural features Rosine Bekoin, owner of a small cocoa farm in Côte d’Ivoire. Aversa’s mural has her surrounded by cocoa beans. With the support of Fairtrade, she’s been able to get better prices for her cocoa, supplying such firms as The Hershey Company for use in their Kit Kat brand. She credits this help with getting her through a period of low cocoa prices and for being able to save to build herself a house.

Bekoin Portrait Nashville street art

Bekoin is unusual in Côte d’Ivoire for being a woman owner of a cocoa farm, as most are owned by men. The mural, besides promoting fair trade practices, is also emblazoned with the slogan “Support Gender Equality,” another priority of Fairtrade. One of the other murals in the series also features a woman and the gender equality slogan. In Denver, Giovannie “Just” Dixon created a mural featuring Natividad Vallejos, a coffee grower from Peru. The third mural is by Levi Ponce. It’s in Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard and features Segundo Alejandro Guerrero Mondragón, who is also a coffee farmer from Peru.

Fairtrade Mural Nashville street art

Prior to this mural, there was another mural on this wall. Back when this building housed Nashville Cash and Carry, a restaurant supply store, Murals and More, the commercial home of Michael Cooper, did a mural spelling out “Nashville” with letters made up of food and restaurant items.

Here’s the QR code found on the mural. It leads to a page describing the mural series on Fairtrade’s website.

QR Code Nashville street art

Loctaed at 5001 Charlotte Avenue. The mural is on the east side (opposite the entrance) of the building and faces 50th Avenue North, and overlooks Richland Park. Parking is avaliable around Turnip Truck and across the street at the park

Cinco de Mayo – East Nashville

When the local Mexican restaurant chain Cinco de Mayo opened a branch in the storied old stone building at 14th and Woodland (it will always be Radio Cafe to me) it didn’t seem likely they would get the splashy murals that are often found on Hispanic restaurants and markets. After all, who’s going to let them paint those old stone walls? But the solution was obvious – tack a board on the high fence that separates the restaurant from the house next door and let the artist get to work.

This mural/sign is the product of José G. Vera-González, a prolific local artist who has done work all over town, mainly inside Hispanic restaurants, but recently has begun to do more work outdoors. You should check out his giant Frida Kahlo portrait on the south side of Plaza Mariachi. Like that mural, this one features a lot of flowers.

This mural is also a little unusual. It is the only outdoor mural in town I am aware of that has glitter on it. It may not be apparent in this photo, but much of the paint making up the highlights of the plants and flowers and around the border has something reflective in it, and it gives off the appearance of glitter. It’s particularly noticeable if you drive by it a night and the reflective bits get caught in your headlights.

This is a relatively new mural, having gone up this May. One tradition of Latino artists in Nashville that Vera-González keeps up is found in his signature. There you’ll find his phone number. This is very common with the murals that are found on Latino and immigrant-owned businesses. You know, just in case you want to call him and get your own mural. Hey, he’s a good artist, maybe you should.

An aside – by profession, I am a professor of Latin American history. Just in case you didn’t know, the 5th of May is not Mexican Independence Day. That’s on September 16th.

Located at 1313 Woodland Street. Street parking is available on Woodland (but not 14th) and on some of the side streets. Depending on the time of day, you may have to walk a couple of blocks – or park right next door!

I Believe in Nashville (and Five Years of Blogging!)

I Believe Nashville mural street art

One of the two or three most photographed murals in Nashville is this one, the original I Believe in Nashville mural in the 12 South neighborhood. It even has its own Wikipedia page, which as far as I know is a unique distinction for Nashville murals. So why am I only writing about it now? I don’t know, but the fifth anniversary of the blog seems a good time to finally get it done. (I waited to write about the Musica statue for the fourth anniversary.)

But before talking about the anniversary, let’s talk about the mural. This is more than a mural, it’s an icon and it’s something of an industry. Just check out the IBelieveInNasvhille.com website, the I Believe in Nashville Facebook page, and the I Believe in Nashville Instagram page. It was created by Adrien Saporiti back in 2012. While there are older ones, this makes it older than all but maybe a handful of the murals in Nashville. It has spawned copies, some by Saporiti, some not, and imitators. You can get it on shirts, cups, and practically anything you want.

Although clearly beloved, as you can see by perusing the #ibelieveinNashville hashtag on Instagram, it has also weathered some tough times. It has been vandalized on three occasions. In March of 2017, someone splashed black tar on it, and the following June, the circle was painted over with a globe, and “Nashville” was replaced with “Global Warming.” And in August 2018, the word “Nashville” was replaced with the word “rack” in a graffiti style. Its iconic status no doubt attracted all this damage. Saporiti has returned each time to repair it.

I chose a wide shot to include all the tags and signatures on the mural. When Saporiti first painted the mural, the business home of his art was DCXV Industries (DCXV means 615, Nashville’s area code), and that’s how the mural was originally signed. Since then, Saporiti has stopped using the DCXV brand. It now carries tags for the “I Believe in Nashville” internet destinations, as well as tags for Howells Alley, a reference to the developers who own the buildings alongside the alley. (Scroll to the bottom of this post for the mural’s exact location information.)

