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nashville public art

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

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Signs

Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum

Tucked away underneath the Nashville Municipal Auditorium is the Nashville Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. It hasn’t always been there, having once been down on 6th Avenue. But they had to give that site up to make room for the Music City Center in 2010, reopening in 2013 in what was once the Municipal Auditorium’s convention exhibit space.

Being a little tucked away, all the visual bling they can get to help people find them is useful. Enter Steve Mellgren, CEO of Dimensions in Screen Printing, who designed and donated the mural to the museum in 2019. (Dimensions is a small screen printing company in Irvine, California and does not appear to have an internet presence.) The mural makes a nice logo, and in fact, you can get it on a T-shirt, in teal and black (my preference).

This part of downtown doesn’t have a lot of outdoor art, though the main entrance to the auditorium does have a giant mural of concert tickets. I see the Musician Hall of Fame mural as another data point in the evidence that Nashville businesses increasingly understand that art is an essential part of any commercial enterprise. Maybe it will inspire more art in the neighborhood.

Located at 401 Gay Street. The mural is behind a gated area (facing towards James Robertson Parkway), so if the museum is closed, you can see it, but not up close. This is downtown, so lots of parking, none of it free. There are metered spaces across Gay Street.

Drum Cat

It’s a little unusual for a mural to be geared to two businesses, but this little gem on the side of a small building next to Mas Tacos Por Favor guides you to both businesses it holds, Drum Supply and and Relik Vintage. It used to be three, as Drum Supply once cohabited with Nelson Drum House, which has since decamped to Gallatin Pike.

Appropriate for a mural for two businesses is that it’s the product of two artists, Folek Kelof and Christian Branger. That the design features a drum makes a lot of sense, and while I don’t know where the cat comes from, it certainly looks like the sort of thing you’d find on a vintage T-shirt.

While the mural itself is about a year old and has weathered the past year fine, the signatures have faded. If you look at this photo Folek posted to his Instagram account right after the mural was painted, you’ll see the signatures are bold, and the Instagram accounts of both Relik Vintage and Drum supply are clear, along with the hashtag #NashvilleCat. Those account names are now almost invisible, while the signatures are faded and the hashtag can be only faintly seen.

Relik Vintage dodged a bullet. They used to be on Woodland. A few months before the tornado, they moved to McFerrin. When the March 3 storm came, their old location was devastated. Scrolling through their Instagram page, I recognized murals that used to be in the alley behind their Woodland shop being used as backdrops for people modeling their clothes. Some of those you can read about here in my post about the storm’s aftermath.

Located at 730 McFerrin Avenue. This is a very busy commercial corner, and while there is business parking and street parking nearby, you may have to do some walking.

A Landmark Reborn

I don’t normally report on something that has just been installed, but this is an important story. In terms of outdoor art, one of the most devastating losses from the March 3 tornado was the Weiss Liquors sign. Prominently placed on Main Street, it was one of the icons of the east side. If you scroll down to about the middle of this post you’ll see what it looked like after the storm, smashed and broken into several pieces. What I once called a true survivor was unable to survive taking a direct hit from a major tornado.

The Weiss family had no intention of simply leaving it at that. Two days after the storm, the pieces of the sign were collected for storage at Bozeman Signs. Ultimately, the Weisses contracted with Fortify, a Nashville fabrication and design company to rebuild the sign. The work was done by Nick Redford, Fortify’s owner, and Kyle Davis. It was not possible to rebuild the sign using the original panels. Instead, Fortify built and painted new panels, replicating the original as closely as possible. Much of that progress can be seen on the Weiss Liquors Instagram page: here, here, here, here, here, and here. In time, the Weiss family plans to hang the original pieces inside the store.

And on Saturday night, November 28, a small crowd gathered to see the newly installed sign lit for the first time.

There are still many scars from the storm that came in the early hours of March 3. Some have been fixed or replaced quickly. Others, like the Weiss Liquors sign, have taken some time. Others will linger much longer. But at least this icon is back, built stronger than ever and all shiny with a fresh coat of paint. You can knock East Nashville around, but we always get back up.

Located at 824 Main Street. Impossible to miss. There is of course parking at Weiss, and at the storage center next door. The parking lot can be tricky on weekend evenings.

Tatuajes Raza

Most people think of the Nolensville Road corridor and Antioch as the main areas to find Latino-owned businesses, but there’s also a cluster in Madison. So it’s no surprise to find a Latino-themed tattoo parlor there, Tatuajes Raza. The black-and-grey storefront on Gallatin is the work of musician and artist Ghosty Lowks (he has a more art-themed page called “The Phantom Collection“).

The mural contains a stylized image of one of the more enduring symbols of Mexico, the Aztec Sun Stone. It is known to many as the “Aztec Calendar Stone,” but while it does have the names of the days and months on it, it is not really a calendar, but a representation of the largest cycles of time in Aztec thought, great ages known as “Suns.” At the end of each, the Sun would be destroyed and and a new Sun born. They saw themselves as living under the Fifth Sun. (Did I mention I’m an historian of Latin America?)

“Raza” as part of the store’s name is also significant. It’s a reference to the idea of “la raza cósmica,” the cosmic race, an idea of José Vasconselos. He was an education minister in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution and thought in Mexico, where people from all over the world were found, that the strengths of all these peoples combined created a newer, stronger people. It has become an important idea in Mexican national identity.

We see various people in the mural. There’s an an ice cream vendor with the tattoo “familia” on his arm, but that’s a tattoo needle, not an ice cream cone on his cart. The eyeless face above him seems to have a Nashville skyline for a headdress.

