If Americans are familiar with any Mexican artist, it’s likely to be Frida Kahlo. Her surreal self-portraits that often depicted her physical and psychological suffering appear all over the place, and Salma Hayek even played her in a movie. So it’s no surprise to find her on the side of Plaza Mariachi, a Latin–themed shopping and entertainment center on Nolelesiville Pike. There was actually a festival celebrating Kahlo last July on the 112th anniversary of her birth, in which the mural was unveiled, and which included a city resolution honoring Kahlo.
The work itself is by José G. Vera-González. Vera’s done a lot of work in Nashville, though most of it has been indoors, with at least one exception, the mural featured in La Mexicana Market. It appears to be based on this photograph of Kahlo done by Nikolas Muray in 1939. It includes themes that Kahlo used in her own images. Both butterflies and hummingbirds for instance are found in “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird,” (1940), while flowers are all over her work, though the cala lillies seen here are more a feature of the work of her husband, Diego Rivera. And of course, she has a unibrow. Kahlo put it in all her self-portraits, and it would be disrespectful to leave it out. Pottery, on the other hand, seems to be a signature of Vera’s work.
Located at 3955 Nolensville Pike. The mural is hard to see until you are right upon it. It’s on the south side of the buidling, where Madera Coffee Roasting Company is. There is extensive parking available.
A few weeks ago, Chauhan Ale and Masala House celebrated its 5th anniversary. Chauhan Ale and Masala is the first restaurant of what has become a small restaurant empire in Nashville founded by Maneet Chauhan, a celebrity chef perhaps best known as a regular judge on Chopped. As part of the celebration, Anthony Billups and Dean Tomasek of Music City Murals produced this peacock, a peacock notably missing its head. But that’s no accident. The Chauhan peacock mural nicely exemplifies one of the key drivers of the mural art scene in Nashville. Business owners want you to stand in front of the murals on their stores, get your picture taken, and check in on social media. Here’s Chef Chauhan doing exactly that in front of this very mural, modeling the way it’s supposed to be done. For this mural isn’t missing its head, it’s just waiting for you to put your’s in the right place to finish the image. This isn’t the only mural in town designed so specifically with selfies and portraits in mind. The two Kelsey Montague murals, both the balloon and the wings (of the almost continuous line) come to mind, but they are hardly the only ones. Of course, not everyone remembers to check in, but if you look close, you’ll notice that’s taken care of here because the key tags are already in the mural. So here’s to the selfie, creating work for artists all over town!
Located at 123 12th Avenue North. The mural faces the 1200 block of Grundy Street, on the north side of the building. The large gravel parking lot nearby is usually reserved for valet parking. There’s street parking going north on 12th after 6 pm and under the bridge to the north all day.
Along the main drag in Hermitage is a classic American cuisine restaurant called Nadeen’s Hermitage Haven. And it has one of Hermitage and Donelson’s relatively small group of murals. There is certainly outdoor art on the east side of Davison county, from funny sculptures to community murals to local shoutouts. But its outdoor art scene is growing a little more slowly than in the Nashville core – not as many tourists, lots of chain businesses, and these neighborhoods being much more residential than the core are the main reasons. Nadeen’s is a local business, and they hired Brandon Donahue, a fellow TSU professor as I must always mention, to bring art to their walls. I must confess that I moved some furniture to make this picture possible. While the blue furniture fades into the mural, the yellow furniture (see below) does not. Of course I put it back! So head out to the far east side, as there is indeed art out there to be found if you keep your eyes open.
Located at 3410 Lebanon Pike. There is parking on-site, though if Nadeen’s is open, it’s likely to have cars parked in front of the mural, so check the hours. There are signs on the door warning you not to park at the market next door. Grab some grub and enjoy the art!
