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

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Riding!

Tucked away on the back side of Block E of the massive Capitol View project is this charming mural of a kid on a trike by Music City Murals. Though sort of hidden in an alleyway between the building and a raised railway track, the subject is appropriate, for there’s a short tunnel just across the alley that leads to Frankie Pierce Park, a green space that includes a children’s playground that was built as a public-private partnership between Capitol View and Metro ParksPierce was a civil rights activist who played an important part in the women’s suffrage movement in Nashville. The mural is one of three that Music City Murals has done for Capitol View, the other two in much more visible places. They’ll be on the blog soon. The hardest part of researching this (since I already knew who had done this unsigned mural) was working out exactly where it is on a map. Google Maps, as of this publication, has still not fully incorporated this relatively new development project. Google wants you to believe this patch of land is on the border between “North Gulch” (ugh) and Hope Gardens, but long-time locals know that it’s Hells Half-Acre.

Tricycle Kid mural Nashville street art

Located at 500 11th Avenue North. That’s the address of Block E of the Capitol View development, the building the mural is located on. The mural is found in an ally/driveway that separates Block E from the raised railroad that lies to the east, in the direction of the Capitol. The alley runs between Nelson Merry Street and LifeWay Plaza. The mural faces south, towards Nelson Merry, and is about in the middle of the block. There is plenty of parking available in the complex’s garages.

July 4, 2020

Happy Fourth of July everyone! Of course, this year, the 4th is a little different. 2020 has not been an easy year, and we are only halfway through it. Maybe this stern-faced eagle by the artist JamersonSGC (who often signs his work “Low Key Art”) is exactly what we need. Its gaze seems a little disapproving, reminding us of our civic duty, implying that we haven’t quite measured up. Or maybe I just read it that way in the face of – waves hand around – everything that’s been happening. Sometimes being a citizen is easy, and sometimes it is hard, and in 2020 it isn’t easy.

Jamerson has engulfed the whole building in art. The eagle is found on the back of Marley’s Market and Restaurant on Lafayette Street, roughly the south side of the building. On the east side, the left if you are standing at the entrance, is a brown-and-black American flag. And wrapping across the front and the west side of the building is an American flag with an African-American man’s portrait. I’ve seen convenience stores with flag murals before, but nothing on this scale.

Again, have a happy and safe holiday weekend. And think about what that eagle might be trying to tell you.

Located at 141 Lafayette Street. There is parking at the market.

Losers and the Pandemic

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a mural for the downtown branch of  Loser’s Bar and Grill done by Manuel Fuentes. That mural, on the south side of the building, was a great example of the murals in town specifically designed for people to stand in front and get their picture taken. I wrote about it at the beginning of the shutdown and commented on the irony of it not really being used at the time. Here we are about three months later, and the lockdown has eased, even as cases are rising. There are restrictions on venues like Losers, and their downtown branch remains closed. From their Facebook page, it appears their Midtown branch is open on reduced capacity and is featuring live music. Interestingly, they advertise that both locations have new UV-light systems in their airflow systems to reduce contaminants. Welcome to the emerging new normal. To their credit, they aren’t one of the places cited for violating the current pandemic rules. Someday, this will all be over.

Located at 111 Fourth Avenue South. The mural is on the north side of the building, at the far end of the parking lot if you are coming from 4th. It faces towards Broadway. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

 

Thistle Farms

For years, drivers headed east on Charlotte from the western suburbs were greeted by a mural of flowers on one wall of Thistle Farms, or more precisely, their cafe. This one isn’t it. There was another one here for years that I never shot because there were always, always cars in front of it. But more recently, Michael Cooper of Murals and More produced a new mural for Thistle Farms that I did manage to shoot without cars. The flowers you see are of course thistles, the organization’s namesake. The best way to understand what Thistle Farms does is to read their mission statement.

Thistle Farms is a nonprofit social enterprise dedicated to helping women survivors recover and heal from prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. We do this by providing a safe place to live, a meaningful job, and a lifelong sisterhood of support.

They started by making candles, and now provide clothing, jewelry, home goods, and, at their Charlotte location, a nice place for lunch. The goods are all made by the women in Thistle Farm’s healing and recovery program and the proceeds support the mission. Thistle Farms was founded over 20 years ago by the Episcopalian priest  Becca Stevens, who deservedly is one of Nashville’s most honored citizens, including Nashvillian and Tennessean of the Year, a White House Champion of Change and a CNN Hero. All of this is a measure of how important the work of Thistle Farms is. So buy a candle, get a sandwich, make a donation, whatever you want to do to help.

Thistle Farms Sign

Located at 5122 Charlotte Pike. The mural is on the west side of the building, facing 52nd Avenue North. There’s parking in front of the mural and some street parking is available.

 

Out into the open

The March 3 tornado that tore through Nashville did a lot of damage to art on the east side. But temporarily at least, it has brought one work out into the open. The building that housed the Nashville Urban Winery was heavily damaged in the storm, and recently it has been demolished. When the winery was intact, it had a large covered patio at the front. From the street, this mural by Bryan Deese was visible inside the patio, but it was also shrouded, and usually had lots of tables in front of it. I debated putting it on the blog, but each time I thought about it I wound up going with something else. Then suddenly it was fully in the light. It survived the destruction of the building because it sits on a wall shared with Jerry’s Artarama, currently closed due to tornado damage.

The mural’s themes make sense for a Nashville winery, evoking the great wine nations of France and Italy. The trellis shape is the base of the Eiffel Tower. It frames a row of vines from a vineyard, the facade of Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Roman Colosseum. In the center of course is Nashville’s own Eiffel Tower, the Batman Building.

