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Unusual

G.P. Rose & Co.

This may at first just appear to be a picture of an old brick building, found on 8th Ave South just south of the railroad bridge, a building which until recently housed the Downtown Antique Mall. Look closer though, and a faded set of signs emerges. Damage on the taller part of the building has erased part of the original sign, and banners, one for the departed antique mall, one advertising the building for lease, hide much of the long thin signs down the length of the building.  (There’s a clip from Google Street View below that doesn’t have the leasing sign.) They advertise a firm that was called G.P. Rose & Co. According to the 1919 edition of  Grain and Farm Service Centers, Vol 43 (scroll down to the bottom of page 1143, the linked page) G.P Rose & Co. was founded in 1884, the successor to Smith & Rose. The company featured direct access to the L & N and the N.C. & St. Louis Railroads (there are still tracks behind the building, and rail traffic still passes by regularly) and was powered by three 35 h.p G.E. engines (in 1919, anyway). There were two buildings at the time that could hold a total of 95 thousand bushels and handled wheat, oats rye, field seeds, and cowpeas. As the signs on the building say twice, “A Feed for Every Breed.” It’s quite conceivable the sign goes back to 1884. If so, it would have been originally painted 136 years ago. It’s also possible the sign is somewhat younger or was substantially altered at some point – being sure will take more research. But it’s very likely to be one of the oldest painted signs in Nashville, if not the very oldest. Nashville was a much smaller place back then, as can be seen from the 1889 G.M. Hopkins Atlas of Nashville, and there aren’t many candidates left. For instance, you can see a few faded letters high up on 423 Broadway, present home of the downtown version of Mellow Mushroom, which seem to read “—WELL BROS & Co” that may be from the late 19th century, but that’s about it for Lower Broad and its cross streets. The 1889 Hopkins Atlas also explicitly shows G.P Rose, though back then 8th Ave was called Spruce Street (see the excerpt below). I also found on eBay a collection notice signed by Mr. G.P. Rose himself, dated April 29th, 1885 (which I bought!) – you’ll find it at the bottom. It would be really nice if this sign was spruced up. That will likely depend on the building’s next tenant, assuming it’s not torn down.

GP Rose sign street art Nashville

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Located at 606 Eighth Ave South. It’s possible to park for a while in the space just south of the building, between it and Norris Architecture next door. Otherwise, you’ll need to park on the other side of 8th Ave.

La Hacienda Taqueria

Facing the front parking lot of La Hacienda Taqueria, one of the original Mexican restaurants on Nolensville Road, is a mural that has been seen by tens if not hundreds of thousands of people by now. But it’s unsigned, and most people would have no idea who might have made it. Even the staff just points to the signature on the main mural inside, which was clearly done by the same artist. It reads “M. Torok ’99.” Well, there is a painter and muralist named “M. Torok” with a deep connection to Nashville, Mitchell Torok. Torok, who now resides in Texas, had a long career in country music as a performer and, in partnership with his late wife, Gail “Ramona” Redd, a songwriter. He is best known for the songs “Mexican Joe,” (which was an even bigger hit for Jim Reeves) and “Caribbean,” and he and Redd wrote successful songs for a number of other artists. But before he became a recording star, he got a dual degree in Art and Journalism from Stephen F. Austin University. He must have had a reputation as a visual artist in Nashville because he  “was commissioned to paint a 110-foot, five-panel mural titled “The History of the Grand Ol’ Opry”, which was on display in the Ryman Auditorium until it was remodeled for live performances.” (Wikipedia) (That remodeling happened in 1994.) He also painted an 85-foot long mural called “Elvis-A-Rama” detailing the life of Elvis Presley, which was last seen in a museum owned by Jimmy Velvet that closed in 2006. It’s unclear what happened to that mural. The La Hacienda murals, including the ones inside, are a little worse for wear, but still going strong. The outdoor one featured here has been broken up by the construction of an outdoor seating area, but you can see that hidden part below in the slideshow. And being from 1999, it is definitely one of the oldest outdoor murals in town. That I know of only the Chromatics mural (1993) and the renovated painter mural at the Hard Rock Cafe are older (date unknown, but it was hidden for decades by an adjoining building that was torn down in or just before 1994, when Hard Rock opened). The Angels Will Rise/Seventh Letter mural came just after La Hacienda, in 2001. As of this writing, Torok at 90 years old is apparently still alive and painting and writing in Texas, making him perhaps the oldest and certainly one of the oldest artists I’ve featured on this blog.

