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nashville public art

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

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Signs

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.

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.

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