Now, about the five years. When I started blogging about outdoor art in Nashville, I never thought either the blog or the art scene would become much of a big deal. Well, the blog is still a fairly minor affair, with about four to five thousand page views a month. I have to say I’m a little embarrassed about some of the early work, but back then I didn’t really know what I was doing. I’ve since learned a lot, and now I think I’ve created something unique. I don’t think there are a lot of blogs like mine, with now 740 articles devoted to outdoor art in a particular town. I have to say in the latter days (hopefully!) of the pandemic I’ve slowed down my posting some, mostly because I’ve been homebound. I hope those days are passed.

As for the scene itself, it as of course exploded. That’s been part of the luck of this blog. I started right when things were starting to take off. Now art is everywhere, and who can possibly keep up? Two trends are very clear. One, art is strongly driven by tourism. It is increasingly seen as part of the price of doing business, and it drives foot traffic (and all those lovely selfies with the location tagged). Another smaller trend that piggybacks off the first is that national chains are getting into the act. While still primarily something local businesses do, I knew when Kroger got in the game, the rules had changed. Others have since followed.

Here’s where I make a point I make in all these anniversary posts: all of those images of fruit, meat, vegetables, and scenes of the old country found on immigrant businesses? It’s real art done by real artists, just as much as the famous wings are. Check out Ruben Dario and José Fernando Vargas on the Artists page.

The most moving things that have ever happened with this blog have also been the most tragic. Because of all the research and writing I had done, I was able to document the damage done by the March 3, 2020 tornado to outdoor art in Nashville in the posts “What We Lost in the Storm” and “Storm Damage, Germantown and North Nashville.” Those posts are some of the most widely read of any on this blog. I had hoped I would never have to do something like that again but then came the Christmas Day bombing. Fortunately, I had already documented the art on the AT&T building, and so I was able to write “The Lost Murals of the AT&T 2nd Avenue Art Wall.” Maybe this year there will be no need for posts like that.

I will keep blogging. There are technical things to be done. For instance, the categories are a mess. And now that I am taking care of embarrassingly missing pieces like the mural above, I may finally start writing about the surrounding counties, which are beginning to have their own art booms.

Oh, and very soon, in the next couple of weeks, another major milestone is coming up, so keep an eye out for it!

Located at 2700 12th Avenue South. The mural is in an alley on the north side of 12 South Dental Studio. The alley lies halfway between Halcyon and Montrose Avenues. The mural faces across the alley towards Draper James. Look for the white building with all of the blue-and-white awnings. Parking is not easy in 12 South, and rarely free. Be prepared to walk, or grab a ride share.

Chadwick Boseman (1976-2020)

Boseman Mural Nashville street art

I could probably fill this blog for a few weeks getting caught up on all the murals done by Charles Key (who signs his work JamersonSGC and “Low Key Art”). He created this mural memorializing Chadwick Boseman in early September 2020, just a few days after Boseman’s death.

Boseman of course was best known for his role as T’Challa/Black Panther in the Marvel Universe movies. The Black Panther movie of 2018 has been one of the most popular of all the Marvel movies and is the ninth-highest grossing film in history. Black Panther was also the first major blockbuster with a predominantly Black cast and is the highest-grossing film with a Black director. Before Black Panther, Boseman had a varied career for someone who died relatively young. He had the range to star both as Thurgood Marshall and James Brown in biofilms, and his breakout role was as Jackie Robinson in “42.” Boseman was also an active philanthropist, including donating $4.2 million worth of PPE gear to hospitals serving Black communities just months before he died.

In an interview with News Channel 5, Key explained the importance of the image he had chosen, which comes from a promotional poster for the Black Panther movie.

Charles admits he didn’t watch the movies like his kids, but there was something about the grace and dignity Boseman brought to the role that he couldn’t ignore.

He finally landed on an image that seemed to capture that. With his head bowed and his hands to his face, something about this picture of Boseman tells others there’s more to the man than you know.

“In the movie, this is the king. So we never know what people are going through when they have to make decisions,” Key Jr. said.

The long-term fate of this mural is suddenly uncertain, and not just because Key is in the habit of editing and reworking his murals. The building it sits on, which houses Ideal Liquor Store and David’s Discount Tobacco and Beer, sold a few weeks ago for $1.57 million. It was bought by the Tennesee Justice Center, a non-profit that works with needy families. As of this writing, they have not announced plans for the building.

Located at 155 Lafayette Street, at the corner with Fairfield Avenue. The mural is on the southern end of the building and faces Lafayette. There is plenty of parking available.

The Gulch Dog Park, Part 4

This is the fourth in the series I’m 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.

Sometimes murals are unfortunately placed, and there is not much the artist can do about it. In this case, the artist, Joe Geis, has a post on his Instagram page where you can see the mural from multiple angles. I should have done the same, but of course, the best way to take in the mural and fully understand it is to go visit it. Geis’s mural is the fourth from the right in this series (that is, the fourth going from north to south). As you can see, it lies behind that gate that leads into the part of the park set aside for small dogs (which is the north part).

