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nashville public art

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

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.

By the tracks

It’s been a few weeks since I post any “wild” graffiti to the blog, though for all I know this was done with full permission of the owners. Owners of what? Hard to say. This piece is found on a small concrete building that lies at the corner of 11th Avenue North and Harrison Street, just below the tracks. This is part of an industrial area squeezed between what developers like to call North Gulch to the south and Hope Gardens to the north. It’s an area that has resisted development, a pocket of warehouses and factories a few blocks from the State Capitol. Two long-standing industrial firms are found right across the street. On both sides of 11th Avenue going north and to the east along Harrison Street, is the “campus” of John Bouchard and Sons, a machine shop and iron casting factory that goes back to 1908.  A little farther down Harrison, on both sides of the road, is a branch of U.S. Smokeless Tobacco. While the company goes back to 1822, its Nashville factory on Harrison only goes back to 1996. But its presence suggests this small area will remain industrial. A large plot half a block north of the graffiti mural was recently leveled, tearing down what used to be a Goodwill warehouse that had been severely damaged by fire. The new owners of the site? U.S. Smokeless Tobacco. So, no condominiums, at least not yet.

The little concrete building itself is probably railroad property, though abandoned. For a long time, it was completely screened by trees and occupied by at least one homeless individual. Today, the trees are gone, and a security car is often parked next to it, no homeless to be seen. On the other side of the tracks lies Solis North Gulch Apartments, which start at a little over $1500/month and go up quickly, but the corner of Harrison and Eleventh is likely to stay out of the development craze for some time to come.

UH Graffiti Nashville mural street art

Located at the corner of 11th Avenue North and Harrison Street. Street parking is available, but be aware large trucks come through here frequently.

A bull on Charlotte

This bull with the peony in his mouth perched high above the Cumberland appeared on the outer wall of Elemental Arthouse’s factory store a few weeks ago. Why this bull is apparently standing on one of the arches of the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge is unclear, but images of animals, often surreal, are common in the work of the artist, Jessica Fife. A bull with a peony in his mouth also evokes the story of Ferdinand, the peacefull bull who had no interest in fighting, wanting only to smell all the pretty flowers. Elemental Arthouse has more to do with iron bridges than peaceful bulls. They bill themselves as people who “turn homes and businesses into a work of art,” though wood and metalworking. Signs, furniture, and all kinds of decorative designs are made in the warehouse building this small storefront it attached to. The hashtag that both EA and Fife use for this mural is “#bullsitwall.” I tried to come up with a clever blog title around that but didn’t come up with anything I was comfortable using. Apparently, the plan is that EA will make a bench to go in front of the mural so people can sit and have their photo taken. Hence, “bullsit.”

Fife, who teaches art at Austin Peay University, also has written that she has recently bid on more murals in Nashville, so hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of her animals in odd places!

Bullsit mural street art Nashville

Located at 4206 Charlotte Avenue. The mural faces west, away from downtown. Street parking is available on 42nd Avenue, and to some extent on 43rd. The mural lies between these two streets.

The Riders

Between 2010 and 2015, Metro Arts sponsored a series of artistic bike racks by local and regional artists that are now scattered around town. One of the first to go in was this one, The Riders (2010) by Seth Conley. Being based at the foot of the Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, it’s seen by thousands of commuters and tourists every day, even more on a game day. The sculpture is something of a cheeky visual joke, a set of peloton riders racing along to which you to can attach your very stationary bike. (A peloton is a pack of riders who take turns riding in front, where they are fully exposed to the wind, while those behind draft off of them.) I’ve featured a few of these bike racks on the blog before – rarely do you see any bikes attached to them. Those scooters in the back, however, had been neatly placed all around the bike rack when I went to photograph it. They beeped at me a lot when I moved them. The artist, Conley, took a little work to verify, in part because none of his other work looks anything like this. But on his artist Facebook page, where you can see much of his art, there is a picture of the work when it was barely halfway done. Conley hasn’t updated that page since 2018, perhaps because his current job likely keeps him busy – Senior Creative Art Director at Wizards of the Coast, the home company of both Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. (His Instagram page is a little more up-to-date.)

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Located on the 400 block of First Street South, just south of Nissan Stadium and of Victory Avenue, across the street from the east end of the Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. This is in the middle of a giant parking lot. The only part that is reliably free is the part labeled “Cumberland Park Parking” right across the street from the bike rack.

Impermanent, Bongo East

Back in April 2018, there was a major mural art show put on by a consortium of artists that called themselves Impermanent. An old warehouse in The Nations was completely covered in murals. The name was chosen appropriately, as those murals have since been painted over. More recently, this giant image of their name appeared on the side of Bongo East at Five Points, courtesy of the artist Sterbo. It’s appropriate here too, as things always seem to be changing in Five Points. That white building in the background is the boutique Vandyke Hotel, where before a meat-and-three had been for years. The hotel’s construction destroyed or hid three murals on the other side of Bongo East.

