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nashville public art

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

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Signs

Beer Strong (New Heights Brewing)

How can a mural on a little-used side street be seen by thousands of people every day? If that little-used street faces the interstate. Up on a knoll along Carrol Street, this Eastside Murals work faces I-40, on the south side of the downtown loop, at the very north end of Chestnut Hill. I only knew of it recently because I’ve been staying home a lot and I stay off Nashville interstates as much as I can under any circumstances. Because of the tight sightlines, it’s impossible to get a traditional straight-on photograph. I took the photo at the bottom of this post from across the interstate, through a fence (near Mulberry and 5th). If it looks a little fuzzy, it’s because I blew it up a great deal.

New Heights Mural Nashville street art

The mural features the logo and motto of New Heights Brewing Company. New Heights was founded by people who came from San Diego, CA, and the logo includes not only the Nashville skyline (with its iconic Batman Building), but also San Diego’s North Park Water Tower. The Chestnut Hill neighborhood New Heights is in of course has its own iconic water tower, at 4th and Chestnut. The mural doesn’t actually lie on New Heights’ building, which is located about half a block away down 5th Avenue. The building it is on, which has a large three-dimensional sign in its front yard that says “GPI,” is currently vacant.

New Heights Interstate

Located at 915 5th Ave South. The mural faces Caroll Street, facing north towards downtown. It’s most easily accessed using either 6th Ave South coming from downtown, or coming from Oak Street, off of 4th Avenue South. Street parking on Carrol is prohibited, but for the moment you can park in front of the GPI building.

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.

 

Black Lives Matter

It’s no secret that the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers has sparked a massive protest movement here in America and around the world. Not surprisingly, it has produced art. Perhaps the most widely shared example is a mural in Minneapolis done by Cadex Herrera, Greta McLain, Xena Goldman, Rachel Breen, Niko Alexander, Maria Javier, and Pablo Helm Hernandez. While I would not be surprised if there are others in Nashville, this one at the damaged Jerry’s Artarama on Main (above) and a similar one at Cobra Bar on Gallatin are the only ones I know of in Nashville at this time. I suspect others will emerge if they haven’t already.

This one is obviously temporary, as it is painted on boards covering a window blown out by the March 3rd tornado. Of course, my last post was about another mural on Jerry’s Artarama, but I feel this one is timely, and as construction is already getting started next door and a large disposal unit you see at construction sites has appeared just to the side of this mural, I thought it important to document it now. I also try really hard to credit artists, but this one is unsigned, and I suspect it is anonymous for a reason.

The happy-style letters belie the seriousness of the topic at hand. In my main work, I am a history professor, not an art blogger. I do not know why this particular incident has generated the enormous energy and the wave of protests that it has, while others like it before did not. My future colleagues will spend a lot of time sorting that out. Some reasons seem obvious, but one thing you learn in history, the obvious answers aren’t always right, or they may not be as important as they look. What history-minded people like me can do is document everything, so the full story can eventually be told. Already, the Smithsonian is collecting signs plastered to the fence around the White House so they will be available to researchers and the public in the future.

Below is a shot giving you some idea of how the piece fits with everything else on the wall. I took it at this odd angle because of the placement of the disposal unit. In it, you see murals by Andee Rudloff and Herb Williams, and the remnants of an older mural by Hannah Holgate and Marshall Hall that was severely damaged by the tornado.

BLM mural sign Nashville street art

Located at 713 Main Street. For now, the parking lot in front of Jerry’s Artarama is available, but once this becomes a construction site, that’s unlikely. The nearest street parking is towards downtown on Seventh Street North.

 

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.

Williams Salvage Company

Williams Salvage Sign mural Nashville street art

If you stand at the bottom of the west (Downtown) side of the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge and turn towards Lower Broad, you should be able to see this faded sign off to your left. It’s at the back end of a gray-green brick building that lies at 127 Third Avenue South, across the street from the Nashville branch of Big Machine Vodka. As of this posting, the building is empty with a big “Available” sign. I’ve known of the faded sign above for some time, but it has frustrated me. The red lettering is so faded, I could only confidently read “Salvage” in the middle, maybe “Company” to the right. But what salvage company? There are of course old city directories at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, but by the time I thought to do that, COVID has closed everything.

But then I stumbled on this blog post from Brentwood Interiors, which used to be called “The Salvage Store” and was located not in Brentwood, but a couple doors down from the gray-green brick building with the mysterious sign. In it, they mention a collection of salvage and interior goods stores that used to line both sides of this stretch of Third Avenue, from the 1950s into the 1990s. One name they mentioned was “Williams Salvage Company.” Now, while it doesn’t look much like “Williams” would quite fit in front of “Salvage” on this sign (maybe it was abbreviated), it doesn’t take much internet sleuthing to find that yes, Williams Salvage Company was long at 127 Third Avenue South. In this picture, you can see it used to say “Williams Salvage Co.” in bold letters on the front of the building. That sign got painted over, but you can still barely make it out.

