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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This may not seem like another tornado-related blog post, but it is. For one, Butcher & Bee, while not particularly damaged, was one of the Main Street businesses shut down by the storm. They did, however, reopen yesterday, with a limited evening menu. No word when they’ll be back to full-time business, but every opening, every repaired roof, is a giant leap forward. But the picture itself was made possible by the storm. I’d wanted to feature the Butcher & Bee sign, made by I Saw the Sign, for some time. But there were often cars parked in front of it, and more importantly, to get the best picture, you kind of need to stand in the middle of Main Street. Well, last week, you could do that! So here it is in all its glory. Look close, and you can see Butcher&Bee’s logo, a bee with two butcher knives.
The reality is, Main Street, and the rest of the places damaged by the storm, have a long road ahead. Greko Greek Street Food opened as well, but other damaged businesses on Main won’t be open for months – if ever. Something else will take their place, but the fabric of Main will always be changed.
Located at 902 Main Street. Parking is tough here in the best of times, and there isn’t much nearby street parking, so you may need to walk a few blocks.
Well, that was fast. The tornado came in the very early hours of Tuesday morning. By late afternoon Sunday, Nashville’s artists had responded. Of course, every artist needs a sponsor, and they found one in Mathew Charette. Charette is the owner of Drifters, Beyond the Edge, and Boston Commons and the building that housed the Gold Club Electric tattoo parlor. All three restaurants were damaged, and the Gold Club Electric building was destroyed. But Charette felt the need to
“Shake my fist” at this storm and say “is that all you got storm, you don’t know who you are messing with, we are East Nashville Five Points and we are Nashville Strong”
Now about the photo. I’ve gotten fairly picky about photos on this blog – no shadows, no backlighting, no cars in front. A fence in front? Clipped off signatures? No way! But this morning, when I tried to photograph it, the police wouldn’t let me near, as the whole area was cleared for NES workers who were working to restore power. However, Officer Eric Burford of the MNPD was kind enough to take my phone and walk down to the site and shoot a quick photo for me. Apparently, he had to be quick because NES workers were moving some heavy equipment nearby. I think the picture is completely appropriate. Nashville is under repair right now. A lot is broken, a lot is incomplete. No one has time to complain about inconveniences, but everyone tries to help everyone else. That’s the spirit of Nashville Strong.
Located at 1008A Woodland Street. Right now, you can’t park nearby or even walk up there, at least while NES crews are at work, but in the future, the usual Five Points rules apply. Paid parking if you don’t want to walk, or street parking if you can walk two or three blocks.
In Nashville, and communities to the east, homes and businesses have been shattered and destroyed, lives lost. Much of what has been broken will take months to rebuild, if ever. Families without homes, employees without paychecks. In the face of that, what’s a little art?
In the last few years, there has been a mural renaissance in Nashville, and it’s been my honor to chronicle it. Arguably, it really started in East Nashville over four years ago, with Chamber East doing much to cajole eastside businesses to take a chance on art. And many ultimately did, so many that the east side, from Fifth and Main to well up Gallatin Road, became the most art dense neighborhood in Nashville. Art is part of this neighborhood’s identity. So when a tornado plowed down Main and through Five Points and beyond very early Tuesday morning, it inevitably took a lot of art with it.
Other losses attracted fewer news cameras, but were still quite devastating. This pile of painted concrete blocks is all that’s left of the murals that once wrapped around Hunt Supply Co., a skateboard gear supplier whose building completely collapsed.
Before the storm, it looked like this:
Hunt Supply and Gold Electric Tattoo across the alley are something of neighborhood secrets. You need to know to walk up the alley behind Beyond the Edge to find them, or what’s left of them now. The front side of Gold Electric once had a really fun mural, now shattered in the wake of the storm.
I never blogged about it, nor learned the artist, because I was waiting to get a “clean” picture of the other Gold Electric mural, a memorial to founder Mike Fite. Employee cars were always parked in front of it. Sadly, on the night of the tornado, one was still there and was seriously damaged.
Not so secret was the “Do the Dew” mural by Eastside Murals on the old Family Dollar, just steps away from Gold Electric Tattoo. The building was probably slated for demolition and “mixed-use” development, but it was still a shock to see such a bright and colorful wall collapse, along with the rest of the building. Look close at the rubble and you can see a section of the mural.
The alley between Main and Woodland has also been for some time a place filled with art. Almost all of it is by the UH graffiti crew. It included well-madegraffiti tags, trippy caricatures, and even a surreal sky. The surreal sky, which I dubbed “Panda Sky,” had already been damaged by construction, but now just a slip of it is left. The hypnotic “Under Hypnosis,” of which the word “under” has collapsed, is by the artist Sterbo.
