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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!

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.

The Linden Building Mural

What makes a mural a mural, and where does this one start and where does it end? It’s by Sideshow Sign Co. (now called Sideshow Studios), whose work is found all over town. This is one of the only pieces signed by them, as most of their work is branding work and signs for restaurants and retail businesses, things that are not usually signed. But this mural, on the side of Serendipity in 12 South, comes with a plaque:

Linden Building Sign Nashville street art

“Repetition and the illusion of layering” would suggest that the only part of this wall that’s meant to be part of the mural is the black and white stripes up top. If so, the featured image at the beginning of this blog post should be this one:

Linden Building Stripes Nashville street art

If that’s right, that would make this one of the smallest and simplest murals in town. And truly, how many murals are mostly a white wall? But the big red stripe and the red windows along with the black and white stripes seem to all tie together. Even the turquoise awning and window frame, which are surely not part of the mural, seem part of the whole. There is the artist’s intent and the viewer’s perception. Take your pick. Either way, this mural is indeed, as the plaque says, “simple yet conceptual.”

Located at 2301 12th Avenue South, at the corner with Linden Avenue. The mural faces north towards Linden. This is 12 South, and there is a mix of paid and free parking on 12th and on side streets.

Re-Spun – The Big Shirt Mural

This mural, which dates back to last April and is found in the heart of 12 South,  took a little research because it’s unsigned. It looks something like the style of a couple of artists I know, but I struck out with them. I just had to wait for the Google crawlers to do their thing and index the right page. Turns out it’s by a California artist who bills himself as The Hyste. He does a lot of signage, and so a fair amount of his work is unsigned. That the artist is from California makes some sense because the mural is on the side of the local branch of the Califonia-based clothing line Marine Layer. Re-spun (the words in the upper left of the mural)  is a line of theirs of t-shirts made from other recycled t-shirts. (Warning: There’s an autoplay video on that link.) This explains the jokey tags on the big mural shirts.

“Made from 43% Country Music Hall of Fame souvenir shirts.”

“Made from 23% old 80s hair band concert tees.”

“Made from 14% Vote for Pedro shirts.”

“Made from 17% free shirts from an energy drink hype squad.”

I can tell you I have none of those teeshirts.

This is actually an example of a national chain retail store putting a mural on their building, though it’s not as surprising as when Kroger did it. I’ll believe that corporate America is fully on board with public art when all the local Walmarts are done up in murals.

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Located at 2705 12th Avenue South. This is 12 South, so a lot of available parking is paid, though side streets are generally free (but give a thought to local residents when you park on those streets).

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.
UPDATE: And here’s one at Marathon Village.

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.

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