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nashville public art

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

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Welcome to Nashville

This is another “only on Christmas” picture. This mural sits on a storage building in a Premier Parking paid lot attached to Nashville Pedal Tavern. Now if you’re local, that’s quite a pair. Neither one is exactly a favorite of Nashvillians. But hey, everyone’s got to make a living. And because of the bachelorettes and the row of bars along this stretch of Demonbreun, the lot is usually packed with cars, blocking the mural.

Not on Pandemic Christmas! It’s by Music City Murals, business home of Anthony Billups and Dean Tomasek. It’s a very Nashville mural. It features an enormous guitar, and the Cumberland River, with some folks enjoying a rowboat ride on the water. And the guitar neck leads to the Nashville skyline in front of a glorious sunset as seen from the east side of the river, including our city’s signature, the Batman Building. Just as the Eiffel Tower is all you need to say “Paris,” the Batman Building says “Nashville.”

Welcome Mural Nashville street art

It’s also interesting in that it can only be fully appreciated by looking at it from the corner. It’s a continuous image that wraps around the south and east sides of the building, forcing you to stand back from the corner to take it all in. Also, one of the dangers of it being in a tight parking lot, it’s been damaged. It’s pretty obvious someone backed into it, right below the word “Tennessee.”

Welcome Mural Nashville street art

Located at 1504 Demonbreun Street, at the corner with 14th Avenue South. The largest part of the mural faces east towards downtown. There’s obviously parking here, but not much free anywhere nearby. (Pro-tip: If you want to sound like a local, learn to pronounce “Demonbruen.”)

The lost murals of the AT&T 2nd Avenue Art Wall

At 6:30 in the morning on Christmas Day, 2020, an RV packed with explosives blew up on 2nd Avenue in downtown Nashville. The target was a building owned and operated by AT&T that houses important telecommunications equipment for much of the Southeast. While it is extraordinarily unlikely that the bomber knew or cared, the RV was also parked in front a major art installation that was completely destroyed in the bombing.

I have documented the eight murals that adorned the AT&T building, and you’ll find links for all of those pieces at the bottom of this post. The murals first went up in 2018. The project was curated and organized by Ashley Bergeron, owner of  The Studio 208, a gallery that lies a block-and-half from the bombing site and which was damaged in the explosion. The murals were all done by women artists, and were printed on vinyl and pasted onto the building’s first-floor windows.

According to Bergeron, the idea was to bring “life, light and positivity” to a drab building out of character with the richly detailed historic buildings around it. The artists involved were Beth Inglish,  Erin Elise LaughlinCassidy Cole, Emily Leonard, Tess Davies, Jade Carter, Catron Wallace, and Elise R. Kendrick. According to Inglish, it took Bergeron years to implement her vision, but she persisted. Ultimately many partners made the murals possible. They were sponsored by AT&T, the Nashville Downtown PartnershipThe DISTRICTNashville Metro Arts Commission, and The Studio 208.

Back when the project went in, Bergeron had this to say about the murals:

The abstract artwork flows from one set of windows to the next using color, texture, and shape so that you are continually surprised while walking down the block. I want art to be accessible to all, and I get overwhelmed with joy when I see beautification in a public space.

From a press release

Now of course, all of that is gone. A video taken from the body cam of one of the police officers who responded in the minutes before the bombing shows the RV parked in front of the murals. At about the one-minute mark, you can begin to see the murals begin to come in to view on the left. As the officer gets closer to the murals, it’s possible to see exactly where the RV was parked – in front of the murals by Davies and Carter (see Part 5 and Part 6 below). All the murals were destroyed by the explosion, with small pieces of them scattered in the street.

Because they were vinyl murals glued to the windows, they weren’t pulverized, but rather shattered. One observer said what was left looked like colored glass on the ground. John Partipilo, a photographer who was on the scene before it was cleaned up, was able to recognize pieces of Inglish’s mural (which was farthest from the blast) because he’s familiar with the colors she uses. Bergeron herself thought she saw one the murals intact from a distance, but now knows that was impossible, a trick of the mind. Carter told me she has found it hard to put into words what the loss of the murals means.

In this picture by Partipilo, you can see scraps of color that I believe are from Inglish’s mural. (See Part 1 below). The red stripes on the ground appear to be a grid, probably put in place by investigators.

Murals remnants Nashville street art
Photo credit John Partipilo

This second shot by Partipilo looks down the face of the AT&T building. It was probably taken right in front of where Inglish’s mural was, and down the sidewalk you can see more colored scraps. Some years ago the AT&T building was reinforced to strengthen it against bombings, and the black area behind the window frames appears to be a reinforced concrete wall.

Bomb shattered murals Nashville street art
Photo credit John Partipilo

This is the second time in less than a year I’ve had to report on a large amount of art suddenly and violently destroyed. After the March 3 tornado of 2020, I wrote about the art that was lost and damaged in both East and North Nashville. Now we are here again, this time because of the work of man, not the forces of nature. But the same resilience of the post-tornado era is also visible here. Bergeron would like to replace the murals with new work, with the original artists if possible. That of course depends on many things, including the future of the AT&T building. Inglish told me that the art wall will be missed, but she believes that Bergeron’s determination will “bring beauty to the streets of downtown again soon.”

Because to the constraints of creating a collage, the murals in the picture at the top of the post are not in the original order. From left-to-right, top to bottom, they are by Inglish, Kendrick, Cole, Leonard, Laughlin, Carter, Wallace, and Davies. On the wall, the original order, left-to-right, was Inglish, Laughlin, Cole, Leonard, Davies, Carter, Wallace, Kendrick.