Ice Cream Man mural Nashville street art

There are more eyeless faces, a woman with a shotgun, a mustachioed clown and another Aztec image that might be Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god. “Chuy” and “Buda,” as best I know, are nicknames of the owner. (And yes, that’s me just barely reflected in the doorway.)

Located at 322 Gallatin Pike South, a few blocks south of Old Hickory Boulevard. The mural faces Gallatin. This is a tricky area to park. There is some parking in front of Tatuajes Raza and neighboring businesses. Otherwise, you might need to do some walking.

16 Bit Bar+Arcade

Not all bars in Nashville are honky-tonks. At least one is an arcade. It’s natural that in a tourist town like Nashville, with so many bars, business owners will try all kinds of things to grab our entertainment dollars. 16 Bit Bar+Arcade in Nashville is actually part of a small chain. It draws in customers with its collection of 80s and 90s arcade video games and pinball machines.

It’s appropriate then that it be decorated with a mural based on one of the great classics of the genre, Donkey Kong. Donkey Kong and Princess Pauline are seen at the top, but there’s no sign of Mario. He was probably crushed by one of the barrels of beer and whiskey Kong has. Pauline yells “Get over here,” 16 Bit’s catch phrase, not the “Help” she does in the game. The steel piers Mario had to climb now spell out “NASH TENN.” As the mural is unsigned, it took a little research to find the creators, but it turns out to be a production of Eastside Murals, one of the most prolific mural teams in Nashville.

As of this writing, there’s a Netflix documentary series available, High Score, which includes a long discussion of Donkey Kong’s history. I enjoyed it, though one reviewer found it heavy on nostalgia, weak on real reporting.

Located at 1102 Grundy Street, just as it says on the mural, at the corner of 11th Avenue North. The mural faces Comers Alley, on the west side of the building, away from downtown. This is the Gulch, so not a lot of free parking, but there is some free street parking west of 11th. Paid parking is also available.

Keep Dreaming

One thing the pandemic has not done is slow down the mural movement in Nashville. As a result, I’m getting even farther behind in cataloguing all that is out there. This trippy mural at Honytree Meadery is only a few months old, and it’s the work of Kim Radford, who over the last year or so has become quite prolific and is responsible for a lot of the new murals.

This one has a bit of backstory. Mindmilk is a mental wellness brand owned by Centric Creative Group, itself a brand-marketing agency. Back in September, Creative Centric sponsored a mural scavenger hunt. They even partnered with ROAR to create augmented reality experiences for each mural through the ROAR app, and this mural was part of the hunt. Maybe some of the participants also used this blog to help them find murals? Maybe.

Mindmilk includes dream interpretation as part of its services, and Radford’s mural seems very much to come from the world of dreams, and tells us to “Keep Dreaming.” Of course, this is also a meadery, and honey bees feature in the mural, even wrapping around the corner towards Honeytree’s front door.

Mindmilk Mural Nashville street art
Mindmilk Bees mural Nashville street art

This mural replaces a previous mural on this spot I never blogged about. It was a mural promoting Nashville SC, our local Major League Soccer team. While they promoted the mural on their social media, I was never able to track down the artist. This is my regular plea to businesses. Muralists are not simply journeyman workers, and acknowledging them can actually help promote your business, as those people who follow the artist will become aware of your business and possibly think better of it. I think the biz speak for that is “synergy.”

Nashville Soccer Mural street art

Located at 918 Woodland Street. The mural is on the east side of the building, facing away from downtown. Honeytree has some limited parking, and you can probably get away with a short stay in the lot in front of the mural. Grab some mead and enjoy the art!

House of Blues Fences of Fame, Part 4

Travelling clockwise around Columbine Park in Berry Hill, coming from Bransford Avenue, this is the fourth fence you come to (on the outer part of the loop). It’s also the first one that’s on what used to be House of Blues property. I say used to be, because when I started this series, I did not realize that the whole complex that had once been House of Blues was bought in January, 2019 by Universal Music Group. (That story has a picture of the artist who created these murals, Scott Guion, working on the first fence I featured in this series.) That of courses raises some concerns about the future of this art, but in the nearly two years they’ve owned the complex, UMG has taken no steps to remove any of it.

The artists featured on this fence are an eclectic group, as all of them are. Unlike the most recent fence in this series, some of these artists are still alive, namely Marty Stuart, Tanya Tucker, and the members of Outkast, André 3000 and Big Boi. The remainder are deceased and included Tom Petty, Fats Domino and Janis Joplin. As with the other fences, Guion is a little inconsistent about what age he shows these artists, even accounting for the ones who dies prematurely.

Faces mural fence Nashville street art
Marty Stuart, Tom Petty, Big Boi and André 3000 of Outkast

There’s a also a sign attached to this fence, with the slogan “I found my thrill in Berry Hill,” and obvious reference to Domino’s signature song, “Blueberry Hill.”

Berry Hill Sign Nashville street art
Berry Hill Sign Nashville street art

The art in the background is also by Guion. On the picture at the top of this post you can see a portrait of B.B. King on a wall which I’ll feature as a separate post later. Along the driveway that heads to the back of the building there are other murals, which I shot from the entrance to the driveway.

Presumably there’s more work in that parking lot, but you might want permission before going back there.

See Part 1 of this series for why I’m just now writing about these murals. Spoiler alert: You can finally park in Berry Hill.

Located at 518 East Iris Drive. The mural faces south towards the park. Parking is available around the park.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 5

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