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

The Gulch Dog Park, Part 5 – Katie Tucker Gossett

This is the fifth in the series I’m doing covering the murals in the dog park in The Gulch. In the summer of 2019, MarketStreet Enterprises, the city-appointed master developer of The Gulch, opened a contest for new murals for a dog park that was then still under development. The new dog park lies at the top of a hill on the west side of The Gulch, overlooking I-40, just uphill from the Turnip Truck. The artists who won the contest are largely new names in the Nashville mural world, expanding the roster of our local muralists.

Like the piece by Joe Geis, this one is blocked in part by a fence, though not as badly as the one by Geis. This one is by Katie Tucker Gossett, a local artist who does a lot of face painting as well as portraits of pets. You’ll find her business home at CityWide Art. The mural is the fifth from the right and the first one in this series that’s found in the part of the park set aside for large dogs. Thus the subject, a pug, seems slightly out-of-place, but it’s a very cute pug and we can put its placement in the big dog’s park down to artistic license. Why not, right? And it’s not just any pug, it’s Oscar! Here he is posing in front of his portrait, in a harness that matches the blue background in the mural.

What’s that about never performing with dogs and children? Here I am, talking more about the dog than the artist. She’s actually done some other murals and signs in town, so you’ll be seeing her on this blog again.

Pug Mural Nashville street art

Located at 1216 Pine Street, at the top of the hill. That’s the address of the dog park. There’s an alley that lies between Pine and Laurel Street, and this mural is just to the left if you are coming up the hill from 12th Ave South. It is at the entrance to the part of the park for large dogs, near the middle of the whole dog park. It faces east towards 12th Avenue South and the Turnip Truck. This is The Gulch, so plenty of parking, none of it free. Well, only if you stay too long. Most Gulch parking is free for the first hour or even longer. Check the signage at each lot and garage.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 6

The 700 (not really) Flowers of 12 South

It’s not 700 flowers, but this blog post does result in the 700th pin on the map – more about that later.

It’s difficult to talk about this mural. It’s been up for several years, and it’s undoubtedly been in many, many social media posts. It’s a splash of beautiful color at the southern end of the very trendy and very popular-with-tourists 12 South neighborhood. (You are so Nashville if you’ve ever said, “I remember when it was just called 12th Avenue South”). Do a search for something like “best murals in Nashville” and you are bound to find it. It shows up in a lot of people’s lists of the Nashville murals you must see.

And yet, I’m only now putting it on the blog. The mural right across from it, which I think is a little younger, appeared on my blog over four years ago. There’s a simple reason – I’ve never known who the Flower Mural artist was.

I try very hard to identify the artists who add so much to the visual fabric of our great city. Sometimes that research is hard. Not all artists are good at promoting themselves, maybe deliberately. I remember one mural where the artist basically asked me, “How the heck did you find me?” Patience, and a lot of real work.

I think more often it’s the fault of the sponsor. I don’t how many times I’ve seen on Instagram or Facebook some business crowing about their new mural or fantastic sign, without breathing a word about the artist’s name. It’s really satisfying to figure those ones out. I think these business owners are missing the boat, and they’d get more social media synergy (whatever that means) by naming the artist.

But the Flower Mural of 12 South (also known as the Flower Garden Mural of 12 South) has defeated me. Some bloggers who write about Nashville art that I respect have also failed to come up with the name. And a couple of different businesses in that building have come and gone since it went up, so no help there. Maybe the Flower Mural Artist wants to be anonymous. If that ever changes, I’ll update this post.

About the 700 pins – I reached 700 blog posts way back last December (and did not realize it at the time). There’s a lag mainly because early on when I started this blog I would use one pin for multiple pieces of art that were in one place. I don’t do that anymore. I plan to correct some of that, and also see if I’ve failed to put some pins in for some posts. So I will probably get to 800 a lot quicker. I also don’t remove pins for art that no longer exists. I would hazard a guess that ten to fifteen percent of the points on the map represent lost art. I try to keep posts updated, so check the link in the pin to see if I’ve noted it as lost. This is not a 100% guarantee though, as I don’t always know what is lost. And why so long since December? Well, particularly this summer I dropped from my usual three posts a week to barely one. I want to pick the pace back up, though I may never get back to a consistent three each week.

