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nashville public art

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

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The Big Grey Bird of Elegy Coffee

Elegy Bird mural Nashville street art

I call this the Big Grey Bird because I own a copy of Birds of Tennesee and this screaming bird at Elegy Coffee doesn’t seem to quite fit with any of them. Maybe it’s a bird from somewhere else and maybe it’s a bird from the mind of the artist. To me, it looks a lot like a small parrot, but parrots generally have hooked beaks. But it doesn’t really matter, it’s still a great mural.

It’s the work of Nashville artist Brian Wooden. You may have seen some of his images of headless, sharp-dressed men around town, but he works in many styles, including a wild, cartoony style found on a mural further south on Gallatin Road at 1767 Designs

The choice to put a bird flying through a golden triangle doesn’t have much to do with the Elegy Coffee brand. Their logo is an all-seeing eye. But if you step inside, you’ll definitely see many touches of black, grey, and gold in their interior decor, so it fits with the cool, subdued color style of the restaurant.

This mural went up almost a year ago, and I confess I only noticed it a couple of months ago even though I live not too far away. That’s a feature of the pandemic. The pandemic blahs is also why haven’t been posting much lately, but there’s a lot of new work that came out this last year, and I’m going to try to get back in the swing of things and get it all on the blog.

Located at 2909A Gallatin Pike, right next to Walden Bar. The mural is on the south side of the building (that’s in the direction of downtown) and faces an alley that goes to the back parking lots. Free parking is hard to come by in this area, but there are plenty of paid lots along the alley that runs behind Elegy and Walden.

An Elite Eagle

This is not a March 3 tornado anniversary blog post. Well, mostly not. Two days after the tornado, I posted a piece called “What We Lost in the Storm,” about the outdoor art in East Nashville damaged or destroyed by the tornado. A couple days later I also wrote about that happened in North Nashville and Germantown. For the East Nashville article, the featured photo at the top of the blog post, the one you saw if someone shared the article, was of Kim Radford’s eagle mural at Bill’s Elite Bail Bonding Company on Main Street. I noted at the time I had never actually done a proper blog spot about this mural. I am now finally correcting this.

Radford did the Elite Bonding eagle mural in August 2019. I had a chance to talk to her about it then, and my memory is that she told me that the owner wanted something patriotic, hence the eagle. This was one of Radford’s first outdoor murals in Nashville, and she has since gone on to be one of the more prolific muralists in town. For example, most of the murals at Grimey’s are her work.

Because of its themes, I had intended to save the Elite Bonding mural for a patriotic day, like July 4 or Veteran’s Day, and had there been no tornado, that’s exactly what I would have done. That this mural survived with only minor damage is miraculous, and a testament to both the arbitrary nature of tornado damage and the willingness of the business owner, Bill Tomlinson, to repair and restore his building instead of raze it and start over. When Radford originally did this mural, she continued the geometric flag pattern on the opposite, west-facing side of the building. That half of the building collapsed, and the roof was ripped off, but the wall with the eagle survived.

Eagle Mural street art Nashville tornado
The Elite Bonding Eagle by Kim Radford as it appeared on March 5, 2020.

The damage to it is modest. Mostly what looks like damage is actually places that weren’t painted in the first place because something was covering that part of the wall before the storm. There is a stripe that looks like a repaired crack on the right of the mural. In fact, there used to be a gutter there. That stripe was never painted in the first place. The only real damage is a few dings and scratches. A few quite reminders of the storm, if you know what to look for.

I didn’t get any pictures of the completed mural before the storm. For that, you’ll need to check Radford’s Instagram page – here it complete, and there also several shots of the mural in progress. I do have my own nighttime shot of the eagle in progress.

Elite Eagle Mural Nashville street art

Located at 940 Main Street. The mural is on the east side of the building, facing away from downtown. There is plenty of parking here and at nearby businesses.

Do the Dew, Again

This colorful mural by Atlanta artist Kevin Bongang is not the first “Do the Dew” mural in Nashville. PepsiCo launched their “Do the Dew” global advertising campaign back in 2015, and as part of that campaign they have sponsored a number of murals. In early 2019, Eastside Murals produced their own “Do the Dew” mural on the old Family Dollar near Five Points. That was one of the many murals destroyed by the March 3, 2020 tornado. Indeed, the building it was on completely collapsed.

Almost exactly two years after that first Nashville “Do the Dew” mural went up, Bongang created this one. This is at the Citgo station at Fifth and Main, an intersection that is something of a gateway to East Nashville.  (The other main one would be Woodland and Fifth, near where the giant EAST mural is found.) The bulk of people coming from downtown pass by this spot as they come to the east side. Before this new mural went in, there was a small, rather quirky mural on this wall greeting drivers that focused more on Nashville themes.

Bongang’s mural fills the whole wall and spills around the corners on to the other walls (see below). While highlighting the “Do the Dew” theme, it’s more of a wild pastiche of images, including several birds. The mural faces across the river towards Nissan Stadium, which may explain the football, and the musical notes are likely a nod to Nashville’s status as Music City – or they may just be birdsong. This by the way is not Bongang’s first Nashville mural. He has a few others in town, including one just a few blocks away at Center 615.

Located at 500 Main Street. The mural is on the west wall, facing towards Fifth Street and downtown. There is parking at the Citgo.

