nashville public art

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



One Little Dream at Night

Art is made to be experienced, not necessarily to be photographed, and this colorful, delicate, bold mural in Printer’s Alley is very hard to photograph. Most of it is in a dark tunnel with lights, but while the lighting makes it hard to shoot, it also helps to give it an otherworldly character.

Butterfly Mural
I managed to shoot the north facing butterflies before the dumpster went in.

A mural like this doesn’t happen without collaboration. The Nashville Walls Project brought internationally renowned Los Angeles graffiti and studio artist RISK (Kelly Graval) to Nashville to bring life to an otherwise drab throughway along Printer’s Alley in October, 2019. On such a massive project, it helps to have many hands, and local artists Chris Zidek, Mobe Oner, and Jon Buko all pitched in.

Alley butterflies mural Nashville Street art

A project like this also doesn’t get done without sponsors. This part of the alley runs through and under the One Nashville Place complex, owned by Unico Properties, which was the primary sponsor of the mural. (Nashville Walls Project also credits Costigan Integrated, but that is a former name of Unico.) The Bobby Hotel, a couple blocks north along the alley, provided food and lodging for the project, and also displayed some of RISK’s studio work in its lobby.

Butterflies Mural Nashville street art

On the Nashville Walls Project Facebook page there are several videos showing some of the steps that brought this mural together. This one shows RISK and Zidek stenciling a butterfly, while this one shows how you get perfect curved lines with spray paint. There are handful of others, so here’s the link to explore.

The title of this blog post comes from the words stenciled on to the mural at both entrances to the tunnel.

One little dream at night /
and I can dream all day

It’s from the Johnny Cash song, “All over Again,” which was released in 1958. It’s not the only mural in town with Cash lyrics on it. The mural featured in As long as the grass shall grow is also based on a Cash song.

One reason I’m only getting around to writing about this mural now is that for several months the tunnel was a construction site. You could walk through it, but you couldn’t really step back and get a good view of the mural. Now that the tunnel is clear, the views are better, particularly in the south section, where there’s an entrance area for One Nashville Place’s parking garage.

Butterflies Mural Nashville street art

Of course, you can’t see the words in that shot, so here’s one with the lyrics.

Butterflies Mural Nashville street art

When standing on that platform, you’ll notice an image of a cyclist, as this is the bike entrance. I do not know who did it.

Bike sign mural Nashville street art

Finally, a couple of shots of the south entrance, or exit if you are coming from the north.

Located at 158 4th Avenue North. That’s the address of One Nashville Place’s parking garage. The mural of course is in Printer’s Alley, which lies between and is parallel to 4th and 3rd Avenue. Enter the alley from Church Street going south, or Commerce street going north. The north end of the mural is right next to Alley Taps. This is downtown. Lots of parking, almost none of it free.

Frida Kahlo

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.

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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.


What happens when an artist is given complete freedom to create? Well, if the artist is Mobe Oner (aka Eric Bass), you might just get a surreal scene. Perhaps you might get something like a drifting spacesuit filled with butterflies, with the facemask broken open so the butterflies can escape. In this case, you get exactly that. It certainly doesn’t have much to do with pizza, despite being on the front of the Midtown branch of Donatos. And no, the closeup pictures below are not slightly out of focus. Originally, this was a wooden surface, but the mural was done on stucco, giving it a textured look. There’s a richness to the color that you don’t see in a lot of murals in Nashville. As for the spacesuit, it doesn’t appear to be a specific design, but it seems to most resemble the AL7, which used by NASA for the Apollo and Skylab missions and thus would be fixed in a lot of folks’ minds as what a spacesuit should look like. And anyway, the orange Space Shuttle suits wouldn’t look good here. The butterflies look a lot like Blue Emperor butterflies, but they may just be fantasy butterflies.

Spaceman mural Nashville street art

In all the rush to make murals interactive, maybe all that’s needed is an arresting image.

Located at 1915 Broadway. The mural is on the front of the building, facing the street. There is street parking right in front of the mural, unfortunately, and Donato’s has its own parking as well. Grab some pie and enjoy the art!

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).

Going up!


I have been remiss in posting about art found in the “skyscraper” district, something I aim to fix. I start small here with a single door, on the east side of the Downtown Presbyterian Church. It’s the work of Sarah Shearer, done in 2009, and she even has a blog post detailing her progress as she put the work together.

Located at 154 5th Ave North, in the alley on the east side of the building. The church is at the corner of Church and Fifth and is worth a look itself. Walk up the alley. There’s more art up there I’ll feature later. This is downtown, so parking lots and garages abound, none of them free.


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