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

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East Nash at Koi

East Nash Mural Nashville street art

It’s not often that I feature something brand new, but this piece is so unusual in Nashville outdoor art, I wanted to put it up right away. This particular style is simply not seen in any other Nashville murals that I am aware of it, and it really caught my eye.

It’s on the west side of Koi Susi & Thai on Main in, where else, East Nashville. It’s the work of John Ha, a Los Angeles-based artist with Nashville connections. Ha works in a number of styles and seems to be known best for his take on traditional Chinese and Japanese paintings of koi. This sign, however, is done in a style he calls his Geometrics. He says on his website:

My geometrics are less about the imagery and more about color association. The artwork is abstract and structural. The precision and accuracy in placement is key to a successful pattern. The prism of colors and sequence of shapes creates a retro movement with a modern feel. 

I think he’s right and I don’t think my photo does complete justice to the way this mural seems to shine and pop out of the wall. For anyone coming down Main from downtown, it does become a bright splash of color welcoming all to East Nashville and the Five Points area.

Ha does not have a strong social media presence, so I can’t say precisely how he wound up doing this piece at Koi Sushi & Thai. However, he clearly has Nashville connections, once having had a gallery called HA Factory on 5th Avenue. As best I can tell, it was open in 2011 and 2012 and perhaps longer, but has not been there for a few years (the site is currently a Boost Mobile).

Located at 923 Main Street. The mural faces west, towards downtown. It faces Koi’s parking lot, so there’s parking available, but if you want a clear view of it, avoid the lunch and dinner rushes.

Cinco de Mayo – East Nashville

When the local Mexican restaurant chain Cinco de Mayo opened a branch in the storied old stone building at 14th and Woodland (it will always be Radio Cafe to me) it didn’t seem likely they would get the splashy murals that are often found on Hispanic restaurants and markets. After all, who’s going to let them paint those old stone walls? But the solution was obvious – tack a board on the high fence that separates the restaurant from the house next door and let the artist get to work.

This mural/sign is the product of José G. Vera-González, a prolific local artist who has done work all over town, mainly inside Hispanic restaurants, but recently has begun to do more work outdoors. You should check out his giant Frida Kahlo portrait on the south side of Plaza Mariachi. Like that mural, this one features a lot of flowers.

This mural is also a little unusual. It is the only outdoor mural in town I am aware of that has glitter on it. It may not be apparent in this photo, but much of the paint making up the highlights of the plants and flowers and around the border has something reflective in it, and it gives off the appearance of glitter. It’s particularly noticeable if you drive by it a night and the reflective bits get caught in your headlights.

This is a relatively new mural, having gone up this May. One tradition of Latino artists in Nashville that Vera-González keeps up is found in his signature. There you’ll find his phone number. This is very common with the murals that are found on Latino and immigrant-owned businesses. You know, just in case you want to call him and get your own mural. Hey, he’s a good artist, maybe you should.

An aside – by profession, I am a professor of Latin American history. Just in case you didn’t know, the 5th of May is not Mexican Independence Day. That’s on September 16th.

Located at 1313 Woodland Street. Street parking is available on Woodland (but not 14th) and on some of the side streets. Depending on the time of day, you may have to walk a couple of blocks – or park right next door!

Quanie Cash – Build Up Our Community

It’s not often I post about brand new art, but this eye-catching mural that went up a couple of weeks ago is right in my neighborhood and hard to miss, being in a prominent spot on Main Street. It’s by Kwazar Martin, an Indianapolis artist who’s only been producing murals for two or three years but has already been featured in national media. This mural marks his first work in Nashville.

The subject is Quanie Cash, a Nashville actor, director and musician who is also the founder of The Build Up Foundation, a non-profit that works with at-risk kids. Cash is not only from Nashville, but he also grew up in the Main Street neighborhood. In a post on his Instagram page about the mural, Cash noted:

I never thought growing up that a Mural of me would be on the Neighborhood Store Building my grandma sent me to everyday. 

