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Spread Love

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a Music City Murals work found a little hidden away at the Capitol View project in a post I called Riding!. This is another of their works, just around the corner and much more visible. Unlike the “Riding!” mural, this one is signed, not just by Music City Murals, but also specifically by one of their artists, Anthony Billups. I had seen this mural on social media a few times in the last few months (it was put up back in January), but perhaps because Capitol View is not completely rented out and Google still hasn’t fully incorporated this massive project into its maps, folks were a little vague as to where to find it. If you think of the downtown Publix on Charlotte as the “front” of the building in question, this is on the “back,” on Nelson Merry Street, next to the entrance of the Residences at Capitol View.

The hands incorporate several Nashville icons, such as the State Capitol, the Batman Building, Nissan Stadium, and the Sheraton Hotel with its distinctive round top. The imagery certainly lends itself to the message of “Spread Love,” as the mural is titled. Billups himself used it in a heartfelt post about Nashville’s resiliency in the face of the March 3 tornadoes. When I went to photograph it, I had to wait for a couple who seemed to be clearly taking engagement photos in front of it (Mazel tov!). No doubt it will be the backdrop for many similar photos.

Spread Love Hands mural Nashville street art

Located at 1015 Nelson Merry Street. You can access free parking (meant for the businesses in the building) off the alley on the east side of the building, towards the State Capitol. Some street parking is available.

Flood

Somehow I’ve been writing about outdoor art in Nashville for four years and had managed to miss this rather large downtown mural. But it’s on Third Avenue South, which is not nearly as trafficked as 2nd and 4th, the main north-south arteries in this part of SoBro. It’s by two Tennessee artists, Erica Swenson and Stacy Ann Taylor. While it sits on the side of Diversified Equipment Company (which still has a prominent sign for the long-closed Shuler Business Sytems Inc.), it’s for and was sponsored by members of The Anchor Fellowship, which is on the other side of the parking lot (taking this picture, I had my back to the church). Swenson, who first came to Nashville as an intern for Michael Cooper at Murals and More, was a member of Anchor when work on the mural began in 2008, and members of the church raised money for the project. “Flood,” as she calls it, took time. A blog post from Taylor dated October 2011 indicates that she and Swenson were still working on it at that point, but it was probably finshed not long after that. Its age shows, and there has been some minor flaking.

On her website, Swenson describes the mural:

Mesmerizing waves riot into the parking lot, drawing the viewer out into the sublime sea. The arches provide a comforting shelter from the vastness on the horizon. Their ruined state invite the imagination to contemplate what was, what could have been, and what is. Trees on either side facilitate a transition between the ancient, man made structure and the reclaiming elements of nature. They merge with the purpose of the pillars, possessing the ambition to hold up the sky. Although the cathedral walls are no more,the grandness behind the arches now is so much greater than what could have been before.

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The figures in the columns are the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus, St. Peter (identifiable by his keys), adult Jesus, and St. Francis of Assisi (identifiable by dress and the bird in his hand).

The same team also did a large Noah-themed mural at Inglewood Baptist Church, but I’ve been reluctant to put it on the blog, as you need to be deep on church property and on their playground to see it clearly.

This mural is located at 635 Third Avenue South. The mural faces north, towards downtown and towards the church. As long as the church parking lot is not taken up by parishoners, there is parking there. Otherwise, there is street parking on Third.

Candy Hearts

I have written in the past about the relationship between bachelorettes and murals, but this is the only mural I’m aware of that is very specifically for and about bachelorettes. The usual relationship, which I first became fully aware of because of a 2018 Buzzfeed article about the Nashville bachelorette phenomenon, is fairly simple. A business puts up a mural to attract tourists, mainly bachelorettes, who get their picture taken in front of it and check in on social media. This encourages neighboring businesses to do the same thing, and before long all the tourist districts have lots of murals.

But this mural has a different story. It was sponsored by both The Bach Party, a bachelorette party-planning service, and Finnleys Boutique, a local fashion chain geared towards young women, of the same demographic as most bachelorettes. Finnleys and Bach provided a design, which was produced by Bryson Leach, a Columbia artist. The candy hearts all have phrases one might associate with the stereotypical Nashville bachelorette (that’s actually a  very benign article) and on Bach’s Instagram account, you can watch a video montage of folks in front of the mural, about 95% of whom seem to be bachelorettes. It’s perhaps an inflection moment in the mural movement in Nashville, but unfortunately for Bach and Finnleys, it went up in early February, just a little more than a month before the shutdown.