Hacienda Mural street art Nashville

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Located at 2615 Nolensville Pike. The mural actually sits on the north wall (facing downtown) of La Hacienda Supermercado next door at 2617. There is parking in front and in the rear of the restaurant (the rear parking is reached from Grandview Avenue). If you want any chance to see it without cars parked in front, arrive before 10:00 a.m., which is when the restaurant opens each day.

We Are Seeds

The giant mural that appeared this fall on the back of Center 615  began as an idea to bring together the many non-profit groups in Nashville. Southern Women for Civil Rights planted the seed, as it were, for what became the We Are Seeds Community Mural + Block Party, resulting in the mural above. Center 615 offered its back wall, which is separated by an alley and a fence from the Parkway Terrace Homes, an MDHA affordable housing complex. For the SWCR and the artists who became involved, it was important to engage that community and not simply present them with a fait-accompli. So the artists, including Catlin Mello, Omari Booker, Elisheba Israel Mrozik and Woke3 (Here’s a photo set of them as they got started planning), began by engaging the Parkway Terrace community. Some of them worked with children from Parkway Terrace in portrait-drawing classes. As the mural began to grow, with the theme “They tried to bury us but we are seeds,” many of the kids from the community got directly involved, helping to paint and signing their names. The lower reaches of the mural are covered with names and even a few handprints. Some of them needed a little help. A few of the kids are even featured in the mural (see below). Adults and children from communities and non-profits from around the city also got involved. Painting the mural took about a month When the time for the block party rolled around (September 22, 2018), 500 to 600 people representing communities and non-profits from around Davidson county participated in games, put the finishing touches on the mural and shared free food and drink (provided in part by Center 615) – and maybe also bought some lemonade to support the Malala Fund. The mural itself demonstrates the diverse styles of the main artists. Woke3 did the waves, flowers, and tree on the far left of the mural, Mello did the lettering (with an assist by Troy Duff), the women in the center were done by Mrozik, and the children and flowers on the right were done by Omari Booker. All I can say is wow, and I’m sorry I missed the party.

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Located at 615 Main Street. The mural lies on the north side of the building (the opposite side from Main) along an alley that runs between North 7th and North 6th Streets. During the workweek, there are often cars parked in front of the mural, so it is probably best to visit on the weekend. Street parking is available on both Sixth and Seventh.

Jefferson Street Gateway to Heritage

Like in so many other cities in the United States, when the interstates came to Nashville, the were driven straight through the heart of a vibrant and historic African American neighborhood, the Jefferson Street corridor. As part of The New York Times’s 1619 Project, Princeton historian Kevin M. Kruse spelled out the history of this terrible legacy, focusing on Atlanta but telling a story that applies just as well here. Stitching back together what was torn apart isn’t easy, but the Jefferson Street Gateway to Heritage is an attempt to move in that direction. Jefferson Street is chopped up by interstates twice, but the worst spot is where I-40 sails over almost two blocks, between 26th Avenue and where 24th should be. Perhaps appropriately, it is there where one finds the center of this ongoing Metro-backed beautification process that seeks also to address Jefferson Street’s history. One of the key figures in kick-starting this process was Dr. Learotha Williams, a history professor at Tennesse State University (and colleague of your intrepid blogger). In the first phase, finished in 2012, the design firm Edge led a community-driven process that led to a new plaza under the bridge, featuring columns with plaques honoring various figures from the neighborhood’s history, and a giant mural by James R. Threalkill and Michael McBride. The Jefferson Street this mural shows is geographically fluid (Meharry Medical College is shown next to TSU, not its actual neighbor Fisk University), but fully captures the dynamism of the neighborhood’s past and present. The focus is on Jefferson Street’s deep musical history, which is a recurring theme in other modern Jefferson Street murals, such as the ones featured in Guitar heroes and Back in the Day. The mural also features lost businesses, like the Ritz Theater, while linking to the present with a reference to J.U.M.P., the Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership. The historic plaques on the columns (click to see some closeups – this story describes all the people featured) were done by FORMS+SURFACES and the landscape design was done by LOSE Design.