2nd Avenue AT&T Art Wall – Jade Carter

UPDATE: This and all the murals in this series were destroyed in the Christmas Day Bombing.

Working left to right on the wall of window murals at the AT&T Central Office on 2nd Avenue (not to be confused with the more famous AT&T building in Nashville, the Batman Building on Commerce Street) the sixth work is by Jade Carter. This is the one to the left of the door.

It’s part of series of murals on the building sponsored by AT&T, the Nashville Downtown PartnershipThe DISTRICTNashville Metro Arts Commission, and The Studio 208. All are done by women, and the project was curated by Ashley Segroves of The Studio 208. They are all on vinyl, and went up in the summer of 2018.

This particular piece closely resembles a studio painting that Carter did called “VIDA,” which is square and contains a nautilus peeking out at the bottom. It was for sale but has long since been sold. In that work you can see more clearly the layers and texture that are common features in Carter’s work, but are lost in this vinyl print. This particular mural is hard to photograph as it is half under an awning, which creates a strong shadow. I had to go back and shoot it with flash.

You can see the other murals in this series (once I’ve posted them all, there are eight in all) using the links below. There’s a bit more information about the project in Part 1.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9

This is how it looks along with the the other two murals in the this set. Carter’s is at the far right next to the door in this image.

ATT Murals Nashville street art

Located at 185 2nd Avenue North. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

Happy Notes

One of the more significant works of outdoor art in Nashville doesn’t get much attention. It’s seen by thousands of people every day (even in the pandemic) and yet hardly anyone talks about it. In part, that’s because its not easy to photograph, and it’s impossible to see the whole thing at once. That said, not many artists featured on this blog have their own Wikipedia page.

Happy Notes Mural Nashville street art

Along the west side of the tunnel that runs under Music City Center is a 165-foot mural-mosaic by Canadian artist Bob Zoell (who resides in Los Angeles). It was installed in 2013 and is called “Happy Notes,” and features many birds and musical notes.

“Besides flight, little birds are synonymous with songs and singing. How delightful it is that our everyday life is filled with the music and songs of these little creatures that project joy in their songs. For this reason I have chosen a theme of singing birds for the Music Center landscape mural. Little birds with their simple songs express the freedom in music that is so symbolic to Nashville history.” – Bob Zoell

Nashville Arts Magazine

The late-lamented Nashville Arts Magazine wrote about this mural in 2012, after Zoell got the commission. In their article, you can see Zoell holding up a version of the mural-mosaic, which gives you an idea what it might look like unobscured by the columns. The mosaic is a surreal journey between night, day and the passing of the seasons. Music City Center has a photo album of it being installed on their Facebook page.

I think it’s a bit of a shame that it’s not more prominently displayed, somewhere where people aren’t laser focused on getting from point A to point B. But it’s a lovely piece of whimsey, by a major artist, and it’s a delightful secret hidden in plain sight.

  • Happy Notes Mosaic Nashville street art
  • Happy Notes Mosaic Nashville street art
  • Happy Notes Mosaic Nashville street art
  • Happy Notes Mosaic Nashville street art
  • Happy Notes Mosaic Nashville street art
  • Happy Notes Mosaic Nashville street art

Located at 201 5th Avenue South. That’s the official address of Music City Center. The mural-mosaic is found on the 200 block of 6th Avenue South, which runs under MCC. Google Maps does not indicate this block of 6th Avenue exists, but it does! (It is visible on Street View in some very bad photos, but not on the regular map.) This is downtown, so lots of parking, almost none of it free. The tunnel is well lit, and there are crosswalks near each end.

The Gathering

Some of the most visible and seen outdoor art in Nashville are the pieces in William Edmonson Park. With busy Charlotte Pike just steps away, thousands of Nashville commuters drive past these every day, and they have become familiar landmarks for many. Of course, the are an intrinsic part of the John Henry Hale Apartments, an MDHA-run affordable housing complex that was completely rebuilt a few years ago and which borders the park. One of them I’ve written about before, Road to the Mountaintop by Thornton Dial at the northwestern end of the park.

Near the other end of the park are these figures by Sherri Warren Hunter, called “Ther Gathering.” The four figures have not always been Charlotte Pike landmarks, however. Originally, they sat in front of The Oasis Center headquarters, when the center was still on Music Row. In 2001, Hunter gathered volunteers from Oasis and from the community, taught them how to cut and set mosaic, and turned the production of the figures into a real community event. After ten years The Oasis Center moved to a site just west of the park, and in 2013 Oasis donated the figures to Metro Nashville Arts. Metro Arts worked with Hunter to restore and move the pieces safely. A U-shaped string of rock benches allow for seating around the sculptures. Sometime since 2013, the unusual “shades” seen below were added.

The Gathering Sculpture Nashville street art

We live in a time when gathering is of great concern. The COVID-19 pandemic has kept people apart, while the protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Milwaukee police have brought people together – and torn them apart as well. Hunter’s piece reflects a simple truth, that we are social beings, and are often defined by our relationships with each other. And of course our pets.

Located at 1600 Charlotte Avenue. The sculpture lies near the northwestern end of the park, facing along a driveway that comes off of 17th Avenue North, near the intersection with Charlotte. The nearest street parking is one block north on Capitol Point

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.

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