nashville public art

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



All aboard! The Sylvan Supply Train Mural

Train Mural Nashville Street art

After Madison Mill closed its factory off Charlotte Avenue and moved to Ashville, NC in 2015, the dilapidated campus of buildings it left behind remained empty for several years. With its abundant walls and concealed spaces, it became a favorite target for graffiti taggers.

In 2016, Stonehenge Realty Group proposed turning it into a mixed-use project with retail and 400 apartments, but this stalled after significant objection from residents of the Sylvan Park neighborhood, where the old factory is located. The following year, Stonehenge proposed a new project to be called The Millworks on Charlotte that would only be offices and commercial space, minus the apartments. This project also failed to come to fruition, and it seemed the site might simply be torn down.

However, in 2018, Third and Urban, a real estate development company out of Atlanta, took over the site with their own plans for a retail and office complex. Before serious construction took place, the soil itself needed to be rehabilitated after sixty years of industrial production. But this time the efforts to develop the site finally bore fruit, and in August 2020, it opened as Sylvan Supply.

Which finally brings us to our mural. This dynamic portrait of an L&N Railroad engine barreling down on us is by the prolific local mural team Eastside Murals, who lately have been signing their work “Out East Boys.” According to the artists, the design was inspired by the rail lines that run alongside the complex and even go inside the buildings, no doubt put there to ease the delivery of wood and the shipping out of products when Madison Mill was churning out dowels for 60 years. The mural sits on the wall of a parking garage which faces down a long corridor in the middle of the complex. The effect is very much like a train hurtling down a tunnel, coming straight for the viewer.

This isn’t the only mural at Sylvan Supply. Indeed, this retail/office complex is something of an outdoor art gallery, much as it was when it was covered with graffiti art. I’ll be writing about the other pieces later, but just explore a bit and you’ll find the other art.

Located at 4101 Charlotte Avenue, at the corner with 42nd Avenue. The parking garage lies at the back end (south) of the complex, the part farthest from Charlotte Avenue. The corridor splits the main part of the Sylvan Supply down the middle. If you are coming from 42nd, just walk away from 42nd into the complex, and you will find it.

68 Years (An Off the Wall Project)

BLK.JHN Mural Nashville Street art

Back in April, 2019, I thought I had completed a series on the fourteen (and only fourteen) murals of the Off the Wall project. Well, while there was a hiatus in new murals for about a year, Tinsley Dempsey, the person behind this large outdoor gallery, has since managed to get more walls for the project, more artists, and apparently more funding. Three new murals have appeared since the end of what I will now call the first phase of the project, including one by Nino C. Flores that went in at the end of 2020 and and one from Tarabella Aversa that went in the previous April. Dempsey has said that she wants to run murals all the way down the 2900 block of Felicia Street, which would have murals wrapping all the way around the block.

This is presumably the first of a series of murals that will go on a long low wall that runs along Felica Street, and it went up back in March. It’s by the artist BLK.JHN. Like much of his work, it’s done in a vivid, pop-art style. I call the post “68 Years” because that’s how BLK.JHN titled the painting that he made that this mural is based on. The painting and the mural are in honor of his grandparents, who would have celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary on March 31. Sadly, his grandmother passed the day before he finished this mural. This isn’t the only memorial mural in the Off the Wall series. There’s a mural honoring Jessi Zazu, as well as a work by Omari Booker honoring his sister.

BLK.JHN seems to have only done a few murals, and this appears to be his first in Nashville. I would hope we see more, as his style is bold and works well in mural form.

Located at 2901 Felicia Street. That’s an imaginary address, as this is a back wall of the Abbot West Self Storage complex at 3020 Charlotte Avenue. It lies about 150 feet west of the corner of 28th Avenue and Felicia Street. There’s a small gravel parking lot right next to the mural.

