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

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An Elite Eagle

This is not a March 3 tornado anniversary blog post. Well, mostly not. Two days after the tornado, I posted a piece called “What We Lost in the Storm,” about the outdoor art in East Nashville damaged or destroyed by the tornado. A couple days later I also wrote about that happened in North Nashville and Germantown. For the East Nashville article, the featured photo at the top of the blog post, the one you saw if someone shared the article, was of Kim Radford’s eagle mural at Bill’s Elite Bail Bonding Company on Main Street. I noted at the time I had never actually done a proper blog spot about this mural. I am now finally correcting this.

Radford did the Elite Bonding eagle mural in August 2019. I had a chance to talk to her about it then, and my memory is that she told me that the owner wanted something patriotic, hence the eagle. This was one of Radford’s first outdoor murals in Nashville, and she has since gone on to be one of the more prolific muralists in town. For example, most of the murals at Grimey’s are her work.

Because of its themes, I had intended to save the Elite Bonding mural for a patriotic day, like July 4 or Veteran’s Day, and had there been no tornado, that’s exactly what I would have done. That this mural survived with only minor damage is miraculous, and a testament to both the arbitrary nature of tornado damage and the willingness of the business owner, Bill Tomlinson, to repair and restore his building instead of raze it and start over. When Radford originally did this mural, she continued the geometric flag pattern on the opposite, west-facing side of the building. That half of the building collapsed, and the roof was ripped off, but the wall with the eagle survived.

Eagle Mural street art Nashville tornado
The Elite Bonding Eagle by Kim Radford as it appeared on March 5, 2020.

The damage to it is modest. Mostly what looks like damage is actually places that weren’t painted in the first place because something was covering that part of the wall before the storm. There is a stripe that looks like a repaired crack on the right of the mural. In fact, there used to be a gutter there. That stripe was never painted in the first place. The only real damage is a few dings and scratches. A few quite reminders of the storm, if you know what to look for.

I didn’t get any pictures of the completed mural before the storm. For that, you’ll need to check Radford’s Instagram page – here it complete, and there also several shots of the mural in progress. I do have my own nighttime shot of the eagle in progress.

Elite Eagle Mural Nashville street art

Located at 940 Main Street. The mural is on the east side of the building, facing away from downtown. There is plenty of parking here and at nearby businesses.

Lockeland Design Mural

This mural is hard for me to miss, as I only live a block away – though it’s not the closest mural to my house! This is unmistakably the work of Andee Rudloff, along with students of Lockeland Design Center, an elementary school in in Lockeland Springs where the mural is found. You might know Lockeland Design for its strong reputation, or you might know it because it was featured in a Kleenex ad that honored a long-time janitor.

Rudloff is know for her community murals, and she has done several at schools, including two murals not far away at Warner Arts Magnet Elementary.

The Lockeland Design mural sits on the back of a “portable” classroom (it’s been in place for several years) behind the main school building. It’s filled with a number of school-related themes, and from this mural I have finally learned that the school mascot is the Lions. I like how the design makes creative use of the HVAC vents.

The mural also honors the class of 2020. I wondered about that, but because Lockeland Design has recently acquired an Instagram account, I was able to learn that the mural is a legacy product of the 4th grade class of 2020 (LDC is a K-4 school). The design of the mural includes drawings from the Class of 2020, and it went up last November.

Lockeland Design Mural Nashville street art

I managed to get a picture of the mural just after Rudloff had drawn the outline of the design. This is how she does community murals – she draws the outline, and then invites participants to help her fill it with color. Over on Lockeland Design’s Instagram page, you can find a video of Rudloff drawing the design, as well as photos of students helping to complete the project.

Located at 105 South 17th Street. That’s the address of the school. The mural is found on the back side of the school, and can be seen from the 1700 block of Woodland Street. Remember that this is a school. While the backyard is usually open, limit your visits there to when school is not in session. Street parking is available.

Incline

Along the East Bank Greenway, which lies between the river and Nissan Stadium, there’s a stand of trees a little north of the Ghost Ballet sculpture (the red twisty thing in the picture above). At the north end of the trees is a giant gear ring embedded in the greenway, which not many people know is called “Threshold.” At the south end of the stand of trees, just off the greenway in the direction of the river is a less well-known piece appropriately called “Incline.”

Incline Sculpture Nashville street art

It’s a long metal beam with a gear wheel welded to it, that has rusted in the weather. There’s no fanfare to it, it’s just this thing sticking out of the ground, daring you to make sense of it. Like “Threshold,” it’s by Joe Sorci. It’s art based on found materials. Like Ghost Ballet and Threshold, it’s made from objects left behind by the barge companies like Ingram Industries that used to operate on the east bank.

Incline Sculpture Nashville street art

It was installed in 1999, and it’s the product of a grant from the Metro Development and Housing Authority (which may explain the lack of a plaque – Metro Arts is very good about signage). The only reason I know its name is it is recorded in the Metro-Owned Condition Assessment Report, published in 2017. Its condition was listed as good, noting that it’s structurally sound and has insect nests, notably in the gear wheel. (Be careful!)

Incline Gear Nashville street art

There are two other small pieces by Sorci along the stand of trees. Near Threshold, there’s pieces of metal embedded in a concrete viewing ramp. Metro refers to them as an “Industrial Salvage Mosaic,” which apparently is not its formal name. It might not have one.

Industrial Mosaic Nasville street art

The other piece is large metal ring that serves as a bench. I don’t have a picture but will add one later.