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Jefferson History mural street art Nashville

Located on the north side of the 2400 and 2500 blocks of Jefferson Street. The mural is on the east side of the site. There are also more history-themed columns on nearby blocks of Jefferson. Street parking is available starting at about 2600 Jefferson St.

 

Bending Normal

This piece, “Bending Normal” (2017), by Brooklyn artist Marcus Manganni, has stood in front of The Packing Plant (a building with several small art galleries) since September 2017. If you visit during the First Saturday Wedgewood-Houston art crawl, you’re likely to see people walking around, taking pictures, or just studying the different ways it catches the light from different angles. What you see when you see it, what you get when you shoot, depends entirely on where you are standing, what time of year and what time of day it is, and most certainly what the light is like. You can see from the light and reflections in these photos that I took them last winter. Shoot them now, and that half-finished building would now reflect as finished. No two pictures of the piece will ever be the same. And that’s probably the point. As Manganni noted in an interview with The Tennessean and as he was quoted in The Nashville Scene, “Bending Normal” is a direct response to the statue of Nathaniel Bedford Forrest by Jack Kershaw that’s visible from I-65  south of downtown. Other than saying his piece “sends the exact opposite message” of the Forrest sculpture, Manganni doesn’t directly explain how it is in opposition to Kershaw’s piece. My suggestion is that the very ambiguity of “Bending Normal,” that what it is and what it looks like is fluid, despite its hard crisp lines, is precisely that “opposite message.” “Bending Normal” poses more questions than it answers, while Kershaw’s piece asserts its truth and dares us to say otherwise. Certainly, Manganni’s piece is up for much richer interpretations than the statue of Forrest. (And it occurs to me – the Forrest statue is in Davidson County. I guess I have to put it on the blog. “No art left behind” and all that.) You can check out Manganni’s own photos of “Bending Normal” here.

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Located at 507 Hagan Street, at the corner with Gray Street. When it’s not art crawl, parking in the gravel lot across the street is easy, and there is parking along Gray Street as well. During art crawl, I recommend getting there early (6:00ish) or plan on parking farther away.

City under the bridge

Usually, I try to use a shot of the entire work as the featured image, but that’s impossible here, as this particular work is spread out over both sides of the underneath of a railroad bridge on Wedgewood Avenue. The wider shots are informative, but I think this detail above best captures the essence of the spread out work. It’s not clear how long these abstract skylines have been under the bridge next to Warren Paint and Color Co. It appears that mold and mildew have grown over some of the work, and some has been tagged with graffiti. That and some general deterioration, including chips out of the concrete that the work is painted on, suggests its been here for several years. I first saw it about a year ago, but I’m sure it’s much older. The abstract buildings may be inspired by the main Warren building (see below). There is also a rainbow-colored “RESIST sign on the bridge itself. That, I’m sure is fairly recent. In the slideshows below the factory, the first focuses on the north part of the underpass, working from east to west, while the second showcases the southside, working from west to east.

brick factory building Nashville

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Located on Wedgewood Avenue, between 700 and 654. Parking is tricky here. It is possible to park on a gravel area in front of 654, on the northeast side of the bridge, but I have only done this after hours and on the weekend.