The patterns on the map are obvious – there are key areas where you find a lot of art. In particular, you find many pieces along Main Street and Gallatin Pike, Twelve South, Downtown, Nolensville Pike, the Jefferson and Buchanan corridors, and Charlotte Pike. The main thing these places have in common is a large number of local businesses. National chains have recently begun to sponsor more and more outdoor art, but this is still primarily a local affair.

The mural is located at 2900 12th Avenue South. That’s the address of the 12 South branch of United Apparel Liquidators. It’s on the south side of the building. It lies right across a small alley from Epice. Unless you visit in the wee hours of the morning, and maybe even then, you will take delight in the wonderous smells coming from Epice, and you will have a sudden craving for Lebanese food. You should listen to this craving, and march right into Epice and get your fill! (Well, during opening hours, of course.)

McDougal’s on 12th

The pandemic was tough for restauranters, but some forged ahead and opened new places right in the thick of it. One such operation was McDougal’s Chicken, long a mainstay of the Hillsboro Village community (though sadly for me, it opened about a decade after I finished my grad work at Vandy, or I would have been there a lot). Last summer, McDougal’s opened a new branch at the heavily trafficked corner of 12th Ave South and South Street.

And as is the case so often these days, a new store means a new mural. In this case, a bright and colorful sign by Anthony Billups of Music City Murals. I can’t say exactly when it went in because I wasn’t doing a lot of driving around last summer, but I imagine it went in around the time of the new location’s opening last June.

Billups has taken the McDougal’s logo with its crowing rooster and red-and-white sign and expanded on it. The logo always had a Sun behind it, but Billups has added the rays of a magnificent sunrise, not unlike the rays found in his mural for Star Struck Vintage. I’m not sure why the chicken place has a flying pig, but that’s also a motif Billups has used elsewhere. There’s no need, of course, after the tornado and the pandemic (not to mention the Christmas bombing that happened after this mural was made) to explain what “Music City Strong” is about.

And of course, there is a Nashville skyline with its signature Batman Building. That said, if you are standing at this branch of McDougals, you can’t see the Batman Building. Also, the Batman Building is north of 12th and South Street, so the Sun wouldn’t rise in that direction, but it’s all artistic license and there’s no need to be picky.

I have featured the original Hillsboro branch of McDougal’s before on this blog. Early on in the blog’s history, I wrote about the giant metal chicken on top of their building, but eventually, I realized that those metal chickens are some kind of mass-produced product, and I stopped putting them on the blog.

Located at 901 12th Avenue South, at the corner with South Street. The mural faces 12th Avenue. There is parking at the restaurant. so why not grab some chicken and enjoy the art!

Just Roll With It (An Off The Wall project)

Back in April 2019, I was brave enough to declare that Tess Erlenborn’s mural was the last of the Off the Wall project murals down on Charlotte Avenue. At fourteen murals, it was already the largest mural gallery in Nashville. But of course, a year later, a new mural by Tarabella Aversa became the fifteenth Off the Wall mural. And now in 2021, there are two more new murals that are part of the project, including this one by Nino C. Flores. This means the project now includes seventeen murals. (Here’s a link to the first one, which has links to the other original fourteen.)

Flores is a local illustrator who is just beginning to make murals. The colorful calligraphy you see here is characteristic of a lot of her work. Here’s a video of her working on the mural back last December. She also has a new mural off Davidson Street that I plan to feature soon. Hopefully, we will be seeing more murals from her soon.

This particular mural has the slogan “Just Roll With It,” and if you look closely, you will realize that the “O” is a giant roller-skate wheel. All this will start to make sense if you know who the sponsor is – Asphalt Beach Skate Shop. Now, this is a little unusual. It’s not unusual that Asphalt Beach would sponsor a mural. Before their Woodland Street store was largely destroyed by the March 3, 2020 tornado, it had an enormous graffiti mural on the back.

No, what’s unusual is that this mural is nowhere near either the Woodland Street shop (which is under repairs), much less their temporary headquarters on Elm Hill Pike. But kudos to them for sponsoring a new and up-and-coming muralist here in Nashville.