The mural is in keeping with the main themes of a great deal of Geis’s work, which features a lot of colorful abstract shapes, though he also works in black and white. Geis is based here in Nashville and in Brooklyn. While he doesn’t have much in the way of outdoor public art in Nashville, he is no stranger to murals, having done indoor and private outdoor murals here, and murals indoor and out as far away as Mumbai, India. Not many Nashville muralists can say they have installations in India!

Located at 1216 Pine Street, at the top of the hill. That’s the address of the dog park. This mural is actually almost directly in line with the alley that lies between Pine and Laurel Street. It is of course at the entrance to the part of the park for small dogs, very near the middle of the whole dog park. It faces east towards 12th Avenue South and the Turnip Truck. This is The Gulch, so plenty of parking, none of it free. Well, only 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

Diana Ross, Arcade Alley

Almost every new business in Nashville needs a mural it seems, particularly if they cater to tourists. That’s double so if you’re hidden in an alley and need to grab people’s attention any way you can. Sometimes the mural appears well before the business even opens. As far as I know, The WayBack PartyBar isn’t even open as of this writing, and it certainly wasn’t open in late March when the new mural was put in by Stephen Sloan, a Nashville artist who signs his work Never Xtinct

Diana Ross mural Nashville street art

It is of course a glorious image of Diana Ross. The mural is based on an iconic photograph of Ross that was shot as part of a portrait session in 1975 by Harry Langdon Jr. (And yes, for those of you with long memories, he is the son of comedian and early Hollywood star Harry Langdon Sr.) The original photo was shot in black and white, so the limited palette of Sloan’s portrait is true to the photograph it’s based on. The angular ribbon of differing shades of orange could be right out of a 1975 stylebook, the sort of graphic that might be part of the opening montage of a ’70s cop show. There’s a brief video of Sloan working on the mural on WayBack’s Instagram page.

Ross Portrait mural Nashville street art

Sloan has done other work around Nashville, including a mural in 12 South promoting the Nashville Zoo. He also recently contributed to a mural honoring Loretta Lynn at the Loretta Lynn Ranch in Humphries County. This is by the way not the only Diana Ross mural in town. There’s another by JamersonSGC (aka Charles Key) on Jefferson Street.

Ross Mural Nashville street art

Located at 217 Arcade Alley, about halfway between Church Street and The Arcade. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

Southern Pride, Queer Pride (and Skittles)

June is Pride Month, a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. It falls in June because the Stonewall Uprising, a pivotal moment in the gay liberation movement, began on June 28, 1969. There was a time when major corporations would have wanted nothing to do with such a celebration, but times have changed. Skittles (a subsidiary of Mars) has perhaps an obvious tie-in with Pride as rainbows are central to their marketing and of course the Rainbow Flag is a key symbol of Pride. (The original, designed by Gilbert Baker, had been lost for 40 years but was recently found and is on display in San Francisco.)

For this year’s Pride celebration, Skittles has sponsored a series of murals by Queer artists. The project is called the Skittles QueeR Codes, and one of them is here in Nashville, on the side of the Germantown branch of Jack Brown’s. (The name of the series references the QR codes found on each mural.) The Nashville version is by local artist Sara Moroni, whose business name is Sara Moroni Pizza – “serving hot and fresh slices of art.” Why pizza? It’s a reference to the different kinds of art she makes. There are many kinds of pizza and many kinds of art.

Her contribution specifically addresses the issue of being LBTGQ+ in the South. “Proud to be Southern & Queer,” the mural declares. It shows some of the diversity of the Queer community in the South. Moroni wrote on her Instagram page:

I understood how important it was to take full advantage and represent as many Queers in the South as I could. So, I designed this mural to highlight the diversity of Queer voices here in the South—to be as inclusive and intersectional as possible.

To my knowledge this is Moroni’s first mural in Nashville. I hope we get to see more from her.

By the way, this is not the first corporate-sponsored Pride mural in Nashville. Instagram sponsored one back in 2017 that as of this writing is still up.

There are three other murals in the series. Jae Lin created one in Austin, TX; there’s another by ARRRTADDICT in Atlanta; and Marlon Davila (aka 7ovechild) painted one in Newark, NJ. It’s interesting how each one of these artists chose to explore the theme of Pride in their murals in distinct ways.

Before Moroni’s mural went up, there was a sign on the side of this building for Local 456 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. I never got around to blogging about it (I was hoping to shoot it without vines), but here is what it looked like. The “J.A.T.C” refers to their training programs, called the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee. Local 456 has since moved out to Rundle Avenue (not far from Fesslers Lane and Elm Hill Pike).

Located at 1123 Third Avenue North, at the corner with Madison Street. The mural is on the south wall of the building, facing towards downtown and Jefferson Street. This is Germantown – there is some free street parking, but most available nearby parking is paid.

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