500 Pink Elephants

Well, actually there is only one pink elephant, at least on Charlotte Avenue. But this is the 500th post on this blog, and I thought it was a good moment to post something different! And a good time to take a little vacation of sorts, because this time, WPLN did all my research for me. To be more precise, Sara Ernst, a former multimedia reporting intern at Nashville Public Radio did the research for the podcast Curious Nashville. You can read her story about the elephant, or listen to a podcast episode about various Nashville animal stories, including the pink elephant. Pinkie is currently the mascot of University Motors – you’ll find her on their website, and emblazoned on the shirts of their staff. She’s not the first elephant to reside here. Back when this spot was McPherson Motors, an even larger pink elephant greeted drivers on Charlotte. Even though the original elephant and McPherson Motors were gone for years, there was enough local nostalgia for the old one that when University Motors moved to the site, it seemed inevitable that they too had to have an elephant. But seriously, read Ernst’s story!

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Located at 6005 Charlotte Pike. Perhaps the best place to park is the Dollar General next door.

Anchor in the Storm

Anchor sculpture public art Nashville

Of all the works sponsored by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, this is one of the more unusual. It becomes more understandable once you read about it on Metro Art’s website. This piece, “Anchor in the Storm” (2013), by Betty and Lee Benson, commemorates a moment when a quarry saved the local neighborhood. During the 2010 flood, 700 billion gallons of floodwater poured into the Reostone Quarry (located on Robertson Avenue just a few blocks from the sculpture), water that would have otherwise innundated the nearby neighborhoods of Charlotte Park, The Nations, and Crowley Wood. The rock, from the quarry, was carved and donated by the quarry’s owners,  Rogers Group. The log structure is a raft, representing the neighborhoods saved by the quarry. Of course, I imagine it mostly serves as some interesting whimsey for small children to climb on. (The mural on the water tank behind is by Eric Henn. Read about it in This one is BIG!)

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Located at 6105 Morrow Road, i.e. West Park. The sculpture is just a few feet from Morrow Rd, in the northeast corner of the park. There is plenty of parking at the park, and there is nearby street parking.

 

This one is BIG!

Forest Mural street art Nashville

When Metro decided it was time to renovate both the West Park Pumping Station and West Park itself, plans called not only for new facilities for the dilapidated park but, oh yeah, also a 210-million gallon overflow tank to deal with major storms. That is, a 37 foot high, 260-foot diameter tank, plunked right on park grounds. That’s not exactly something you can hide. So to soften the blow a bit, the city hired Eric Henn to brighten up an otherwise drab concrete monstrosity. (See the second slide show below for what its unpainted older twin off park grounds looks like.) I think I can say this is the largest mural by far in Nashville. Plug the numbers into the formula for the area of the side of a cylinder, 2πrh, and the mural, which goes all the way around the tank, comes out to about 30,222 square feet. (“r” would be 130 feet, half the diameter, and “h” is the hight, 37 feet. The roof, by the way, which Henn and his team also painted, adds about 53000 square feet.) The silo painting of the older man and two kids is about 200 feet tall, but even with a base of 30 feet or so on each side, that only gets you to about 6000 sq ft for the man about a third of that for the kids, so 9000 or so. The Nations Wall that is only a few blocks from West Park, and which I have not blogged about yet (you can see a few pictures here) is probably less than 9000 sq ft all together, and the Off the Wall project in its entirety is in a similar range. The big murals downtown also top out at 10,000 sq ft or less. So yeah, this one is big, and you have to a bit of hiking to see all of it – 816 ft plus a little more, since you can’t hug right on the wall. Henn has an album on his Facebook page detailing the production of this mural, as well as a video of one of his colleagues struggling to stay out of the mud. His web page in incomplete, but it does suggest water tanks are something of a specialty. You can read here about all the improvements to the park, and here is an infographic about what the tank and the pumping station do. The first slideshow is a walk around the tank going clockwise from the featured picture above. The second shows some more distant views, the unadorned twin, and a closeup.

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Located at 6105 Morrow Road. There is plenty of parking at the park. If the spots next to the community center are full, there is another lot past the water tank.

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