Located at 3020 Charlotte Avenue, which is the address of Abbot West Storage, the complex where all of the Off the Wall murals are found. The mural is on the northeast side of the complex. To be precise, it’s located just next to the corner of Felicia Street and 28th Avenue North, a block north of Charlotte Avenue. Street parking is available on Felicia Street.

Turnip Truck (Charlotte Ave) Fairtrade Mural

Back in January, a big new mural appeared on The Turnip Truck’s big new store on Charlotte Avenue, courtesy of Tarabella Aversa. It’s actually part of a series of three murals around the country sponsored by Fairtrade America. Fairtrade works to support farmers and agricultural workers in developing countries, by supporting better prices for their goods, worker’s rights, combatting discrimination and child labor, and promoting environmental standards.

Turnip Truck Mural Nashville street art

This mural features Rosine Bekoin, owner of a small cocoa farm in Côte d’Ivoire. Aversa’s mural has her surrounded by cocoa beans. With the support of Fairtrade, she’s been able to get better prices for her cocoa, supplying such firms as The Hershey Company for use in their Kit Kat brand. She credits this help with getting her through a period of low cocoa prices and for being able to save to build herself a house.

Bekoin Portrait Nashville street art

Bekoin is unusual in Côte d’Ivoire for being a woman owner of a cocoa farm, as most are owned by men. The mural, besides promoting fair trade practices, is also emblazoned with the slogan “Support Gender Equality,” another priority of Fairtrade. One of the other murals in the series also features a woman and the gender equality slogan. In Denver, Giovannie “Just” Dixon created a mural featuring Natividad Vallejos, a coffee grower from Peru. The third mural is by Levi Ponce. It’s in Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard and features Segundo Alejandro Guerrero Mondragón, who is also a coffee farmer from Peru.

Fairtrade Mural Nashville street art

Prior to this mural, there was another mural on this wall. Back when this building housed Nashville Cash and Carry, a restaurant supply store, Murals and More, the commercial home of Michael Cooper, did a mural spelling out “Nashville” with letters made up of food and restaurant items.

Here’s the QR code found on the mural. It leads to a page describing the mural series on Fairtrade’s website.

QR Code Nashville street art

Loctaed at 5001 Charlotte Avenue. The mural is on the east side (opposite the entrance) of the building and faces 50th Avenue North, and overlooks Richland Park. Parking is avaliable around Turnip Truck and across the street at the park

Cinco de Mayo – East Nashville

When the local Mexican restaurant chain Cinco de Mayo opened a branch in the storied old stone building at 14th and Woodland (it will always be Radio Cafe to me) it didn’t seem likely they would get the splashy murals that are often found on Hispanic restaurants and markets. After all, who’s going to let them paint those old stone walls? But the solution was obvious – tack a board on the high fence that separates the restaurant from the house next door and let the artist get to work.

This mural/sign is the product of José G. Vera-González, a prolific local artist who has done work all over town, mainly inside Hispanic restaurants, but recently has begun to do more work outdoors. You should check out his giant Frida Kahlo portrait on the south side of Plaza Mariachi. Like that mural, this one features a lot of flowers.

This mural is also a little unusual. It is the only outdoor mural in town I am aware of that has glitter on it. It may not be apparent in this photo, but much of the paint making up the highlights of the plants and flowers and around the border has something reflective in it, and it gives off the appearance of glitter. It’s particularly noticeable if you drive by it a night and the reflective bits get caught in your headlights.

This is a relatively new mural, having gone up this May. One tradition of Latino artists in Nashville that Vera-González keeps up is found in his signature. There you’ll find his phone number. This is very common with the murals that are found on Latino and immigrant-owned businesses. You know, just in case you want to call him and get your own mural. Hey, he’s a good artist, maybe you should.

An aside – by profession, I am a professor of Latin American history. Just in case you didn’t know, the 5th of May is not Mexican Independence Day. That’s on September 16th.

Located at 1313 Woodland Street. Street parking is available on Woodland (but not 14th) and on some of the side streets. Depending on the time of day, you may have to walk a couple of blocks – or park right next door!

I Believe in Nashville (and Five Years of Blogging!)

