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nashville public art

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

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Signs

Loser’s Postcard

Losers Postcard mural Nashville street art

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.

Slow Burn

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.

Slow Burn Mural Nashville street art sign

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.

ABLE

Back last July, a new mural appeared in the Stocking 51 development. It promotes the nearby fashion store found in that complex, ABLE. ABLE employs low-income women from around the world, seeking to help them achieve a living wage and a measure of independence. Some of their work, notably their jewelry, is made by women here in Nashville, while other products, including leather goods and clothing, are made by their partners abroad. The mural naturally features women and the company’s motto “She’s worth more.” It’s by  Sarah Liz Tate, a Nashville illustrator who appeared on this blog a month ago for her Crieve Hall mural, which is actually more recent than the ABLE mural. On Tate’s Instagram page, you can see some shots of the mural when it was half done. This mural does replace another mural by Chloé Meyer, which was a mural based on her winning 2018 entry in Georges Debouef wines annual contest for the art that will be on their label for the most recent vintage of Debouef Beaujolais Nouveau. All art is ephemeral, so perhaps it’s short life is appropriate for a mural honoring such an ephemeral wine.

On a happier note, Tate got married last weekend. Mazel tov!

Located at 5026 Centennial Boulevard. There’s parking there and along 51st Avenue North, though it can be tough, particularly around lunchtime.

 

Butcher & Bee

Butcher&Bee mural Nashville street art sign

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.

Storm damage, Germantown and North Nashville

Early Tuesday morning, March 3, 2020, a powerful tornado touched down at the John C. Thune Airport and the tore through North Nashville, going parallel to Jefferson Street but a little north, then ripped through the southern part of Germantown, jumped the river and tore down Main Street and through Lockeland Springs and beyond. In “What we lost in the storm” I chronicled as best I could what outdoor art had been lost and damaged in East Nashville. On Thursday I had an opportunity to explore Germantown and North Nashville, including the Jefferson and Buchanan Street corridors.

I was deeply concerned that these art rich neighborhoods would also have seen many losses, as I knew from reporting that the general destruction was similar to Main Street and Five Points, where much of the damaged art in East Nashville is found. I am very happy to report that this is not the case. With a couple of minor and one serious exception, all concerning pieces I have never blogged about before, the outdoor art of Gernamntown and North Nashville escaped the ravages of the tornado.

Above, you can see a blue tarp on the wall of the Christie Cookie Company building at Third Ave North and Madison Street. It covers an area where the bricks peeled off the wall. When I saw it on Thursday, there were already workers repairing the building (hence the Port-a-Pottie). I don’t know what it will take to repair the wall, but I have little doubt that Christie Cookie will replace the sign if repairs require it to be destroyed. I know that both Seth Prestwood and Eastside Murals have done versions (scroll down) of this sign, but Christie only shows a couple of tiny pictures of the artist who did this one. Failure to credit sign makers is a common error of companies large and small.

At Green Fleet Bikes, located at 934 Jefferson Street, their mural by Dough Joe is fine, but the tornado smashed the welded sculpture of junk bikes the graces the yard. To my, surprise, I never photographed it when it was intact. These two clips from Google Street View give you a sense of what it looked like in April 2019, though I believe it had been added to since and was larger than what you see here.

When I talked to Green Fleet’s owner as he and staff cleaned up the debris from the storm, he told me passers-by thought the smashed up version of the sculpture was all their good bikes mangled up and crushed together by the storm! The original was done by an artist who the owner could only describe as “an artist from Wedgewood-Houston” and had been added on to by staff overtime. The bus in the background, painted by  Andee Rudloff, survived the storm unscathed.

Bike Sculpture street art Nashville tornado

The greatest loss in outdoor art on the west side of the river is the loss of the R&R Liquor Store sign. R & R Liquor, located a little over a block from Green Fleet at 1034 Jefferson Street, had a decades-old three-dimensional sign not unlike the one at  Weiss Liquor on Main Street that was also lost. Nashville’s inventory of this style of sign continues to shrink. No doubt they are expensive to make and replace. Again, I never took a picture of it intact, so I include here a picture clipped from Google Street View.

We can be grateful that the art-rich neighborhoods of Germantown and North Nashville did not lose more, but of course, the damage to people’s homes and businesses was still tremendous. Nashville has a long way to go to rebuild. I know this town, and I know art and artists will play a key role in that rebuilding.

 

 

 

What we lost in the storm

 

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.

One image more than any other has been the symbol of the tornado damage, Basement’s East’s fallen wall of concert murals with its still intact version of the I Believe in Nashville mural (based on a design by Adrien Saporiti of DCXV Industries). A simple image that speaks to the neighborhood’s musical heritage and its enduring strength.

Basement East mural street art Nashville tornado

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.