Located on the East Bank Greenway, which parallels Titan’s Way. If you are on the river side of the stadium, Incline is almost directly lined up with the corner of Titan’s Way and Victory Avenue, which runs along the south end of the stadium. There’s some free parking for the park on the other side of the pedestrian bridge that lies south of Incline.

Do the Dew, Again

This colorful mural by Atlanta artist Kevin Bongang is not the first “Do the Dew” mural in Nashville. PepsiCo launched their “Do the Dew” global advertising campaign back in 2015, and as part of that campaign they have sponsored a number of murals. In early 2019, Eastside Murals produced their own “Do the Dew” mural on the old Family Dollar near Five Points. That was one of the many murals destroyed by the March 3, 2020 tornado. Indeed, the building it was on completely collapsed.

Almost exactly two years after that first Nashville “Do the Dew” mural went up, Bongang created this one. This is at the Citgo station at Fifth and Main, an intersection that is something of a gateway to East Nashville.  (The other main one would be Woodland and Fifth, near where the giant EAST mural is found.) The bulk of people coming from downtown pass by this spot as they come to the east side. Before this new mural went in, there was a small, rather quirky mural on this wall greeting drivers that focused more on Nashville themes.

Bongang’s mural fills the whole wall and spills around the corners on to the other walls (see below). While highlighting the “Do the Dew” theme, it’s more of a wild pastiche of images, including several birds. The mural faces across the river towards Nissan Stadium, which may explain the football, and the musical notes are likely a nod to Nashville’s status as Music City – or they may just be birdsong. This by the way is not Bongang’s first Nashville mural. He has a few others in town, including one just a few blocks away at Center 615.

Located at 500 Main Street. The mural is on the west wall, facing towards Fifth Street and downtown. There is parking at the Citgo.

Wooden at 1767

For a couple of years, one of the most popular posts on this blog in terms of page views was “Beto Forever,” about a large mural on Gallatin memorializing the graffiti artist Ronald “Ronnie” Bobal, who used the name “Beto” in his work. But no mural lasts forever, and perhaps it was simply time, or the new building owner wanted to go in a new direction, and now that mural has been replaced by this riotous image by Brian Wooden.

Wooden is also known for his images of headless, sharp-dressed men, but here he has given 1767 Designs (a company that makes art and furniture from material recovered from demolished homes) a much more colorful and cartoony work, with a tightly-packed mish-mash of machinery, faces and flowers. If you look on his blog, linked above, or his Instagram page, you’ll see that while he’s worked in this style for a long time, lately he’s been focused on it more.

If you want to know more about how this mural was made, there are a couple of videos on Wooden’s IG page that show him working on it.

Located at 2611 Gallatin Pike. The mural is on the south side of the building. Parking is readily available.

Gone but not forgotten

A little over a year ago, this mural appeared on the Citgo at Fifth and Main. It generated some discussion, mostly not favorable. That Citgo does sit on what amounts to the main entrance to East Nashville from downtown. (The other one would be Woodland and Fifth, near where the giant EAST mural is found.)

I don’t think it was the technical execution so much as the color palate that bothered some people. The Titans and Predators symbols are done well, as is the sleeping yet playing cowboy. But the green, yellow, black, blue and red clash, and it fells incomplete. Still, I had every intention of putting it on the blog. The motto here is “No art left behind,” after all. But I was unable to determine who the artist or artists were. It’s signed Yung King and ALRW, but I’m not even sure if those are one or two people.

I’m putting it up today because it’s gone. I saw yesterday that a new mural is going up in its place. I’m memorializing it both because I do try to keep a record of lost art, but also out of respect to the artist(s). It takes courage to put your art out there, particularly in such a well-trafficked spot where thousands of drivers pass by every day. Art doesn’t happen if someone doesn’t take chance. So remember East’s loud-and-proud greeter, even if it was only around for a year.

Formerly located at 500 Main Street. The mural was on the west wall, facing towards Fifth Street and downtown. A new mural is in preparation on that wall and I will report on it in the next few weeks. There is parking at the Citgo.

Drum Cat

It’s a little unusual for a mural to be geared to two businesses, but this little gem on the side of a small building next to Mas Tacos Por Favor guides you to both businesses it holds, Drum Supply and and Relik Vintage. It used to be three, as Drum Supply once cohabited with Nelson Drum House, which has since decamped to Gallatin Pike.

Appropriate for a mural for two businesses is that it’s the product of two artists, Folek Kelof and Christian Branger. That the design features a drum makes a lot of sense, and while I don’t know where the cat comes from, it certainly looks like the sort of thing you’d find on a vintage T-shirt.

While the mural itself is about a year old and has weathered the past year fine, the signatures have faded. If you look at this photo Folek posted to his Instagram account right after the mural was painted, you’ll see the signatures are bold, and the Instagram accounts of both Relik Vintage and Drum supply are clear, along with the hashtag #NashvilleCat. Those account names are now almost invisible, while the signatures are faded and the hashtag can be only faintly seen.

Relik Vintage dodged a bullet. They used to be on Woodland. A few months before the tornado, they moved to McFerrin. When the March 3 storm came, their old location was devastated. Scrolling through their Instagram page, I recognized murals that used to be in the alley behind their Woodland shop being used as backdrops for people modeling their clothes. Some of those you can read about here in my post about the storm’s aftermath.

Located at 730 McFerrin Avenue. This is a very busy commercial corner, and while there is business parking and street parking nearby, you may have to do some walking.

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