I wanted to push back on Bach and Finnleys using the #CandyHeartGulch hashtag. This is the first I’ve heard of Eighth Avenue being part of The Gulch. But the Gulch Bussiness Improvement District set up by the city in 2008 includes everything south of Broadway and between the interstate and the railroad tracks, which takes it down Division Street all the way to Frugal MacDoogal. Way back when no one went to The Gulch except to go to The Station Inn, The Gulch was 11th and 12th south of Broadway, and no one else wanted any part of it. Well, the city may say MacDoogal’s is in The Gulch (funny, it’s on a hill) but I don’t care what any developer says, there is no such thing as “North Gulch.” It’s Hell’s Half Acre, thank you.

Located at 601 8th Avenue South, immediately south of the railroad underpass. The mural faces north towards Broadway. This is downtown, so parking is generally not free, though if you scour around, there are a few free places nearby. Also, the highrises in The Gulch proper a couple blocks away have free parking for an hour or more.

Riding!

Tucked away on the back side of Block E of the massive Capitol View project is this charming mural of a kid on a trike by Music City Murals. Though sort of hidden in an alleyway between the building and a raised railway track, the subject is appropriate, for there’s a short tunnel just across the alley that leads to Frankie Pierce Park, a green space that includes a children’s playground that was built as a public-private partnership between Capitol View and Metro ParksPierce was a civil rights activist who played an important part in the women’s suffrage movement in Nashville. The mural is one of three that Music City Murals has done for Capitol View, the other two in much more visible places. They’ll be on the blog soon. The hardest part of researching this (since I already knew who had done this unsigned mural) was working out exactly where it is on a map. Google Maps, as of this publication, has still not fully incorporated this relatively new development project. Google wants you to believe this patch of land is on the border between “North Gulch” (ugh) and Hope Gardens, but long-time locals know that it’s Hells Half-Acre.

Tricycle Kid mural Nashville street art

Located at 500 11th Avenue North. That’s the address of Block E of the Capitol View development, the building the mural is located on. The mural is found in an ally/driveway that separates Block E from the raised railroad that lies to the east, in the direction of the Capitol. The alley runs between Nelson Merry Street and LifeWay Plaza. The mural faces south, towards Nelson Merry, and is about in the middle of the block. There is plenty of parking available in the complex’s garages.

Colors of Creativity

Sanger Mural Nashville street art

A few weeks ago, I posted about a graffiti mural by Troy Duff, aka Duffomatic. Duff did that work as part of the 2018 “Hands on Creativity” festival sponsored by Plaza Art. You can see a small piece of it in the background of the picture above. This second mural was also part of that festival. Plaza Art ran a contest in which students from Watkins College of Art competed for the right to do this second mural, which was won by Maggie Sanger. She produced her mural at the same time Duff was making his (the last week of October, 2018) and had help from Dough Joe, aka Yusef Hubb. Of course, this is a moment to remember that in just a couple of months, Watkins will merge with Belmont University. Students and faculty were largely unhappy with this move, and tried to stop it, but to no avail. Watkins has been around for more than a century, and its loss is a sad one for Nashville. Its legacy is its students, like Sanger.

Located at 621 Middleton Street. Nearby parking is easy. The mural is on the west side of the building, facing Plaza Arts.

Losers and the Pandemic

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a mural for the downtown branch of  Loser’s Bar and Grill done by Manuel Fuentes. That mural, on the south side of the building, was a great example of the murals in town specifically designed for people to stand in front and get their picture taken. I wrote about it at the beginning of the shutdown and commented on the irony of it not really being used at the time. Here we are about three months later, and the lockdown has eased, even as cases are rising. There are restrictions on venues like Losers, and their downtown branch remains closed. From their Facebook page, it appears their Midtown branch is open on reduced capacity and is featuring live music. Interestingly, they advertise that both locations have new UV-light systems in their airflow systems to reduce contaminants. Welcome to the emerging new normal. To their credit, they aren’t one of the places cited for violating the current pandemic rules. Someday, this will all be over.

Located at 111 Fourth Avenue South. The mural is on the north side of the building, at the far end of the parking lot if you are coming from 4th. It faces towards Broadway. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

 

Little Jimmy Dickens

As he was a long-time stalwart of the Grand Ole Opry, it makes sense to find a life-size sculpture of Little Jimmy Dickens right in the center of the plaza in front of the entrance to the Ryman Auditorium, the Opry’s long-time former home. It’s actually fairly new. It and a statue of Bill Monroe nearby were unveiled on June 7, 2017. Both are by the Mississippi sculptor Ben Watts. (I’ll write about the Monroe statue in a later post.) Brad Paisley, who cites Dickens as an important influence, helped dedicate the statue, noting Dickens’s hard work and commitment to entertaining his audiences. Dickens, who died at 94 on January 2, 2015, had been on stage at the Opry just days before.