And “impermanent” is appropriate for another reason. This wall once held, briefly, an installation of the Inside/Out portrait project developed by French artist JR and sponsored by OZ Arts Nashville. While I blogged about the other installations in this series, I never got around to writing about the Bongo East version, but here is what it looked like.

Inside Out mural street art Nashville

The small image in the middle of the Impermanent mural is a triple version of Sterbo’s logo.

Impermanent Mural logo street art Nashville

Located at 107 11th Street South, just off Five Points. It faces a large yard on the south side of the building. This is Five Points, so plenty of paid parking, as well as street parking, but for that, you may have to walk a block or two depending on the time of day.

Crieve Hall – Love Where You Live

Crieve Hall is not a neighborhood with a lot of outdoor art. It’s an almost entirely residential neighborhood made up ranch houses from the 1950s and 1960s that sit on substantial lots. Its best-known attraction is probably Traveller’s Rest, a home first built in 1799 by John Overton, a judge and an advisor to Andrew Jackson. But the neighborhood now has some significant art, by artist Sarah Liz Tate, a Nashville illustrator. Tate has been on this blog before, as the artist responsible for the “It’s Going to Be O.K” mural on Charlotte, part of the  Off The Wall Nashville project. This mural, which graces the entrance to the Hogan Road tunnel, was sponsored by the Crieve Hall Women’s League as part of a beautification program. They also employed Drew’s Lawn and Landscaping to improve the grounds around the tunnel entrance. If you look at the Crieve Hall Women’s League Instagram page, you’ll see a shot of what the site looked like before. On Tate’s Instagram page, you can see shots of her creating the mural.

The train, by the way, seems to be semi-permanent. In Tate’s photos and those of the CHWL, there’s a train sitting there above the tunnel. At the other end of that tunnel, to the left, there’s a gate with a lot of very unfriendly signs blocking the path to a certain statue of a certain Confederate general that is visible from I-65. I suppose it needs to be on this blog someday if I can talk the owner into letting me take pictures.

Crieve Hall Mural street art Nashville

Crieve Hall Mural street art Nashville

Located at the west end of the 600 block of Hogan Road, near the corner with Regent Drive. This isn’t an area with easy street parking. I’d recommend driving a little north on Regent and parking on Crieve Road. There is a small road next to the left (south) flank of the mural, which is a CSX access road. If you park here (briefly) there’s a turnaround spot about 100 feet beyond so you don’t have to back out in front of the nearly blind tunnel.

The Listening Room, Selfie Edition

Selfie-bait is a growing trend in Nashville murals and the giant colorful headphones at The Listening Room Cafe is a case in point. I think it all began with the wings mural in The Gulch by Kelsey Montague, who specializes in murals designed to entice people to use them as frames for portraits. Much of the mural movement in Nashville is propelled by business owners who want people to get their pictures taken in front of their mural and of course check in on social media. This mural goes the extra mile. For one, The Listening Room’s Instagram handle, @TheListeningRoomCafe, is on the mural. And, like the mural at Zeal Church, there are instructions as to where the photographer is supposed to stand. Note the cable coming out of the headphones. It’s an arrow, leading to the perfect spot.

The artist is Ty Christian, who has been on this blog for a very different mural. Harmony is more in keeping with his other work, seen on his website (above) and his Instagram page. His mural for The Listening Room is not the only mural on this wall. Earlier I featured a fantastic hand-painted sign by Michael Cooper of Murals and More. I’ve seen at least as many people getting their picture taken with the sign, but admittedly I don’t drive down 4th Avenue every day.

Listening Room murals street art Nashville

Located at 618 4th Avenue South. There is some limited parking at the Listening Room and some street parking on Elm Street. As the mural faces a parking lot, your best bet is to visit early in the day, well before showtime. Enjoy the music and enjoy the art!

Hyatt House and the Melting LP

Nestled in the alcove that forms the entrance to the Hyatt House Nashville at Vanderbilt (actually a couple blocks north of Vandy) is this large image (it’s around ten feet high). It looks for all the world like a viny LP record that is melting, dripping in thin streams of color down the panel. If you’re just walking down the street, it jumps out in stark contrast from the white wall behind it, as you can gather from the context shots below. A deconstructed vinyl record in rapidly developing Midtown seems appropriate, particularly since it is just a few steps away from the Rock Block, itself threatened by growth. It’s by Eastside Murals, with a discreet signature on the side. Instead of their more common way of working by painting directly on walls, this work is on a large wooden panel. The wall it sits on is alternately smooth and rough, and you can see from the picture of the signature below, the artists shaped the wood accordingly. Is it coincidence that the void in the middle is the perfect place to stand to get your picture taken?

Dripping vinyl mural street art Nashville

Hotels frequently use art, sometimes on a grand scale, but I think a giant wooden panel painted by local artists on the outside of a hotel is a little unusual. It certainly fits with the theme that Nashville business, even corporate chains, see outdoor art as a necessary part of their business plan.

Located at 2100 Hayes Street. The mural is on the south side of the building facing Hayes, near the corner with 21st Avenue North. There is street parking on Hayes.

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