Today, there is no longer a neighborhood store in the low-slung cinderblock building on Main. The only business remaining in that building is Tammy’s Beauty Salon. The old neighborhood store has been replaced by a Mapco next door. Perhaps because it’s a small building in something of a low spot, it was not damaged by the March 3, 2020 tornado, despite being right in the storm’s path.

The image of Cash in the mural would appear to be based on the profile shot from his Twitter account (that is, the profile shot he was using in May, 2021). On Cash’s Instagram, you can see a brief clip of him working on the mural.

Located at 718 Main Street. The mural faces west, in the direction of downtown. There is parking at 718 and at the Mapco.

The Colors of Capital City Computers

Right at the end of last year, a new mural appeared on the Capital City Computers building on Gallatin. For some time, this wall had held a mural promoting Muddy Roots, the music festival and record label, though I never wrote about it. You can see it here.

This new mural is by the artist who goes by Sterbo. Its use of lines and colors reminds me to some extent of another one of his works, which I featured in the post Line It Up. But while that piece is frenetic and energetic, this is a calmer and more soothing work, and is also even more abstract. While the Line It Up piece played around with three-dimensionality, this piece is more about the uses of color. It creates a set of optical illusions, such that some of the stripes you see on this mural look as if they were shadows cast on the wall by some weird, alien trees.

For such a small place, the Capital City Computer building is pretty festooned with murals. While the Sterbo mural is on the north side, the south has long hosted what I call the Young Warlords mural, a portrait of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as they looked back in the 1980s that was done by Bryan Deese. Capital City uses it on their webpage. And there’s another mural by Jack Coyle on the back I haven’t written about yet that looks to have gone in the same time the Sterbo piece did. Hey, get your computer fixed and take in a gallery of murals in one go!

Located at 1106 Gallatin Ave. The mural faces north towards an alley halfway between Sharpe Avenue and W Greenwood Avenue. Publix is across the street. There is parking at Capital City, particularly in back.

Star Struck Vintage

When you are tucked away in a somewhat hidden spot, it helps to be bold. The spot where Star Struck Vintage is located is indeed a little out of sight, and its mural is definitely bold and hard to miss.

Star Struck Vintage is a vintage clothing store that is an offshoot of a long-standing and now-closed New York vintage store that first opened in Edgehill in 2013. Early last year they moved to the complex of shops and offices at 604 Gallatin Ave, right at the corner with Eastland Avenue. The unit they are in is on the backside of the complex and tucked under an awning, so some bright, pop-art colors are useful for catching the eye of passers-by. Of course, it’s also right in front of that giant hot-air balloon mural by Kelsey Montague, so that’s a clue if you need to know where to find them.

Vintage mural Nashville street art

Their mural is the work of Anthony Billups of Music City Murals, who continues to show great versatility in his work. Star Struck Vintage sells vintage clothing from the ’30s to the ’80s, which probably explains the Rubik’s cube. While the cowboy boots and hat are standard Nashville icons, a look at Star Stuck’s Instagram page suggests they’ve been getting a lot of material from the local music scene.

Vintage mural Nashville streert art

Because of the location with its columns and the fact that it wraps around the building, it’s pretty much impossible to take a clear picture of the whole thing, which is why I’m posting several pictures of it. I suspect the detail area above is what most people will want their picture taken in front of.

Vintage mural Nashville street art

This view is more what you would see from Eastland as you walk by. Billups put up a video of himself working on the mural, and Star Struck put up a different one. The woman you see working with Billups is his wife, Katje Billups.

Vintage Mural Nashville street art

Located at 604 Gallatin Avenue, at the corner with Eastland Avenue. That’s the address of the building. The mural faces an alley on the backside of 604 Gallatin and is visible from Eastland. If you can see the big balloon mural, you’ve found it. Parking can be tricky here. Your best bet is the free parking garage right across Eastland from the mural and Star Struck Vintage. (Lower level – the upper level belongs to the pharmacy.)