I Believe Nashville mural street art

One of the two or three most photographed murals in Nashville is this one, the original I Believe in Nashville mural in the 12 South neighborhood. It even has its own Wikipedia page, which as far as I know is a unique distinction for Nashville murals. So why am I only writing about it now? I don’t know, but the fifth anniversary of the blog seems a good time to finally get it done. (I waited to write about the Musica statue for the fourth anniversary.)

But before talking about the anniversary, let’s talk about the mural. This is more than a mural, it’s an icon and it’s something of an industry. Just check out the IBelieveInNasvhille.com website, the I Believe in Nashville Facebook page, and the I Believe in Nashville Instagram page. It was created by Adrien Saporiti back in 2012. While there are older ones, this makes it older than all but maybe a handful of the murals in Nashville. It has spawned copies, some by Saporiti, some not, and imitators. You can get it on shirts, cups, and practically anything you want.

Although clearly beloved, as you can see by perusing the #ibelieveinNashville hashtag on Instagram, it has also weathered some tough times. It has been vandalized on three occasions. In March of 2017, someone splashed black tar on it, and the following June, the circle was painted over with a globe, and “Nashville” was replaced with “Global Warming.” And in August 2018, the word “Nashville” was replaced with the word “rack” in a graffiti style. Its iconic status no doubt attracted all this damage. Saporiti has returned each time to repair it.

I chose a wide shot to include all the tags and signatures on the mural. When Saporiti first painted the mural, the business home of his art was DCXV Industries (DCXV means 615, Nashville’s area code), and that’s how the mural was originally signed. Since then, Saporiti has stopped using the DCXV brand. It now carries tags for the “I Believe in Nashville” internet destinations, as well as tags for Howells Alley, a reference to the developers who own the buildings alongside the alley. (Scroll to the bottom of this post for the mural’s exact location information.)

Now, about the five years. When I started blogging about outdoor art in Nashville, I never thought either the blog or the art scene would become much of a big deal. Well, the blog is still a fairly minor affair, with about four to five thousand page views a month. I have to say I’m a little embarrassed about some of the early work, but back then I didn’t really know what I was doing. I’ve since learned a lot, and now I think I’ve created something unique. I don’t think there are a lot of blogs like mine, with now 740 articles devoted to outdoor art in a particular town. I have to say in the latter days (hopefully!) of the pandemic I’ve slowed down my posting some, mostly because I’ve been homebound. I hope those days are passed.

As for the scene itself, it as of course exploded. That’s been part of the luck of this blog. I started right when things were starting to take off. Now art is everywhere, and who can possibly keep up? Two trends are very clear. One, art is strongly driven by tourism. It is increasingly seen as part of the price of doing business, and it drives foot traffic (and all those lovely selfies with the location tagged). Another smaller trend that piggybacks off the first is that national chains are getting into the act. While still primarily something local businesses do, I knew when Kroger got in the game, the rules had changed. Others have since followed.

Here’s where I make a point I make in all these anniversary posts: all of those images of fruit, meat, vegetables, and scenes of the old country found on immigrant businesses? It’s real art done by real artists, just as much as the famous wings are. Check out Ruben Dario and José Fernando Vargas on the Artists page.

The most moving things that have ever happened with this blog have also been the most tragic. Because of all the research and writing I had done, I was able to document the damage done by the March 3, 2020 tornado to outdoor art in Nashville in the posts “What We Lost in the Storm” and “Storm Damage, Germantown and North Nashville.” Those posts are some of the most widely read of any on this blog. I had hoped I would never have to do something like that again but then came the Christmas Day bombing. Fortunately, I had already documented the art on the AT&T building, and so I was able to write “The Lost Murals of the AT&T 2nd Avenue Art Wall.” Maybe this year there will be no need for posts like that.

I will keep blogging. There are technical things to be done. For instance, the categories are a mess. And now that I am taking care of embarrassingly missing pieces like the mural above, I may finally start writing about the surrounding counties, which are beginning to have their own art booms.

Oh, and very soon, in the next couple of weeks, another major milestone is coming up, so keep an eye out for it!

Located at 2700 12th Avenue South. The mural is in an alley on the north side of 12 South Dental Studio. The alley lies halfway between Halcyon and Montrose Avenues. The mural faces across the alley towards Draper James. Look for the white building with all of the blue-and-white awnings. Parking is not easy in 12 South, and rarely free. Be prepared to walk, or grab a ride share.

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