Hunt Supply mural rubble

Before the storm, it looked like this:

Hunt Supply Mural street art Nashville

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.

Fite memorial mural street art Nashville tornado

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. 

Eastside Murals also created the largest mural that was lost to the tornado. Molly Green at McFerrin was a total loss, the building left in ruins, the ice-cream-colored walls painted by Eastside reduced to rubble.

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-made graffiti 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.

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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.

East Nashville Burger Up

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.

You Belong (at The Russell)

Not many hotels are found in hundred-year-old churches, at least not in Nashville, which certainly makes The Russell stand out. So too does their mural and sign done, appropriately, by I Saw The Sign, run by Meghan Wood and a partner identified only as “Stinky.” The building is indeed a Nashville treasure. First built in 1904 as the Russell Street Presbyterian Church (also known as the Edgefield Cumberland Presbyterian Chruch) the building housed the Russell Street Church of Christ from 1913 until 2001. The building, which survived the catastrophic East Nashville fire of 1916, was severely damaged in the 1998 tornado. Unable to pay the costs of reconstruction, the congregation sold the building to developer March Egerton in 2001. He repaired it and sold it to The Power House Christian Center in 2003, which passed it on to Life Church International in 2013, who sold it to its present owners in 2017 (there are various organizations by those names).

There’s no missing the building’s history. Besides very obviously looking like a church, there are the magnificent stained glass windows. I include the outdoor views here, but off course they are even more spectacular from the inside. The hotel also honors the spirit of the building through its Rooms for Rooms program, where a portion of the hotel’s proceeds is given to organizations that assist the homeless.

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Located at 819 Russell Street, at the corner with 9th Street South. The mural faces 9th, while the stained glass windows are visible from both 9th and Russell. The historic plaque is by the entrance. There is street parking in this neighborhood. The lot across the street from the mural is hotel parking.

Arcade Alley

Michael Cooper of Murals and More is probably the most long-standing muralist in town, making outdoor art long before it became trendy in Nashville. Which is why highlighting this particular mural in Arcade Alley isn’t exactly breaking news. The signature, way down on the wall behind the last car on the right, gives the date of “6.25.99.” As such it ties with the mural at La Hacienda by Mitchell Torok as the third oldest mural in Nashville that I know of, after the Chromatics mural and the Hard Rock Painter Man. It is in Cooper’s usual trompe-l’oeil style, and is filled with the visual jokes he often incorporates, like a cat leaping out a window unnoticed by its humans as they steal a kiss. The shadows you see are also trompe-l’oeil  – I try to avoid real shadows in my pictures.

Arcade Alley gets its name because it bisects The Arcade, Nashville’s oldest enclosed shopping area. What was once Overton Allery was given a glass roof and redesigned to look more like the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II in Milan, though it was never that fancy. Originally, when it opened in 1904, the bottom floor was shops and the upper level was used for offices. Today, the bottom floor is mainly restaurants serving lunch and breakfast to downtown office workers, while the top floor is primarily art galleries. A good time to visit the galleries is during the monthly Downtown First Saturday Art Crawl.

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Located at 417 Union Street, on the east wall of the restaurant of the same name. It faces a parking lot. This is downtown, so lots of parking, almost none of it free.

The Spirit of Nashville

The “Spirit of Nashville” posters are all over town. You’ll find them in offices, restaurants, and homes all around Nashville. They are the product of Anderson Design Group  (formerly part of Anderson Thomas Design, Inc.) and first appeared in 2003 when founder and lead designer Joel Anderson got the idea for a calendar of hand-drawn retro posters capturing the essence and history of Nashville. Realizing they had far more than twelve ideas, ADG has been producing new posters ever since for the series. There’s even a book that has gone through multiple editions, Spirit of Nashville—The Art & Soul of Music City.  According to their store’s web page about the series, “This project has been a 16-year collaboration of 17 ADG staff artists, researchers, historians, illustrators, printers, calligraphists, and designers.”

The art on the outside of the building, including the large Sprint of Nashville mural, are all metal prints from the series. The mural is a variation of a 2019 design by Anderson himself called “Spirit of Nashville: Leaning Cowboy,” and you can get a print in several sizes. There are many designs honoring all kinds of Nashville icons and institutions. On the first picture of the building below, you can see two large posters (there’s another around the backside), “Music City Pinup Girl” and “State Flag Skyline.” In the middle of the is a small plaque – “Photo Opportunity.” ADG knows something about selfie culture!

Below are some other pictures of the building, and the signs on the ADG store. I put in two angled shots because a couple of the posters are hidden in a straight-on view, and the poster on the backside of the building (“Music City (Man)“) is at the end of the slide show.

Anderson posters Nashville mural street art

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Located at 116 29th Ave North. Street parking is available.

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