Feelin’ Lucky – Hawkers

One of the many things lost as a result of the closure of the long-standing East Nashville staple Family Wash was the mural of a giant multi-colored mule by Herb Williams that once adorned its building. But with a new restaurant in that spot, we also have a new mural.

Hawkers is an Asian street food chain based out of Florida that opened in the old Family Wash site on Main Street a few months ago. As such, it’s no surprise that the giant mural provided by Mobe Oner (aka Eric Bass) has a strong Asian theme. As part of their branding, Hawker uses an image of the familiar Maneki-neko, the Japanese beckoning cat. Wait, that’s what they are called? I didn’t know that they even had a name, but I learn a lot writing this blog.

Hawkers Mural Nashville street art

And yes, beckoning cat, not waving cat. In Japan, that’s a beckoning gesture. They are usually white, which is the color for luck, and in the upper left corner of the mural, Mobe Oner has placed the slogan “Feelin’ Lucky,” hence the title of this blog post. The Maneki-nekos are supposed to be based on the Japanese bobtail, but the flesh-and-blood cats are not nearly as chonky as their artistic counterparts. Maybe it’s all the Asian street food.

Hawkers mural Nashville street art

Only some of the cats in this mural are actually doing the traditional beckoning gesture. We seem them dancing, cooking, stuffing themselves with ramen, and taking selfies. The biggest one of all, appropriate to Nashville, is playing a guitar. You can watch a video of Mobe Oner working on the mural on his Instagram page.

Hawkers Mural Nashville street art

I had to take these pictures at an angle because the cramped parking lot and the addition of an upstairs patio. I was sorely tempted to stand on top of Bolton’s next door, something easily done, to get the picture, but I didn’t, and neither should you. The building is also home to part of the 615 Center complex, as you can see by the sign right next to the Feelin’ Lucky logo.

Located at 626A Main Street. the mural is on the west side of the building, facing towards downtown. There is retail and street parking available nearby.

The Shoppes on Fatherland

One of the more surprising things (to me!) about the development of East Nashville in the last couple of decades has been the success of a couple of different developments of small-sized retail spaces in the Five Points area, including the one called The Shoppes on Fatherland. Turns out that these places that cluster several small businesses in one place are a favorite of both of locals and tourists. Shows what I know about retail and tourism.

The Shoppes themselves are part of a larger collection of properties around the intersection of Fatherland and 11th Street called The Fatherland District (whose website features a nice picture of the “Main Street” of The Shoppes). That in turn is the property of a much larger multi-state company called S&S Property Management with dozens of properties – just in case you thought this kind of development was strictly a local mom-and-pop thing.

Where there is tourism in Nashville, especially where there is tourism and successful businesses, there’s going to be murals. The one featured here went in in late 2020, and it serves not just as a sign but as a giant welcome to anyone coming in to the Five Points district from the south, presumably from Shelby Avenue, one of the main avenues into East Nashville. The kind of branding that in the past might have been done with a billboard or a large sign now warrants a huge mural. This one is by the prolific Eastside Murals, who for some time now have been signing their work Out East Boys, as they have done here.

Shoppes Mural Nashville street art

Now it so happens there is a fence jutting out right where one might usually stand when getting your picture taken in front of the mural, but I imagine the tourists will figure out a solution. This mural is not the only one Eastside Murals has done for this complex. On the west side of the Shoppes, along an alleyway and on the back of a barn-shaped building is a mural they did a few years ago that has a very large “Fatherland District” sign scrolled across it. At the time I wrote about that mural I think I believed it was just as example of neighborhood pride, but now it’s clear that like the mural featured in this post, it’s part of the site’s branding.

Located at 1006 Fatherland Street. That’s the address of The Shoppes as a whole. The mural is on the south side of the complex, on the opposite side from Fatherland Street. It’s visible from the parking lot behind Far East Nashville and from the 200 block of South 11th Street. It lies on the outer wall of Eastside Nails, one of the businesses in The Shoppes. There is street parking nearby and limited parking at The Shoppes, but this area can be hard to park in when it’s busy.

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