There are a handful of major art installations I haven’t gotten to, like the Berry Hill portraits, or the cartoon murals at Sadler and Grimrose, or this one, the Elliston Parking Garage. Recently, I finally finished the Nations Wall project. I want to fill these obvious gaps because I am thinking of expanding the reach of this blog. Not that I need to for material – I have at least a hundred folders in my “Future Blog Posts” folder. But I’m beginning to think that restricting this blog to just Davidson County is artificial. A visit to Dallas-Ft. Worth, also known as the Metroplex, made me realize that I could never do a “just Dallas” or “just Ft. Worth” blog – they and the other many communities there are too intertwined. And it’s obvious that the art scene in Nashville is deeply connected to the arts in the surrounding counties. Many of the artists featured in this blog have done work in those counties, and the outdoor art scene in Nashville has definitely inspired work in those counties. So, this blog will be expanding – but not before I fill some obvious gaps.
About the mural and the garage – for years, the Elliston Parking Garage on Louise Avenue has been a giant canvas for graffiti taggers. This is a major reason why the owner offered the garage to Nashville Walls Project. Murals do curb graffiti. Taggers tend to be respectful of murals (not the least because there is an overlap between local muralists and local taggers). The installation of murals in this garage, however, has not eliminated tagging, but it there is less than before. This mural here is one of two murals on the outside of the garage (besides the ones on the roof level) – there are several inside. It is by Audie Adams who also goes by Audroc. He’s also part of the Thoughts Manifested collective, responsible for a number of murals in town. The birds and the font used are both common in his work.
Located at 207 Louise Avenue, just off Elliston Place. The mural is on the south side of the building. Most of the parking in this area is pay parking. The garage is permit parking, at least on workdays.
Because I’ve been doing a lot of travelling lately, I was out of town for the third-year anniversary of this blog, which happened on June 30. Much has happened since the second anniversary of this blog. For one, the outdoor art scene continues to blossom here in Nashville. New murals appear seemingly every day, and at my usual three-posts-a-week pace I’ll never catch up! And the world has noticed. Do a quick Google search for “Nashville street art” or “Nashville murals” or related searches, and you will find dozens and dozens of articles, blog posts, and various guides to whatever the author considers to be the best, the prettiest. or most “Instagramable” murals. And while this blog doesn’t show up very high in those searches, traffic has been steadily improving. The first year, the blog got a few hundred views a month. In the second, 1000-1500 views a month. In the third year, that number hovers in the low 2000s. Still small fry, but the moving in the right direction. And unlike any of those articles or “guides,” I really am trying to chronicle it all!
Many of the observations I made in the post I wrote about the second year anniversary remain true. The relationship between art, tourism, and gentrification remains strong. It’s still true that most art, particularly murals, is found on local businesses, not chains. Nashville business owners are getting the message – murals generate foot traffic, and they encourage people to take a picture and “check in” at the business, which amounts to free advertising. And art very much still breeds art. Businesses and building owners are encouraged to seek out artists for their site when they see their neighbors doing the same thing.
Having recently traveled to New Orleans and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I can say that our mural/outdoor art scene compares well to those areas. One mistake we did not make, which until recently New Orleans had, was to put onerous permitting limitations on art. I would also say that while there are definitive art districts, in particular 12 South and Downtown, we do a good job of spreading art out – just look at my map.
I continue to be concerned about the impact of gentrification, notably on the less celebrated artists who have decorated Hispanic and Black-owned business. In particular, the work of the artist I have dubbed the “Unknown Buchanan Street Artist(s)” is endangered. That’s one reason I do this blog, to archive what is an inherently ephemeral form of art.
For now, this will continue to be a Davidson County-only blog. When I think of some of the massive collections of work I have yet to chronicle, notably the Elliston Place garage and the dozens of musician portraits in Berry Hill, it’s hard to think about expanding. For that matter, I have dozens of files under the heading “Future Blog Posts,” most of which I need to do more research for or reshoot photos (I have gotten very picky about the pictures I use.) But visiting the Metroplex (as Dallas-Ft. Worth is known), I realized if I lived there I would have to do an area-wide blog, and I think I will have to do so here as well in time. The surrounding counties have developing outdoor art scenes of their own, often by the same artists who work in Davidson County. It’s really the same scene, and singling out Davidson County is somewhat artificial.