Urban Winery mural Nashville street art
The Nashville Urban Winery mural when the building was intact.

Soon, the cleared lot this mural looks out on will become a construction site. For that matter, the building it sits on is in need of serious repair. So the fate of this mural is highly uncertain. Let’s call it endangered art. I should note it’s also currently inside an area sealed off by a locked fence, but there is a gap between the building and the fence, right at the edge of the mural. You didn’t hear that from me.

Located at 715 Main Street, an address that currently has no building. More accurately, it’s on the east side of 713 Main, the Jerry’s Artarama building. For now, you can park in Jerry’s Artarama’s parking lot.

Strength and mourning

Nashville and the world have been through a lot lately, so much so that the tragedies memorialized in this mural, part of it only a few weeks old, have been superseded by even more. The mural is by Nashville artist JamersonSGC, who often signs his work “Low Key Art,” and it went up in stages on the back wall of Tito’s Market and Seafood as different tragedies played out. First, on the left, Jamerson created a memorial for Kobe Bryant sometime in February, not long after Bryant’s death in January. It features a nickname Bryant chose for himself, Mamba. The image is based on a photo by John Soohoo that first appeared in a Rolling Stone article about the hype over Bryant’s early career. Interestingly, an artist in Brooklyn had a similar idea.

Tennessee Mural Nashville street art

The rest of the mural was added in the aftermath of the March 3 tornado. Look closely at the Nashville skyline embedded in the Nashville Predators logo, and you’ll see that it includes a tornado bearing down on the city. You know it’s Nashville because it has Nashville’s Eiffel Tower, the Batman Building. Atop the Predator is a Northern Mockingbird, Tennesse’s state bird. “Tennessee Strong,” along with “Nashville Strong,” are both slogans that have been seen in more and more places in the aftermath of the tornadoes and the crises which have followed. Below the slogan is a logo of my employer, Tennesse State University, as well as the logo of the Tennesee Titans (with a tornado added) and the central shield from the Tennessee state flag.

Praying Girl Mural Nashville street art

At the far right, we find a young girl in prayer, which needs no explanation. This is not the first mural Jamerson has painted on this wall. Back in 2018, he put up a large Mother Earth mural that was subsequently painted over. On the side and front of the building, Jamerson has recently painted some food murals which I will feature later.

Located at 13 Lafayette Street, at the intersection where Lafayette, 2nd Avenue South, and McCann Street come together. Parking here can be difficult. The market has some limited spaces in front, and it is sometimes possible to park for a short time in the small yard in front of the mural. Street parking is available a little farther south on 2nd Avenue.

The Villager Flag – Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, a flag. Not just any flag, but the flag that adorns the facade of The Villager Tavern in Hillsboro Village. The Villager is one of the last holdouts against the gentrification of Hillsboro Village. The smokey bar with dartboards and the pictures of patrons plastering the walls has been in place since 1973. I don’t know who painted the flag originally, but it had gotten in pretty sad shape. I do know however that it was recently restored by Eastside Murals. You can also tell from the photo I linked to that it wasn’t always blocked by a pedestrian crossing sign, but pedestrian deaths in Nashville are a problem, so I’m fine with the sign.

I hope that everyone had a good Memorial Day. Always remember our fallen.

Villager Flag mural Nashville Street Art

Located at 1719 21st Avenue South. There’s plenty of parking in Hillsboro Village, but almost none of it is free.

El Valiente

El Valiente (“The Brave”) on Nolensville says it’s a western wear place, and it certainly used to be, but it’s also now clearly labeled as a taqueria as well. The website for the western wear version is dead, but the taqueria seems to be up and running, and the food looks good! When it started as a western wear place, the desert mural was done by The Rebel at Large, and the parking sign appeared at the same time, so I think he may have done that as well. Since the taqueria opened, a cactus, a torta, and a bowl of soup have been added to the facade, and I’m not sure who did those. It’s a little brave, so to speak, putting in a taqueria almost across the street from the venerable La Hacienda, but Nashville’s appetite for tacos and all things Mexican food seems boundless, so there’s probably always room for more.

El Valiente mural street art Nashville

El Valiente Mural street art Nashville

Located at 2630 Nolensville Pike, right at the corner with Whitsett Road. As the sign says, there’s parking in back.

Frida Kahlo

If Americans are familiar with any Mexican artist, it’s likely to be Frida Kahlo. Her surreal self-portraits that often depicted her physical and psychological suffering appear all over the place, and Salma Hayek even played her in a movie. So it’s no surprise to find her on the side of Plaza Mariachi, a Latin–themed shopping and entertainment center on Nolelesiville Pike. There was actually a festival celebrating Kahlo last July on the 112th anniversary of her birth, in which the mural was unveiled, and which included a city resolution honoring Kahlo.

The work itself is by José G. Vera-González. Vera’s done a lot of work in Nashville, though most of it has been indoors, with at least one exception, the mural featured in La Mexicana Market. It appears to be based on this photograph of Kahlo done by Nikolas Muray in 1939. It includes themes that Kahlo used in her own images. Both butterflies and hummingbirds for instance are found in “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird,” (1940), while flowers are all over her work, though the cala lillies seen here are more a feature of the work of her husband, Diego Rivera. And of course, she has a unibrow. Kahlo put it in all her self-portraits, and it would be disrespectful to leave it out. Pottery, on the other hand, seems to be a signature of Vera’s work.

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Located at 3955 Nolensville Pike. The mural is hard to see until you are right upon it. It’s on the south side of the buidling, where Madera Coffee Roasting Company is. There is extensive parking available.

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