I’m not sure when Williams Salvage closed. I do know that when Hastings Architecture bought the building in 2002, it was referred to by the Nashville Business Journal as “the old Williams Salvage building.” (Hastings has long since moved on.) These old sings are disappearing. Relics of a different era, they remind of us of a Nashville long gone. I hope whoever moves in leaves the faded Williams Salvage Company sign in place.

Located at, you guessed it, 127 Third Avenue South. The sign is on the south side of the building, overlooking a parking lot. This is downtown, so lots of parking, almost none of it free. Hint: On the other side of the pedestrian bridge, there’s still some free parking for Cumberland Park.

12 South Edition – NLGOY

In the selfie wars of Nashville, the Gulch Wings may be King, but the “nashville looks good on you series” is certainly a contender. Of course, I recently got a shot of the one on a small building behind Frothy Monkey’s 12 South outpost easily only because the crowds are gone, so chalk this up as another pandemic shot. There’s also one on the Anderson Group Real Estate building on 21st South (which I haven’t put on the blog yet) and my favorite, the big one on Nolensville Pike. They’re all done by the artist who bills himself online as NASH.TN Note the small white block next to the word “good.” It’s a notice asking people to please not take down the banner. In the immediate aftermath of the March 2nd tornadoes, banners reading “volunteering” were placed over the word “nashville” on all three murals, making them read “volunteering looks good on you.” Here it is on the one on Nolensville Pike. Tornadoes,  pandemic, what’s next? Another flood? Nashville needs a break.

There is also a Legos Man by for Becks on the back side of the building and a couple of other small pieces by Raddington Falls. One of them may be responsible for the unsigned stencils on the north side of the small building.

Located at 2509 12th Avenue South. The mural is on a small building in Frothy Monkey’s back yard, which can also be reached by a small alley behind Frothy Monkey that runs between Beechwood and Sweetbriar Avenues. That’s where you’ll find the Legos Man. There is street parking, particularly if you are willing to walk a bit, and a fair amount of paid parking in the immediate blocks.

The Flipside

Things are quiet in the 12 South neighborhood these days, as they are in all of Nashville’s tourism zones. So perhaps it’s a better time for locals to check out the art. This piece lies on the side of The Flipside, a restaurant who’s social media doesn’t seem to acknowledge the pandemic at all. This fun piece is by Gage Lozano, an artist and graphic designer who signs his work N.Gaged. It’s been up for about a year-and-a-half, so by now, many tourists have had the opportunity to stand under those headphones and get their picture taken. Kristin Luna has written recently about how many business owners want “interactive” murals for their buildings, specifically wings, like the famous ones in The Gulch by Kelsey Montague. As she says, all murals are interactive, and even if you want something specifically designed for interaction, it doesn’t have to be wings. For example, it could be headphones, like these, or the ones by Ty Christian at The Listening Room Cafe. It’s a good point. I think intentionally interactive murals are great, but artists need to be allowed the freedom to explore new ideas. This one by Lozano, of course, does a lot more, the flowers making them headphones seem more organic than technological.

The mural is in a tight alley, which explains the weird cropping. Apparently, there was a Predators mural here before Lozano’s went it.

Flipside headphone mural Nashville street art

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There’s also a fun sign on the back of the building, which I couldn’t nail down an artist for, but I know it’s over five years old!

Flipside bike mural Nashville street art

Located at 2403 12th Avenue South. The mural is on the south side of the building, and if you continue down that alley you’ll find the bike sign. There is free street parking if you are willing to walk a ways, and a few pay lots nearby.

Looking Pretty

This particular wall at the corner of Dallas and 12th in the 12 South district has seen a series of murals that Eastside Murals has played a role in. The mural promoting the American Heart Association’s “Nashville at Heart” campaign that I featured in Last year’s heartthrob was their work, as was the mural that followed – which I never blogged about. Oops – search for “#peacelovegooddeeds” on Instagram – you’ll find lots of pictures of it. This one they helped on, but it isn’t their design. The designer and main artist is Austin artist Emily Eisenhart. That it’s her design is pretty obvious from a quick look at her Instagram page. You’ll note the main theme seems to be people wearing blue pants. The mural sits on the side of a building currently occupied by one of the Nashville branches of Madewell, a clothing store that specializes in denim. Eisenhart also did a mural for Madewell in the Williamsburg district of Brooklyn, in the same signature style. The Nashville mural also had a community component. Students from Pearl-Cohn, an entertainment magnet school, came out one day last March when the mural went in and helped paint it. This is probably why under the word “Madewell,” it reads “Created in support of music and art programs in Metro Nashville’s public schools.” On Eisenhart’s Instagram page, you can find several posts about the production of this mural.

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Located at 2709 12th Avenue South. The mural faces south, towards Dallas Avenue. There is paid parking nearby, and street parking if you are willing to walk a bit. It’s fairly easy right now, but it will be harder when the pandemic ends and the tourists come back.

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