The header photo is the mural at Chromatics. The artist who made it, TACKZ, recently contacted me, which reminded me that, to my knowledge, only the refurbished Painter Man at the Hard Rock Cafe on Lower Broad is older. The Chromatics mural is a true survivor, dating back to 1993. We definitely have a very different outdoor art scene than we did in 1993. We actually have one now! I intend to continue to chronicle it as best I can.
This is the sixth in the series on The Nations Wall, a massive set of murals on the west-facing wall of Music City Tents and Events, organized by the Nashville Walls Project. It’s the sixth piece going from left to right (roughly north to south), and it’s by Audie Adams (who did the birds), Tess Erlenborn and Jon Buko (who collaborated on the letters). This is also the central mural in this gallery, and the one most often featured on social media and in articles about the mural scene in Nashville.
Images of the entire wall with all the murals together can be found in Part 1.
Located at 5901 California Ave, Nashville, TN 37209. The murals actually face the 1300 and 1400 block of 60th Avenue North, across from the intersection with Pennsylvania Avenue. Street parking is possible nearby.
Some months ago, this mural caught my eye while I was driving down Fourth Avenue, just before it merges with Second and becomes Nolensville Pike. It turned about to be on the back side of a building at 1281 Third Avenue. The building seemed to be under renovation, and some research shows that it is supposed to become Bar1281, a “pop-up” backyard bar with Hawaiian and Japanese style food. It’s part of a larger development on this street being developed by Bento Box. It was also slated to open last October, but that date has come and gone without an opening. The mystery comes in the signature, which is probably “Stenz Art” but might be “Steitz Art.” Both have been complete rabbit holes to try to track down. While the bar is late in opening, construction on the back patio continues, and this shot is impossible to get any more, as the mural is now partially obscured.
UPDATE: It is indeed “Steitz Art.” I don’t know why I couldn’t find that link before.
Located at 1281 Third Avenue. There is some limited street parking on Third. As this is an active construction site, it might be best to wait until Bar 1281 opens to come and view the mural (and when you get some food and drinks to go with your art).
Back when I blogged about the Mermaid House, the former owner contacted me. She let me know that there were more murals around back. Like the mermaid in front, this mural is the work of Brandon Donahue, who, like myself, is a professor at Tennesee State University. There is also something of a surprise here. For the most part, graffiti taggers are respectful of murals, but not this time. The style of the tag is one I’ve seen around East Nashville. “Editing” is always a possibility with outdoor art. The back fence of the yard of the house next door also has a colorful mural. (See the slideshow below.) It’s not signed and does not appear on Donahue’s website, so I’m not sure who made it. One notable detail on this second mural is the small “Hunter’s” sign. Hunter’s was an auto body shop that had extravagant signage a couple blocks from these houses, signage lost in the site’s recent renovation (though not completely – it does appear some of it is being saved).
Located in the alley behind at 1205 and 1203 Forrest Ave. Street parking is available. These are private homes, so be respectful.
I am definitely trying to stay away from multi-part posts, but some sites require it. Three sides of the Industrial Fire and Safety Inc. building on Ash have murals. On one side, we find a series of country and folk music legends (that isn’t quite finished). On the other two other themes are found, mostly stuff that flies. It seems to be mostly if not all the work of the Thoughts Manifested crew, a collection of mural and graffiti artists whose best-known work is probably the Johhny Cash mural on Molloy. I need to blog about that one soon. Given development in that area, I wonder about the future of the small building it’s on. This piece takes a little more effort to find, in the Pie Town neighborhood that still retains the warehouse/industrial atmosphere that was common south of Broadway before the boom years. The bird is featured on some of Thoughts Manifested’s other work, notably a nearby mural on Plaza Art facing 7th Ave, also awaiting a blog post.
Located at 608 Ash Street. The new Division Street extension complicates access somewhat. The mural above faces into a parking lot and alley on the north side of the building, on the opposite side from Ash. It’s easily accessed through the parking lot entrance on Ewing Ave between Middleton St and Fogg St, or down the alley that forks off of 6th Ave a little south of Lafayette Ave. Parking here is easy.