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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.

Get your tickets!

Tickets mural street art Nashville

Sometimes, art sneaks up on you. I’ve driven by this wall of giant ticket stubs at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium/Musician’s Hall of Fame and Museum many times and it took a while for it to register as art. If you peruse the many, many articles out there about the “20 Murals You Must See In Nashville!” you’ll be hard pressed to find it. Yet given all the concertgoers who pass by it, it has definitely been in a lot of Instagram shots. Indeed, it seems a little unnatural to post a daytime photo of it because nighttime is when people usually saddle up next to it for a photo, though Nashville Ballet was there in the daylight a couple years ago for some publicity shots. The mural seems to have gone up probably in 2016 and certainly wasn’t there in 2013. The oldest ticket shown is from an April 4, 1965 Peter Paul & Mary show, while the newest is a Lady Antebellum ticket for a February 22, 2012 show. Both are found in the collum next to the doors,  near the top. The mural is printed, not painted. There are individual giant stubs inside.

Tickets mural street art Nashville

Tickets mural street art Nashville

Located at 417 4th Avenue North. The mural actually faces James Roberston Parkway, on the auditorium’s east side. This is downtown, so parking is nearby, none of it free.

Marathon Gas Mural

Marathon Gas mural street art Nashville

The new mural by Michael Cooper of Murals and More is an interesting addition to Nashville’s outdoor art scene. Unlike most outdoor art murals in town, tourists won’t be getting their portraits taken in front of it, pretending perhaps to be run over by the large truck in the center.  The Marathon Gas terminal on 51st is decidedly industrial and off-limits to outsiders. That fence is as close as you’ll get without an invitation. But the Marathon terminal is also in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, on the north end of The Nations. Just down the street are places like Nicky’s Coal Fired Pizza, an outpost of Frothy Monkey, and a Frutta Bowls. Fancy apartments have opened a couple blocks north, and more are coming. And murals are popping up all over as part of this gentrification, such as the one for Village Realty and of course the giant silo mural. Marathon may simply be trying to stay in tune with the changing neighborhood, or it may be playing a little defense. The Nations used to be the kind of low and middle-income neighborhood that an industrial site holding hazardous material is often found in, but now Marathon has wealthier neighbors not always accustomed to living near such a site. Some art might make the relationship a little easier. In the slideshow below, take a look at how Cooper cleverly incorporated the Marathon sign that was already on the building.

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Located at 1472 51st Avenue North. There is some street parking south of the railroad and at local businesses. A path has recently been installed along the fence, and there’s a picnic table as well. Grab a cup at Frothy and enjoy the art!

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