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

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Strength and mourning

Nashville and the world have been through a lot lately, so much so that the tragedies memorialized in this mural, part of it only a few weeks old, have been superseded by even more. The mural is by Nashville artist JamersonSGC, who often signs his work “Low Key Art,” and it went up in stages on the back wall of Tito’s Market and Seafood as different tragedies played out. First, on the left, Jamerson created a memorial for Kobe Bryant sometime in February, not long after Bryant’s death in January. It features a nickname Bryant chose for himself, Mamba. The image is based on a photo by John Soohoo that first appeared in a Rolling Stone article about the hype over Bryant’s early career. Interestingly, an artist in Brooklyn had a similar idea.

Tennessee Mural Nashville street art

The rest of the mural was added in the aftermath of the March 3 tornado. Look closely at the Nashville skyline embedded in the Nashville Predators logo, and you’ll see that it includes a tornado bearing down on the city. You know it’s Nashville because it has Nashville’s Eiffel Tower, the Batman Building. Atop the Predator is a Northern Mockingbird, Tennesse’s state bird. “Tennessee Strong,” along with “Nashville Strong,” are both slogans that have been seen in more and more places in the aftermath of the tornadoes and the crises which have followed. Below the slogan is a logo of my employer, Tennesse State University, as well as the logo of the Tennesee Titans (with a tornado added) and the central shield from the Tennessee state flag.

Praying Girl Mural Nashville street art

At the far right, we find a young girl in prayer, which needs no explanation. This is not the first mural Jamerson has painted on this wall. Back in 2018, he put up a large Mother Earth mural that was subsequently painted over. On the side and front of the building, Jamerson has recently painted some food murals which I will feature later.

Located at 13 Lafayette Street, at the intersection where Lafayette, 2nd Avenue South, and McCann Street come together. Parking here can be difficult. The market has some limited spaces in front, and it is sometimes possible to park for a short time in the small yard in front of the mural. Street parking is available a little farther south on 2nd Avenue.

The AT&T Sculpture

This work took a little bit of sleuthing because it is not labeled. It’s certainly not secret. It lies at 4th and Commerce, at the foot of the Batman Building (aka the AT&T Building), almost directly across the street from the Ryman Auditorium. Certainly, it’s well known to people who work downtown and has been seen by a lot of tourists, and in 2005 it was featured on the cover of the Nashville Business Directory. It turns out that it’s a creation of Lin Swensson, who happens to be the daughter of the architect who designed the AT&T Building, Earl Swensson of ESa. It’s thirty-five feet tall and was unveiled on October 12, 1994. As the Tennesse Department of Community and Economic Development was one of the building’s original tenants, the sculpture was meant to be an abstract representation of Tennessee’s economic growth. The best way to describe it is with the artist’s own words:

The design consists of a granite spire tapering at the top – around the spire is an image of the state of Tennessee.  Out of the state of Tennessee image is a stainless ribbon representing energy emerging, twirling up to meet three kinetic rings representing the world.

The installation was quite a process that involved closing streets and heavy machinery. Swensson herself is apparently still sculpting, but based on her website, it appears her main focus now is healthcare art consulting.

This slideshow takes you on a clockwise walk around the sculpture.

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Located at 333 Commerce Street. The sculpture is in a small well just off the corner of 4th and Commerece. There are benches where you can sit and observe the sculpture, or more likely, have lunch. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

Heartbeat of Nashville

This is what I like to call a “working mural.” Like the mural on the back side of Baja Burrito, there’s little chance you will ever find this mural not surrounded by the evidence of the business it adorns, in this case, Village Wines, Spirits and Beer. Boxes that once held bottles of wine or liquor are common. Here we see stacking trays and cleaning and loading equipment, and a couple of planters for some reason. For a long time cars, probably belonging to employees, were usually parked here. Maybe because of the pandemic and maybe because the store is under new management, the cars at least are gone. It’s the work of Emily Celeste Alexander and is almost three years old. (Seriously, I’ve been driving by it for a couple years and there were always, always cars parked in front of it.) With a prominent metronome labeled “Heartbeat of Nashville,” it has many well-known Nashville themes, such as guitars and the Batman Building, but also something different, a “Tennesee Butterly,” based on the Tennesee flag and the black-and-white colored state butterfly, the Zebra Swallowtail. The mural actually wraps around the building a bit, something I didn’t notice the first time I photographed it, which is why the arrangement of liquor-store gear and garbage is a little different in the picture below. You can see the mural without obstructions on Alexander’s Instagram page.

Heartbeat Mural music street art Nashville

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Located at 2006 Belcourt Avenue B. The mural faces north, towards the 1900 block of Wedgewood Avene across a small alley. If you are there to shop at Village Wine, there’s free parking. Otherwise, this is Hillsboro Village, so parking is rarely free (though you can get away with it in the pandemic shutdown).

Glen Campbell, Rhinestone Cowboy

Here is more art in a time of pandemic. It’s unusual for me to have back-to-back posts about works in the same neighborhood, but there is something compelling about Lower Broad right now. The epicenter of Nashville’s tourism industry, it’s normally packed with people and raucous with sound – music, laughter, and the shouts and whoops from bachelorettes on pedal taverns. These days, it’s a ghost town, with only cops and the homeless, and two or three determined tourists. The Glen Campbell Museum and Rhinestone Stage only opened last month. On their Instagram page, they excitedly announced their first customers on February 1. By March 23, like much of the district, they were forced to close their doors by the pandemic.