One of the most devastating losses is a work that first appeared on this blog in a piece called “A True Survivor.” No, it’s not a mural, but it’s still a work of art that has been part of the eastside’s image for decades. The Weiss Liquor sign crumbled in the storm and with it a lot of history.
Right behind this building is another piece I never got around to blogging about, in part because it had been partially painted over by another piece I’ve only tangentially blogged about, the giant concert mural by Jason Galaz on the back of Crying Wolf. A fence painted by someone who’s signature I never figured out was partially painted over with a list of concert performers by Galaz. Regardless, the fence collapsed.
A more total loss was a large piece of art about art. The facade of Jerry’s Aratama had been covered in art by Hannah Holgate and Marshall Hall, right down to the parking lot itself. The parking lot art is fine, including the signs, but the facade of the building collapsed, largely destroying the mural.
Two more total losses are found in the alley behind Smith and Lentz Brewing. There was a lovely, bizarre fence by Andee Rudloff and Max Grimm that belonged to the house behind Smith and Lentz. Only a single post remained when I checked on it Wednesday. And on the backside of Smith and Lentz was another Eastside Murals piece I never blogged about, I think because it didn’t seem too public behind the bar’s fence, now ripped down by the storm. You can see what it looked like intact on Eastside’s Instagram page.
The featured mural of the eagle at the start of this post is by Kim Radford and lies on the east wall of Elite Bonding. I never got around to writing about it because I was saving it for a patriotic holiday. (While it’s relatively intact, the work Radford did on the other side of the building is largely gone, the wall having collapsed. Here’s what the eagle looked like undamaged.) I suppose there’s a lesson to be learned about impermanence and not assuming everything will always be what you expect. Another example of this is the East Nashville “EN” murals, which are sponsored by Chamber East. I’ve never put one on the blog for some reason. The one by Troy Duff at Burger Up is intact, but given the state of the building, it’s hard to say if it will last.
Tuesday, after the storm, I had more visitors to this site than I’m used to. People wanted to know what it all used to look like, to see what had been lost, to remember what things that had been broken looked like when they were intact. If you want to help artists who have been hurt by the storm, start here. Here is a page with more general information about volunteering and donating for tornado relief.
East Nashville will rebuild, it will prosper, thought scars will remain. And I predict that Nashville’s artists will be in the thick of it.
Back in April 2018, there was a major mural art show put on by a consortium of artists that called themselves Impermanent. An old warehouse in The Nations was completely covered in murals. The name was chosen appropriately, as those murals have since been painted over. More recently, this giant image of their name appeared on the side of Bongo East at Five Points, courtesy of the artist Sterbo. It’s appropriate here too, as things always seem to be changing in Five Points. That white building in the background is the boutique Vandyke Hotel, where before a meat-and-three had been for years. The hotel’s construction destroyed or hid three murals on the other side of Bongo East.
And “impermanent” is appropriate for another reason. This wall once held, briefly, an installation of the Inside/Out portrait project developed by French artist JR and sponsored by OZ Arts Nashville. While I blogged about the other installations in this series, I never got around to writing about the Bongo East version, but here is what it looked like.
The small image in the middle of the Impermanent mural is a triple version of Sterbo’s logo.
Located at 107 11th Street South, just off Five Points. It faces a large yard on the south side of the building. This is Five Points, so plenty of paid parking, as well as street parking, but for that, you may have to walk a block or two depending on the time of day.
Selfie-bait is a growing trend in Nashville murals and the giant colorful headphones at The Listening Room Cafe is a case in point. I think it all began with the wings mural in The Gulch by Kelsey Montague, who specializes in murals designed to entice people to use them as frames for portraits. Much of the mural movement in Nashville is propelled by business owners who want people to get their pictures taken in front of their mural and of course check in on social media. This mural goes the extra mile. For one, The Listening Room’s Instagram handle, @TheListeningRoomCafe, is on the mural. And, like the mural at Zeal Church, there are instructions as to where the photographer is supposed to stand. Note the cable coming out of the headphones. It’s an arrow, leading to the perfect spot.
The artist is Ty Christian, who has been on this blog for a very different mural. Harmony is more in keeping with his other work, seen on his website (above) and his Instagram page. His mural for The Listening Room is not the only mural on this wall. Earlier I featured a fantastic hand-painted sign by Michael Cooper of Murals and More. I’ve seen at least as many people getting their picture taken with the sign, but admittedly I don’t drive down 4th Avenue every day.
Located at 618 4th Avenue South. There is some limited parking at the Listening Room and some street parking on Elm Street. As the mural faces a parking lot, your best bet is to visit early in the day, well before showtime. Enjoy the music and enjoy the art!