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

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Signs

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.

UPDATE: Here’s the one at Anderson Group.

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.

Music Kitty

While Lower Broad is the honky-tonk heart of Nashville’s tourism industry, its hipper cousin is 12 South. It’s a district you find a lot more actual Nashvillians in, as it runs right through a residential neighborhood and has a lot of restaurants and bars popular with locals. So it’s a little less of a ghost town right now, but the lack of traffic again makes it easier to photograph murals, like this one promoting the Nashville Zoo. It was designed by Kate Johns, the Multimedia Designer at the Zoo, and produced by Stephan Sloan, who signs his work Never Xtinct. (Johns is credited on the mural as Kate Sarber, but having recently married, she changed her name. Mazel tov!) Sloan has a number of pictures featuring his progress in making this mural on his Instagram account – here’s the first and the last.

While it doesn’t directly reference them, the mural design is in part inspired by the zoo’s opening of a Sumatran tiger exhibit last Spring. Also known as Sunda tigers, they are seriously endangered.

Music Kitty mural Nashville street art

The Nashville Zoo is, of course, closed at the moment, but is worth your support when it opens. More properly called the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, it has an interesting past, originating as a plantation, later becoming a private wildlife park, before finally becoming a public zoo and wildlife park. It may be the only zoo that includes a plantation home you can visit. Until then, get your tiger fix at the mural on 12th Avenue South.

UPDATE: I missed it at the time, but this was the 600th post on this blog.

Located at 2315 12th Avenue South, on the north side of Trim. The mural faces towards downtown. As it is right in front of a parking lot, you might want to try visiting in the early morning, particularly once the pandemic passes.

The Dragon Mural

It’s a little odd to be adding this mural to the blog now. After all, it did first appear in 1995, making it one of the oldest outdoor murals in Nashville, and it was restored in 2015. But this is another pandemic post, because being in the heart of Hillsboro Village, popular with tourists and locals alike, just a hop-skip from Vanderbilt (which happens to own much of Hillsboro Village), there are cars parked in front of it pretty much 24/7/365. The quarantine takes away, but it also gives. The mural was originally done by Adam Randolph and David Glick, and originated as a community project that included students from nearby by Eakin Elementary. The inspiration for the design was the dragon in Fannie Mae Dees park, itself the recipient of a recent restoration. But time took its toll on the mural (see the first link in this post). Vanderbilt, which owns the building (there’s a reason that first link is to a Vandy PR site), the Hillsboro-West End Neighborhood Association and several Hillsboro Village businesses came together to sponsor the refurbishment, working with lead artist Andee Rudloff. (Glick and Randolph are no longer active artists, but were happy to see the work restored.) Also contributing to the restoration were the artists Ian Lawrence and Sterling-Goller Brown (the artists behind Eastside Murals), Stacey Irvin, and Novelty V. Habit. Like when it first went up, the community got involved. On October 31, 2015, there was a “Dragon Refresh” event that drew in community members to help in the restoration.

Dragon Mural Nashville street art

One notable difference between the original mural and the newly updated version is the sign. “Hillsboro Village Est. 1920” is a new addition of neighborhood pride.

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Located at 1801 21st Avenue South, at the corner with Belcourt Avenue, on the side of the building currently occupied by Posh Boutique. The mural faces Belcourt. This is Hillsboro Village – plenty of parking, almost none of it free. Free street parking is available if you are willing to walk a few blocks.

Glen Campbell, Rhinestone Cowboy

Here is more art in a time of pandemic. It’s unusual for me to have back-to-back posts about works in the same neighborhood, but there is something compelling about Lower Broad right now. The epicenter of Nashville’s tourism industry, it’s normally packed with people and raucous with sound – music, laughter, and the shouts and whoops from bachelorettes on pedal taverns. These days, it’s a ghost town, with only cops and the homeless, and two or three determined tourists. The Glen Campbell Museum and Rhinestone Stage only opened last month. On their Instagram page, they excitedly announced their first customers on February 1. By March 23, like much of the district, they were forced to close their doors by the pandemic.

Along the way, they got a spiffy mural, courtesy of Anthony Billups and Dean Tomasek of Music City Murals. On the museum’s Instagram page, you can see an image of it as a work in progress. It depicts Campbell dressed in rhinestone finery in a desert scene, where the Nashville skyline rises on the horizon like a distant mesa. “Rhinestone Cowboy” was, of course, Campbell’s signature song. While it is tempting to think that the line “I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway” is a reference to Lower Broad, that’s unlikely. The song was written and first recorded by Larry Weiss, a New York native who wrote it shortly after moving to Los Angeles, so it’s much more likely a reference to the one in New York.

Interestingly, the mural is not technically on the museum, which is on the second floor of the building that houses the Nashville branch of Rock Bottom Brewery, and it sits in Rock Bottom’s patio.

Campbell Mural Nashville street art

Located at 111 Broadway, at the corner with Second Avenue, across the street from Hard Rock Cafe. To get up close to it, you’ll need to enter Rock Bottom. The entrance to the museum is on Second Avenue. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

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