Just Roll With It (An Off The Wall project)

Back in April 2019, I was brave enough to declare that Tess Erlenborn’s mural was the last of the Off the Wall project murals down on Charlotte Avenue. At fourteen murals, it was already the largest mural gallery in Nashville. But of course, a year later, a new mural by Tarabella Aversa became the fifteenth Off the Wall mural. And now in 2021, there are two more new murals that are part of the project, including this one by Nino C. Flores. This means the project now includes seventeen murals. (Here’s a link to the first one, which has links to the other original fourteen.)

Flores is a local illustrator who is just beginning to make murals. The colorful calligraphy you see here is characteristic of a lot of her work. Here’s a video of her working on the mural back last December. She also has a new mural off Davidson Street that I plan to feature soon. Hopefully, we will be seeing more murals from her soon.

This particular mural has the slogan “Just Roll With It,” and if you look closely, you will realize that the “O” is a giant roller-skate wheel. All this will start to make sense if you know who the sponsor is – Asphalt Beach Skate Shop. Now, this is a little unusual. It’s not unusual that Asphalt Beach would sponsor a mural. Before their Woodland Street store was largely destroyed by the March 3, 2020 tornado, it had an enormous graffiti mural on the back.

No, what’s unusual is that this mural is nowhere near either the Woodland Street shop (which is under repairs), much less their temporary headquarters on Elm Hill Pike. But kudos to them for sponsoring a new and up-and-coming muralist here in Nashville.

Located at 3020 Charlotte Avenue, which is the address of Abbot West Storage, the complex where all of the Off the Wall murals are found. The mural is on the northeast side of the complex. To be precise, it’s located just next to the corner of Felicia Street and 28th Avenue North, a block north of Charlotte Avenue. Street parking is available on Felicia Street.

Turnip Truck (Charlotte Ave) Fairtrade Mural

Back in January, a big new mural appeared on The Turnip Truck’s big new store on Charlotte Avenue, courtesy of Tarabella Aversa. It’s actually part of a series of three murals around the country sponsored by Fairtrade America. Fairtrade works to support farmers and agricultural workers in developing countries, by supporting better prices for their goods, worker’s rights, combatting discrimination and child labor, and promoting environmental standards.

Turnip Truck Mural Nashville street art

This mural features Rosine Bekoin, owner of a small cocoa farm in Côte d’Ivoire. Aversa’s mural has her surrounded by cocoa beans. With the support of Fairtrade, she’s been able to get better prices for her cocoa, supplying such firms as The Hershey Company for use in their Kit Kat brand. She credits this help with getting her through a period of low cocoa prices and for being able to save to build herself a house.

Bekoin Portrait Nashville street art

Bekoin is unusual in Côte d’Ivoire for being a woman owner of a cocoa farm, as most are owned by men. The mural, besides promoting fair trade practices, is also emblazoned with the slogan “Support Gender Equality,” another priority of Fairtrade. One of the other murals in the series also features a woman and the gender equality slogan. In Denver, Giovannie “Just” Dixon created a mural featuring Natividad Vallejos, a coffee grower from Peru. The third mural is by Levi Ponce. It’s in Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard and features Segundo Alejandro Guerrero Mondragón, who is also a coffee farmer from Peru.

Fairtrade Mural Nashville street art

Prior to this mural, there was another mural on this wall. Back when this building housed Nashville Cash and Carry, a restaurant supply store, Murals and More, the commercial home of Michael Cooper, did a mural spelling out “Nashville” with letters made up of food and restaurant items.

Here’s the QR code found on the mural. It leads to a page describing the mural series on Fairtrade’s website.

QR Code Nashville street art

Loctaed at 5001 Charlotte Avenue. The mural is on the east side (opposite the entrance) of the building and faces 50th Avenue North, and overlooks Richland Park. Parking is avaliable around Turnip Truck and across the street at the park

Rainbow, Interactive

A well established trend I’ve written about several times before is the ever-growing importance of outdoor interactive art. While one can stand in front of any work of art and get your picture taken, these are pieces specifically designed for that. Easily the best known one in Nashville, the one that really got the trend started here, is the wings mural by Kelsey Montague down in the Gulch that often has lines of people leading to it who are waiting their turn for their photo. As Montague says about her work, “My murals specifically invite people into a piece and then invite people to share their experience online.”