Besides his diminutive size and love of funny novelty songs, Dickens was also an early pioneer of the rhinestone style, which West has captured in bronze. Dickens was also a Shriner, and consistently wore a Shriner symbol on his cowboy hats, also seen in West’s work.

The Ryman has announced plans to work with Watts again to produce more statues of iconic country music figures, so expect to see even more bronzes at the Ryman in the coming years.

As you can see in the slideshow below, this is another in a series of works that has a helpful suggestion as to where the photographer should stand for your photo with Dickens. The empty plaza in my photos also tells you that I shot this during the pandemic shutdown. Even so, I did have to wait for a small group to finish their pictures first.

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Located at 116 5th Avenue North. That’s the official address of the Ryman, and long ago it was where you entered the building. However, the modern entrance faces the 100 block of 4th Avenue North, about a half-block north of Broadway. That is where you will find the statue. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

Williams Salvage Company

Williams Salvage Sign mural Nashville street art

If you stand at the bottom of the west (Downtown) side of the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge and turn towards Lower Broad, you should be able to see this faded sign off to your left. It’s at the back end of a gray-green brick building that lies at 127 Third Avenue South, across the street from the Nashville branch of Big Machine Vodka. As of this posting, the building is empty with a big “Available” sign. I’ve known of the faded sign above for some time, but it has frustrated me. The red lettering is so faded, I could only confidently read “Salvage” in the middle, maybe “Company” to the right. But what salvage company? There are of course old city directories at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, but by the time I thought to do that, COVID has closed everything.

But then I stumbled on this blog post from Brentwood Interiors, which used to be called “The Salvage Store” and was located not in Brentwood, but a couple doors down from the gray-green brick building with the mysterious sign. In it, they mention a collection of salvage and interior goods stores that used to line both sides of this stretch of Third Avenue, from the 1950s into the 1990s. One name they mentioned was “Williams Salvage Company.” Now, while it doesn’t look much like “Williams” would quite fit in front of “Salvage” on this sign (maybe it was abbreviated), it doesn’t take much internet sleuthing to find that yes, Williams Salvage Company was long at 127 Third Avenue South. In this picture, you can see it used to say “Williams Salvage Co.” in bold letters on the front of the building. That sign got painted over, but you can still barely make it out.

I’m not sure when Williams Salvage closed. I do know that when Hastings Architecture bought the building in 2002, it was referred to by the Nashville Business Journal as “the old Williams Salvage building.” (Hastings has long since moved on.) These old sings are disappearing. Relics of a different era, they remind of us of a Nashville long gone. I hope whoever moves in leaves the faded Williams Salvage Company sign in place.

Located at, you guessed it, 127 Third Avenue South. The sign is on the south side of the building, overlooking a parking lot. This is downtown, so lots of parking, almost none of it free. Hint: On the other side of the pedestrian bridge, there’s still some free parking for Cumberland Park.

The AT&T Sculpture

This work took a little bit of sleuthing because it is not labeled. It’s certainly not secret. It lies at 4th and Commerce, at the foot of the Batman Building (aka the AT&T Building), almost directly across the street from the Ryman Auditorium. Certainly, it’s well known to people who work downtown and has been seen by a lot of tourists, and in 2005 it was featured on the cover of the Nashville Business Directory. It turns out that it’s a creation of Lin Swensson, who happens to be the daughter of the architect who designed the AT&T Building, Earl Swensson of ESa. It’s thirty-five feet tall and was unveiled on October 12, 1994. As the Tennesse Department of Community and Economic Development was one of the building’s original tenants, the sculpture was meant to be an abstract representation of Tennessee’s economic growth. The best way to describe it is with the artist’s own words:

The design consists of a granite spire tapering at the top – around the spire is an image of the state of Tennessee.  Out of the state of Tennessee image is a stainless ribbon representing energy emerging, twirling up to meet three kinetic rings representing the world.

The installation was quite a process that involved closing streets and heavy machinery. Swensson herself is apparently still sculpting, but based on her website, it appears her main focus now is healthcare art consulting.

This slideshow takes you on a clockwise walk around the sculpture.

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Located at 333 Commerce Street. The sculpture is in a small well just off the corner of 4th and Commerece. There are benches where you can sit and observe the sculpture, or more likely, have lunch. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

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