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

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Signs

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.

Nashville Looks Good on You – Marathon Village

I’ve written about the one on Nolensville Pike and the one in 12 South. I’ve also written about the one on 21st Avenue South. And now we have the one in Marathon Village. All four are by the same artist, who signs his work NASHTN.

This version is fairly new, having gone up a little over a month ago. In the selfie wars of Nashville, the one in 12 South is definitely one of the most popular murals in town. There’s usually a line to get your picture taken there. This one may not get as much attention as the 12 South version, but it will also see more visitors than the one on Nolensville Pike, which is far from where most tourists go (thankfully so – at least we locals have all the great immigrant restaurants on Nolensville mostly to ourselves).

Marathon Village is not as overrun with tourists as 12 South or Lower Broad, it certainly gets it share, and no doubt many will find this new one. It’s on the other side of a parking lot from the main part of Marathon Village, but through tax records I was able to confirm this building belongs to Barry Walker, the developer of Marathon Village. (That link is an interesting history of Marathon Village and Walker’s work to restore it.)

Each NLGOY mural is distinctive. The 12 South one is a simple black-and-white block, the Nolensville one is huge and morphs into a map of Tennessee, and the one on 21st is curved. This one is unique in its complexity. I think it’s interesting that the magnifying glass seems to be shining a light on the mural. The hand has been painted in a way that largely makes the electrical box disappear. The whole effect is like some giant that’s got an arm sticking out of the building while carefully examining anyone who gets their picture made in front of the mural.

On the artist’s IG page, you can see a series of images showing the making of the mural.

The building has a sign for 360 Skin Care, but its not clear if the business is active.

Located at 1206 Milson Avenue. The mural is on the west side of the building, facing away from downtown. The building lies directly across the parking lot from the tower on the main Marathon Village building. There’s plenty of parking around, but you may need to park a bit away to find something free.

Quanie Cash – Build Up Our Community

It’s not often I post about brand new art, but this eye-catching mural that went up a couple of weeks ago is right in my neighborhood and hard to miss, being in a prominent spot on Main Street. It’s by Kwazar Martin, an Indianapolis artist who’s only been producing murals for two or three years but has already been featured in national media. This mural marks his first work in Nashville.

The subject is Quanie Cash, a Nashville actor, director and musician who is also the founder of The Build Up Foundation, a non-profit that works with at-risk kids. Cash is not only from Nashville, but he also grew up in the Main Street neighborhood. In a post on his Instagram page about the mural, Cash noted:

I never thought growing up that a Mural of me would be on the Neighborhood Store Building my grandma sent me to everyday. 

Today, there is no longer a neighborhood store in the low-slung cinderblock building on Main. The only business remaining in that building is Tammy’s Beauty Salon. The old neighborhood store has been replaced by a Mapco next door. Perhaps because it’s a small building in something of a low spot, it was not damaged by the March 3, 2020 tornado, despite being right in the storm’s path.

The image of Cash in the mural would appear to be based on the profile shot from his Twitter account (that is, the profile shot he was using in May, 2021). On Cash’s Instagram, you can see a brief clip of him working on the mural.

Located at 718 Main Street. The mural faces west, in the direction of downtown. There is parking at 718 and at the Mapco.

Pride and Glory

The Christmas bombing in Nashville left many scars. People lost their homes and their businesses. Some of Nashville’s most important historic buildings were damaged beyond repair. 2nd Avenue was an important part of the Nashville tourist scene, and many of the businesses that were housed in those historic buildings were what you would expect to find in a tourist zone – bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, honky-tonks and tattoo parlors. To be precise, the Pride and Glory Tattoo Parlor lost what was once its home at 172 2nd Avenue North.

But it wasn’t long before they found a new place to open shop on Rep. John Lewis Way (5th Avenue), and with the new place came a big bold mural to announce their presence. Often, the artwork on tattoo parlors is done by the tattoo artists themselves, but in this case, prolific local muralist Mobe Oner (aka Eric Bass) provided the artwork.

Pride & Glory sign Nashville street art

The images Mobe Oner has chosen are common tattoo images – the climbing black jaguar, the guitar wrapped in a ribbon, and the hand holding flowers are all familiar tattoo images. Eagles in every imaginable pose are also the frequent subject of a tattoo.

Pride & Glory mural Nashville Street art

The jaguar reminds me a lot of the one found one the Drum Supply/Relik Vintage mural done by  Folek Kelof and Christian Branger. Coincidentally, Relik Vintage was forced to move to new quarters after a disaster, in their case as a result of the March 3, 2020 tornado.

Pride & Glory mural Nashville street art

The return of Pride and Glory is important. In the face of the tornado, the bombing, and the pandemic, we like to talk about resilience and “Nashville Strong.” But it’s good to actually see Nashville’s strength and resilience in action, with a literally bombed-out business up and running in a matter of months – and with new art, to boot!

Located at 510 Rep. John Lewis Way South (5th Avenue South). The mural faces the street and takes up the whole front façade of the business, so its hard to miss. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free (though some free parking is found a few blocks south of Pride and Glory).

Star Struck Vintage

When you are tucked away in a somewhat hidden spot, it helps to be bold. The spot where Star Struck Vintage is located is indeed a little out of sight, and its mural is definitely bold and hard to miss.

