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You Belong (at The Russell)

Not many hotels are found in hundred-year-old churches, at least not in Nashville, which certainly makes The Russell stand out. So too does their mural and sign done, appropriately, by I Saw The Sign, run by Meghan Wood and a partner identified only as “Stinky.” The building is indeed a Nashville treasure. First built in 1904 as the Russell Street Presbyterian Church (also known as the Edgefield Cumberland Presbyterian Chruch) the building housed the Russell Street Church of Christ from 1913 until 2001. The building, which survived the catastrophic East Nashville fire of 1916, was severely damaged in the 1998 tornado. Unable to pay the costs of reconstruction, the congregation sold the building to developer March Egerton in 2001. He repaired it and sold it to The Power House Christian Center in 2003, which passed it on to Life Church International in 2013, who sold it to its present owners in 2017 (there are various organizations by those names).

There’s no missing the building’s history. Besides very obviously looking like a church, there are the magnificent stained glass windows. I include the outdoor views here, but off course they are even more spectacular from the inside. The hotel also honors the spirit of the building through its Rooms for Rooms program, where a portion of the hotel’s proceeds is given to organizations that assist the homeless.

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Located at 819 Russell Street, at the corner with 9th Street South. The mural faces 9th, while the stained glass windows are visible from both 9th and Russell. The historic plaque is by the entrance. There is street parking in this neighborhood. The lot across the street from the mural is hotel parking.

Hands of creation

I seem to be on a bit of roll with religiously-themed art on churches, having recently done Set Free and Hands of charity. But, it’s also obvious that churches in Nashville are beginning to branch out with their visual presentation, jumping into Nashville’s mural scene. Zeal Church on Charlotte has recently gotten into the game. The work is by a Texas artist named Chloe Bennett (not to be confused with the actress Chloe Bennet, whose name only has one “t” in it). Two easily recognized themes are included, the hands of God and Adam found in Michelangelo’sThe Creation of Adam“(1512) found on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, floating before a stylized Nashville skyline. Unlike many other depictions of Nashville’s skyline, this work does not depict the skyline in full, but rather just a few recognizable buildings, including, of course, the Batman Building (cleverly including a door on the wall). To my knowledge, this is Bennett’s only work in Nashville. The Zeal pastor, Jd Ost, studied in Texas and that may be the connection. Zeal also has a giant “Z” on its east wall (see below). I don’t know who did it, but there is a picture of the artists working on it on Zeal’s Instagram page. UPDATE: I have since learned that Bennett also did the “Z.”

Zeal Z sign street art Nashville

Zeal is also aware of the social media game. On the sidewalk in front of Bennett’s mural, there’s a helpfully placed box where you should stand to get an ideal photo (see below). You know, in case you weren’t sure.

Zeal Instagram sign street art Nashville

Located at 5807 Charlotte Pike. The mural is on the north side of the church facing Charlotte. The church and the nearby Kroger have plenty of parking.

Hands of charity

Hands mural street art Nashville

For decades, there’s been a homeless encampment hidden under the Spring Street bridge near the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Main Street. The city knocks it down from time to time, but it always gets rebuilt. And for over 35 years, a church nearby, Holy Name Catholic Church, housed in the building that hosts this mural, has provided meals for the homeless, both from the camp and elsewhere. The Loaves and Fishes program was founded by Father Charles Strobel, who first opened the doors of the church to the homeless in the winter of ’85-’86 when, after a recent round of the city tearing down the camp, some of its residents camped out in the church’s parking lot. This ultimately led to both the founding of Loaves and Fishes and also Room in the Inn, in which a number of Nashville churches cooperate to provide shelter and other services to the homeless. Recently, the parish center building that houses Loaves and Fishes was renamed in Father Strobel’s honor. Strobel, who retired some years ago, also recently received the Joe Kraft Humanitarian Award, one of Nashville’s most prestigious awards. (Seriously, check out the list of honorees on that page.) This mural, by the artist who signs his work “Little Stone,” shows open, giving hands in front of a basket weave, evoking a basket that might hold food, a perfect symbol of the church’s charitable work.

Located at 521 Woodland Street. That’s actually the address of the main church building. The Strobel Building (which is not yet labeled as such) is at the back of a neighboring parking lot. The mural itself faces Main Street, across from the Stacks on Main complex. You can often park in the church parking lot at Sixth and Main, though probably not during mass. There is street parking available on Sixth Street.

A saint among us


Religion has, of course, always been a major force driving humans to create art, and the Catholic Church has long been one of the world’s great art patrons. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and School is hardly the only church in Nashville that has invested in public art, just the first featured on this blog. There will be more!

Joseph, carrying his traditional carpenter’s tools, can be found at 1225 Gallitan Pike South, just north of the cemeteries that are themselves just north of Briley Parkway.

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