Located (formerly) at 185 2nd Avenue North. It seems superfluous to talk about parking, but when this site can be visited again, remember that this is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

2nd Avenue AT&T Art Wall – Elise Kendrick

Note: All of the murals in this series were destroyed in the Christmas Day Bombing in Nashville. I will be doing a write up on the whole series and its loss soon. First, I want to complete the series. This is the final of eight.

Working left to right on what used to be 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 eighth work was by Elise R. Kendrick. This was the right-most window mural, right next to the entranceway.

It was 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 were done by women, and the project was curated by Ashley Segroves of The Studio 208. They were are all on vinyl, and went up in the summer of 2018.

Kendrick is a graduate of Tennessee State University with a degree in Art (where I work as a History professor) and originally focused on jewelry and metals, before moving on to painting. Much of her work is portraiture, particularly of African-Americans. Abstract art is not a common theme, at least based on her Instagram page, and to my knowledge this was her first mural. She described the experience as “pushing me outside my comfort zone.” It’s a beautiful piece and a shame it’s been lost. She also made at least one studio version, but I do not know if it is available. Many of her recent works involve surrounding the portraits she does with a field of words and ideas.

You can see the other murals in this series using the links below. There’s a bit more information about the project in Part 1. Later this week I plan to write a retrospective of the project and its destruction.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 9

This image gives you an idea of the setting, as it was seen with the other two murals at the right (north) end of the series.

AT&T Murals Nashville street art

Located (formerly) at 185 2nd Avenue North. It seems superfluous to talk about parking, but when this site can be visited again, remember that this is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

2nd Avenue AT&T Art Wall – Catron Wallace

Note: All of the murals in this series were destroyed in the Christmas Day Bombing in Nashville. I will be doing a write up on the whole series and its loss soon. First, I want to complete the series. This is the seventh of eight.

Working left to right on what used to be 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 seventh work was by Catron Wallace. This is the one that wrapped around a door.

It was 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 were done by women, and the project was curated by Ashley Segroves of The Studio 208. They were are all on vinyl, and went up in the summer of 2018.

Wallace is a successful and prolific Nashville abstract artist and art instructor. Nashville Lifestyles named her Art Creator of the Year for 2020. If you look through her Instagram page, you’ll see that the lost AT&T mural was very much a part of her style. To my knowledge, it was her only mural. Because it was under a large overhang, photographing it was a little difficult. The colors came out a little differently on the picture she has on her website of it, but that is also what it looked like two years ago. (I took the photo above just a couple of weeks ago, unhappy with something I shot several moths ago.)

You can see the other murals in this series (once I’ve posted them all, there were a total of 8) 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 6 Part 8 Part 9

This image gives you an idea of the setting, as it was seen with the other two murals at the right (north) end of the series.

AT&T Murals Nashville street art

Located (formerly) at 185 2nd Avenue North. It seems superfluous to talk about parking, but when this site can be visited again, remember that this is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

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.

Frankie Pierce Park, Part 2

Back in August,  Olasubomi Aka-Bashorun and  Anthony Billups of Music City Murals did a series of murals in the new Frankie Pierce Park. I wrote about the main one in Frankie Pierce Park, Part 1. That mural is on a long wall on the east side of the park, while this is one of two along a railroad underpass on the southwest side of the park.

Frankie Pierce Park is a green space that includes a children’s playground that was built as a public-private partnership between Capitol View, a massive multi-block development, and Metro Parks. It lies in a triangle of land between two elevated railroad lines that separate Capitol View from Capitol Hill.

It honors one of Nashville’s most important Black activists, J. Franke Pierce.  Pierce was a civil rights activist who played an important part in the women’s suffrage movement in Nashville, and who opened the Tennessee Vocational School for Colored Girls in 1923, which remained open until 1979.

It is her key role in the votes for women campaign in Nashville that is the subject of this mural. A parade of women in the long, white dresses of suffragettes dominates the scene. One of them carries a sign that reads, “August 18, 1920.” That was the day Tennessee became the crucial 36th state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote. Of course, Pierce, as a Black woman in the Jim Crow South, was not able to fully exercise that right even after the amendment passed.

The mural includes a quote from Pierce: “We asking only one thing – a square deal.” (May 1920)

Pierce Quote mural Nashville street art

Below you can see it in context with the other underpass mural. If you were standing where this picture was taken, the main mural would be behind you and to your right. The park is to your right in this photo. You can see some of the Capitol View development on the other side of the railroad bridge.

Underpass murals Nashville street art

Located at 130 Lifeway Plaza. That’s the address of the park. The mural is found on the south end of the park, on the southern railroad underpass, right off of Nelson Merry Street. The easiest parking is off of Nelson Merry, which you can see in the bottom image, and at Capitol View.

Part 1

Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum

Tucked away underneath the Nashville Municipal Auditorium is the Nashville Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. It hasn’t always been there, having once been down on 6th Avenue. But they had to give that site up to make room for the Music City Center in 2010, reopening in 2013 in what was once the Municipal Auditorium’s convention exhibit space.

Being a little tucked away, all the visual bling they can get to help people find them is useful. Enter Steve Mellgren, CEO of Dimensions in Screen Printing, who designed and donated the mural to the museum in 2019. (Dimensions is a small screen printing company in Irvine, California and does not appear to have an internet presence.) The mural makes a nice logo, and in fact, you can get it on a T-shirt, in teal and black (my preference).

This part of downtown doesn’t have a lot of outdoor art, though the main entrance to the auditorium does have a giant mural of concert tickets. I see the Musician Hall of Fame mural as another data point in the evidence that Nashville businesses increasingly understand that art is an essential part of any commercial enterprise. Maybe it will inspire more art in the neighborhood.

Located at 401 Gay Street. The mural is behind a gated area (facing towards James Robertson Parkway), so if the museum is closed, you can see it, but not up close. This is downtown, so lots of parking, none of it free. There are metered spaces across Gay Street.

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