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All Aboard the Shiner Express!

If you’re standing on the west side of the upper decks of Topgolf and look off to your right, you might see a train, because there’s a track down there. Indeed, if there wasn’t a net to catch golfballs, you could hit a passing train. Look across the street, and you’re guaranteed to see a train – well, a mural of one, anyway.

(I have been having some issues with featured photos. If you don’t see a photo at the top of this post, scroll down to the bottom to see the full mural.)

This mural of a fanciful Shiner Bock Train hauling a giant can and an even larger bottle of the brew went up in early September. It’s the work of Malcolm Byers, an artist out of Denton, Texas. That delights me because a bunch of my relatives went to college in Denton, I have a lot of family there, and I lived there as a little kid when my parents were in graduate school. In the before times, I was out there for a family wedding and saw a lot of murals, and maybe even some of Byers’s work.

Engine Mural Nashville street art

This of course is an advertisement for the Shiner company, who sponsored it, and they have a great video of Byers working on the mural on their Instagram account. I scrolled through that account and didn’t see other murals, so this is something of a departure for them.

Bottle Mural Nashville Street art

Perhaps not surprising for what is basically an ad, the mural was designed by Anat Ronen in conjunction with the ad agency Bakery. Like Byers, Ronen is a Texas artist. Bakery has done other work with Shiner, including a series of comic TV ads. This is all a Texas affair, as Bakery and Shiner are also out of the Lone Star State. (Me too – I was born in San Antonio.)

Passenger Mural Nashville Street Arts

How long this mural and the apparent storage building it’s on will be around is anybody’s guess. This part of Nashville is slated for major redevelopment. Most of that development is planned for the other side of Topgolf, along the riverbank, but if it turns out looking anything like this rendering, everything is up for grabs in this traditionally industrial neighborhood. Even more so given that Oracle is building a major project just up the street.

Beer Mural Nashville Street art

But this is the new Nashville, and nothing lasts forever. So get your pictures while you can!

Located at 403 Cowan Street, directly across the street from Topgolf. There’s a gravel lot across the street that probably belongs to Topgolf. There is no street parking anywhere nearby.

Shiner Train Mural Nashville street art

East Nashville Rising

Lockeland Phoenix mural Nashville street art

Life has been turned upside for everyone since March 2020, but East Nashville started this strange period even bumpier than most. The March 3, 2020 tornado hit the neighborhood hard, and since then there have been many tributes to the rebuilding and the resilience of this side of town, notably the “Nashville Strong” mural at Boston Commons. More recently, a bright, multi-colored tribute to East Nashville’s comeback appeared at Lockeland Table.

About a year ago, Cara Graham, co-owner of Lockeland table, asked Emily Harper Beard (who works under the name e.f. harper) to do a mural that represented East Nashville’s strength and resilience. Beard hesitated at first because she didn’t want to compete with the mural that was already on Lockeland Table’s main wall (a painted sign from when the building housed a hair salon). Also, she was reluctant to paint on the building’s brick wall.

An answer came from Andee Rudloff (who has been featured on this blog many times) – aluminum panels from the local branch of Jerry’s Artarama (who has their own post-tornado comeback mural I need to feature). From there it was a question of design, and Beard settled on a phoenix image she had created in college. The phoenix, of course, is an ancient and potent symbol of rebirth and renewal. The hashtag on the mural gives this blog post its title.

On August 15, 2021, Lockeland Table’s ninth anniversary, Beard, her brother, and Rudloff, as well as many people from the neighborhood, gathered to paint and mount the mural, which has become an eyecatcher at a busy intersection. Here’s a video and slideshow from Lockeland Table depicting the creation of the mural. The restaurant has had tables along that wall since the pandemic began, and if you show up early (maybe you need a reservation?) you can get a table right at the mural.

Located at 1520 Woodland Street, at the corner with 16th Street. The mural faces east, away from downtown and Five Points. There is street parking available, but you might wind up walking a block or two.

The Big Grey Bird of Elegy Coffee

Elegy Bird mural Nashville street art

I call this the Big Grey Bird because I own a copy of Birds of Tennesee and this screaming bird at Elegy Coffee doesn’t seem to quite fit with any of them. Maybe it’s a bird from somewhere else and maybe it’s a bird from the mind of the artist. To me, it looks a lot like a small parrot, but parrots generally have hooked beaks. But it doesn’t really matter, it’s still a great mural.

It’s the work of Nashville artist Brian Wooden. You may have seen some of his images of headless, sharp-dressed men around town, but he works in many styles, including a wild, cartoony style found on a mural further south on Gallatin Road at 1767 Designs

The choice to put a bird flying through a golden triangle doesn’t have much to do with the Elegy Coffee brand. Their logo is an all-seeing eye. But if you step inside, you’ll definitely see many touches of black, grey, and gold in their interior decor, so it fits with the cool, subdued color style of the restaurant.

This mural went up almost a year ago, and I confess I only noticed it a couple of months ago even though I live not too far away. That’s a feature of the pandemic. The pandemic blahs is also why haven’t been posting much lately, but there’s a lot of new work that came out this last year, and I’m going to try to get back in the swing of things and get it all on the blog.

Located at 2909A Gallatin Pike, right next to Walden Bar. The mural is on the south side of the building (that’s in the direction of downtown) and faces an alley that goes to the back parking lots. Free parking is hard to come by in this area, but there are plenty of paid lots along the alley that runs behind Elegy and Walden.

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.

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