Since doing the wings mural, Montague has returned to Nashville to do other interactive murals, most recently in a tour of the South that brought her to Nashville in September. This is one in the Capitol View complex is one of two pieces she did on that visit (the other is in Green Hills and I’ll feature it later). The place your are supposed to stand is obvious, beneath a rainbow that evolves into flowers before morphing into a flock of birds, themes common in Montague’s work.

Montague told Fox 17 that the mural is meant to honor front-line workers in the pandemic.

This mural is meant to honor the front-line workers during this pandemic for all of their sacrifice and for keeping our country going. It also is designed to be hopeful. Rainbows, to me, have a spiritual component and mean there will come a day when this pandemic no longer haunts us – a new beginning is coming. We just need to hang on.”

While not far from the wings in the Gulch (some developers and real estate folks like to call this area “North Gulch,” even though there’s no gulch here), sitting on busy Charlotte, it is not likely to attract as much attention – though it has gotten the attention of a hedgehog, and that’s what matters.

Located at 1010 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. (This stretch of Charlotte was recently renamed.) That’s the address of the Publix in Capitol View, and this mural is on the back, street-facing side of Publix, facing south towards the Gulch. Parking is available in the parking garage that Publix opens into, and there’s a pedestrian entrance to the parking garage right next to the mural.

Veterans Day, 2020

Today is Veteran’s Day, when we honor those who have served our country in uniform. The November 11 date is in recognition of the original Armistice Day that ended the fighting in the First World War. For the Veterans of Foreign Wars, it is in many ways always Veteran’s Day, and in that sense the bold flag on local VFW Post 1970 honors veterans every single day.

It’s the work of Scott LoBaido, who bills himself as “The Creative Patriot.” He has painted versions of his flag murals in all fifty states, particularly on VFW, AmVets and American Legion posts. In 2017, Tour of Honor, an annual motorcycle riding challenge that raises money for veteran’s charities, chose LoBaido’s murals as the destinations for its tour. On that page you’ll find a link for an Excel sheet of all the flag murals at these various posts that Tour of Honor was aware of in 2017.

Tucked away in one of the folds at the far right of the flag is an image of a Purple Heart, the medal bearing the image of George Washington that is given to military personnel wounded or killed in battle.

Medal Honor mural Nashville street art

A heartfelt thanks to all of our veterans.

Located at 7220 Charlotte Pike. Although the address is simply Charlotte Pike, the building sits on a short road that parallels Charlotte Pike for a while, Old Charlotte Pike. The mural is visible from the main road. Obviously from the photo at top, there is plenty of parking so long as an event is not taking place at the post.

Hold Fast (An Off The Wall project)

One of the projects that inspired this blog was the Off the Wall project on Charlotte organized by Tinsley Dempsey. Fourteen murals along the wall protecting  Abbot West Storage from Charlotte and wrapping around as the wall turned and ran down 28th Avenue North led to a lot of blog posts. (The first one is here, and has links to all the others.) The first of those murals went up in 2016, and the last one a little over a year ago in April, 2019. Now there is a postscript. This new mural is on one of Abbot’s storage buildings, facing 31st Avenue North, just off Charlotte. It’s the product of Tarabella Aversa (who in the past has gone by Tara Marie Aversa) and went up in late April of this year, with the sponsorship of Dempsey. Its flower motif is familiar from Aversa’s other work, such as the mural featured in Flowers of Walden.  Its message of strength resonated in the aftermath of the March 3 tornadoes, which did so much damage to Nashville and nearby communities. But a lot has happened since then. Aversa has since linked it to the cause of justice embodied in the protests that arose in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. The mural’s mix of delicate beauty and fierce strength with a message of perseverance will no doubt be relevant for many causes to come.

Located at 3020 Charlotte Avenue. This mural actually faces 31st Avenue North and is easily visible from Charlotte. Your best bet for parking is perhaps across Charlotte at Cross Fit Nashville, and there is street parking on Felicia Street one block north of the mural.

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