Star Struck Vintage is a vintage clothing store that is an offshoot of a long-standing and now-closed New York vintage store that first opened in Edgehill in 2013. Early last year they moved to the complex of shops and offices at 604 Gallatin Ave, right at the corner with Eastland Avenue. The unit they are in is on the backside of the complex and tucked under an awning, so some bright, pop-art colors are useful for catching the eye of passers-by. Of course, it’s also right in front of that giant hot-air balloon mural by Kelsey Montague, so that’s a clue if you need to know where to find them.

Vintage mural Nashville street art

Their mural is the work of Anthony Billups of Music City Murals, who continues to show great versatility in his work. Star Struck Vintage sells vintage clothing from the ’30s to the ’80s, which probably explains the Rubik’s cube. While the cowboy boots and hat are standard Nashville icons, a look at Star Stuck’s Instagram page suggests they’ve been getting a lot of material from the local music scene.

Vintage mural Nashville streert art

Because of the location with its columns and the fact that it wraps around the building, it’s pretty much impossible to take a clear picture of the whole thing, which is why I’m posting several pictures of it. I suspect the detail area above is what most people will want their picture taken in front of.

Vintage mural Nashville street art

This view is more what you would see from Eastland as you walk by. Billups put up a video of himself working on the mural, and Star Struck put up a different one. The woman you see working with Billups is his wife, Katje Billups.

Vintage Mural Nashville street art

Located at 604 Gallatin Avenue, at the corner with Eastland Avenue. That’s the address of the building. The mural faces an alley on the backside of 604 Gallatin and is visible from Eastland. If you can see the big balloon mural, you’ve found it. Parking can be tricky here. Your best bet is the free parking garage right across Eastland from the mural and Star Struck Vintage. (Lower level – the upper level belongs to the pharmacy.)

The Shoppes on Fatherland

One of the more surprising things (to me!) about the development of East Nashville in the last couple of decades has been the success of a couple of different developments of small-sized retail spaces in the Five Points area, including the one called The Shoppes on Fatherland. Turns out that these places that cluster several small businesses in one place are a favorite of both of locals and tourists. Shows what I know about retail and tourism.

The Shoppes themselves are part of a larger collection of properties around the intersection of Fatherland and 11th Street called The Fatherland District (whose website features a nice picture of the “Main Street” of The Shoppes). That in turn is the property of a much larger multi-state company called S&S Property Management with dozens of properties – just in case you thought this kind of development was strictly a local mom-and-pop thing.

Where there is tourism in Nashville, especially where there is tourism and successful businesses, there’s going to be murals. The one featured here went in in late 2020, and it serves not just as a sign but as a giant welcome to anyone coming in to the Five Points district from the south, presumably from Shelby Avenue, one of the main avenues into East Nashville. The kind of branding that in the past might have been done with a billboard or a large sign now warrants a huge mural. This one is by the prolific Eastside Murals, who for some time now have been signing their work Out East Boys, as they have done here.

Shoppes Mural Nashville street art

Now it so happens there is a fence jutting out right where one might usually stand when getting your picture taken in front of the mural, but I imagine the tourists will figure out a solution. This mural is not the only one Eastside Murals has done for this complex. On the west side of the Shoppes, along an alleyway and on the back of a barn-shaped building is a mural they did a few years ago that has a very large “Fatherland District” sign scrolled across it. At the time I wrote about that mural I think I believed it was just as example of neighborhood pride, but now it’s clear that like the mural featured in this post, it’s part of the site’s branding.

Located at 1006 Fatherland Street. That’s the address of The Shoppes as a whole. The mural is on the south side of the complex, on the opposite side from Fatherland Street. It’s visible from the parking lot behind Far East Nashville and from the 200 block of South 11th Street. It lies on the outer wall of Eastside Nails, one of the businesses in The Shoppes. There is street parking nearby and limited parking at The Shoppes, but this area can be hard to park in when it’s busy.

Shed Strong

When looking for outdoor art in Nashville, sometimes it pays to drive around to the back of the building, as I did with the white building off Douglas Avenue that contains, among other businesses, the East Nashville branch of Shed Fitness. Shed Fitness Group is actually a chain, with four of its seven branches in Nashville. It’s been on this blog before, as Tarabella Aversa did a mural for their Germantown branch.

This mural on their Douglas Avenue branch is by Rachel Deeb, a photographer, artist and graphic designer who has also been on this blog before. This is her third mural that I am aware of for a fitness outlet, including Put up your dukes! on the side of the Church Street branch of Title Boxing Club and another mural for MK Fitness on Main Street. Sadly, while the Main Street mural survived the March 3, 2020 tornado, the building it was on was severely damaged and has since been demolished.

Unlike those previous two murals, which were primarily images (boxing gloves for the one, an abstract design for the other) this one leans more strongly to signage, featuring the slogan “Shed Strong.” The kettlebell and dumbbells are an obvious reference to Shed Fitness’s business, while the energetic lines and triangles are found in much of Deeb’s other work, including the the two previous fitness-themed murals. The mural went up last June, not long after the East Nashville branch of Shed Fitness opened. You can watch a video of Deeb creating it (it looks like she did it in one day) on her Instagram page.

Located at 747 Douglas Avenue. The mural is found on the northeast side of the building, which is the far side from Douglas. Enter the parking lot and go around to the back of the building. Obviously, parking is available.

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