Along the way, they got a spiffy mural, courtesy of Anthony Billups and Dean Tomasek of Music City Murals. On the museum’s Instagram page, you can see an image of it as a work in progress. It depicts Campbell dressed in rhinestone finery in a desert scene, where the Nashville skyline rises on the horizon like a distant mesa. “Rhinestone Cowboy” was, of course, Campbell’s signature song. While it is tempting to think that the line “I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway” is a reference to Lower Broad, that’s unlikely. The song was written and first recorded by Larry Weiss, a New York native who wrote it shortly after moving to Los Angeles, so it’s much more likely a reference to the one in New York.

Interestingly, the mural is not technically on the museum, which is on the second floor of the building that houses the Nashville branch of Rock Bottom Brewery, and it sits in Rock Bottom’s patio.

Campbell Mural Nashville street art

Located at 111 Broadway, at the corner with Second Avenue, across the street from Hard Rock Cafe. To get up close to it, you’ll need to enter Rock Bottom. The entrance to the museum is on Second Avenue. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

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 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!

Skyline Guitar

Situated just out of view a very busy lower Dickerson Road is this relatively new guitar mural. It’s found on the north side of 1006 Whites Creek Pike, just steps away from the intersection with Dickerson. While the building seems to have four entrances, the only business I can find with that address is Skyline Lofts, an Airbnb location. Or two of them, to be precise, Loft B and Loft C. Whether the lofts take up the whole building is unclear. The mural is a bit more obvious, though unless you are in the habit of taking Whites Creek as a quick shortcut to Dickerson from Fern Avenue and on to downtown, you’d be unlikely to ever see it. It’s reminiscent of some of the other guitar murals in town. It evokes, very quietly, the idea of a simple skyline in the body of the guitar, though if you look closely, the last building to the right, just above the signature, might be the Batman Building. The signature gives two internet links (and a phone number), one of which is dead, JohnCole45.com. The Instagram page, however, does work, @keepitrail, under the name “C.45,” presumably John Cole. This mural doesn’t look a lot like his other work, but you have to give the client what they want! A small piece of the mural actually wraps around to the front of the building, which you can see in the angled shot below.

Guitar Mural street art Nashville

Located at 1006 Whites Creek Pike, on the north side of the building, facing away from downtown. There’s a wide shoulder on the opposite side of Whites Creek where you can park. Be careful, this is a shortcut street with fairly fast traffic.

Rivive on 12 South

On this blog, I’ve neglected somewhat the 12 South neighborhood. (And yes, my Nashville memories go back to when it was just 12th Avenue South.) It’s one of the most important tourist destinations in Nashville, which means it has a lot of murals and it’s also a hard place to get clean pictures of murals, with all the people and cars. And parking? Uff. But I really should have posted about this one sooner, because it’s one of the better murals in Nashville. It’s not flashy, with a muted palette, but it also looks like nothing else in town. It’s by a prolific local artist I’ve featured many times, Eric Bass, aka Mobe Oner (the name he signs most of his work with, including this). The fox is just beautiful (see the close up in the second slideshow below). Look at the tall tree on the far right. In the summer, and especially in late fall, it will blend with the live trees behind it. This mural also has something of a twin as well, because it’s sponsored by Rivive, a non-profit that looks to raise awareness about and improve river resources in the Nashville area. They also sponsored a mural downtown by Beau Stanton. Both murals are meant to make viewers think about river conservation and about the forces that impinge on rivers. Mobe Oner’s mural is more explicit than the one by Stanton. Here we see not only what the Cumberland River has to offer but also what threatens it. The Cumberland slices through downtown and is the reason Nashville exists. The wildlife depicted absolutely can be found on its shores, very close to downtown, notably in Shelby Bottoms Park. People really do kayak right downtown, and there are boat ramps on the east bank in Cumberland Park. But obviously, the city, with all its industry and people, makes life tough for the river as well. There’s a giant riverside metal recycling plant right downtown, PSC Metals, of which there has long been a discussion about moving it somewhere else, but as yet to no avail. And in the mural, you can see two icons of Nashville – the Batman Building, and construction cranes. The pressures on the river are real, and sometimes it fights back, but it’s certainly a critical Nashville resource, and the more it can be protected, the better.

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Located at 2814 12th Avenue South. Despite the sign, Iyengar Yoga, now called Chestnut Hill Yoga, is no longer in the building. The mural is on the south side of the building, facing Paris Avenue, on which there is street parking. The reality is parking is hard in this neighborhood, given all the tourists. Be kind to the people who actually live here in making your parking choices.

Stratus skyline

Skyline mural street art Nashville

This lovely skyline with a bit of a watercolor vibe stretches the “public art” definition a little bit. It can be seen from Antioch Pike, but it’s definitely blink-or-you-miss-it. It’s found on the training center of the Nashville branch of Stratus Building Solutions, which bills itself as “leading the way in health and environmentally conscious commercial cleaning services.” It’s by Hannah Holgate, an artist who also is the Frame Shop manager at Jerry’s Artarama on Main Street (where she partnered with Marshall Hall to produce the mural on the facade of the art store, which I’ll post about later). She says it’s her first solo mural, which makes it a pretty good start! Hopefully, she will be doing more murals in the future.

Located at 2123 Antioch Pike. It’s located on a building behind the main building you see from the road, facing approximately north. There is parking here, but this is also a working business so you might want to ask politely before driving around to the back, particularly on a work day.

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