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nashville public art

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

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Keep Dreaming

One thing the pandemic has not done is slow down the mural movement in Nashville. As a result, I’m getting even farther behind in cataloguing all that is out there. This trippy mural at Honytree Meadery is only a few months old, and it’s the work of Kim Radford, who over the last year or so has become quite prolific and is responsible for a lot of the new murals.

This one has a bit of backstory. Mindmilk is a mental wellness brand owned by Centric Creative Group, itself a brand-marketing agency. Back in September, Creative Centric sponsored a mural scavenger hunt. They even partnered with ROAR to create augmented reality experiences for each mural through the ROAR app, and this mural was part of the hunt. Maybe some of the participants also used this blog to help them find murals? Maybe.

Mindmilk includes dream interpretation as part of its services, and Radford’s mural seems very much to come from the world of dreams, and tells us to “Keep Dreaming.” Of course, this is also a meadery, and honey bees feature in the mural, even wrapping around the corner towards Honeytree’s front door.

Mindmilk Mural Nashville street art
Mindmilk Bees mural Nashville street art

This mural replaces a previous mural on this spot I never blogged about. It was a mural promoting Nashville SC, our local Major League Soccer team. While they promoted the mural on their social media, I was never able to track down the artist. This is my regular plea to businesses. Muralists are not simply journeyman workers, and acknowledging them can actually help promote your business, as those people who follow the artist will become aware of your business and possibly think better of it. I think the biz speak for that is “synergy.”

Nashville Soccer Mural street art

Located at 918 Woodland Street. The mural is on the east side of the building, facing away from downtown. Honeytree has some limited parking, and you can probably get away with a short stay in the lot in front of the mural. Grab some mead and enjoy the art!

Handlebar Mustache

One of the first works of art which inspired this blog was this whimsical bike rack designed by Jenna Boyko Holt. It was installed in 2014 as part of the Metro Arts program of artist-designed bike racks that ran from 2010 to 2015. I’m not sure why I’m only getting around to it now, but there’s a picture of it in a collection of photos I made on day of art in my own neighborhood that was in many ways the genesis of this blog. It is in fact called “Handlebar Mustache,” appropriately enough. Here’s the design Colt originally submitted to Metro Arts. It was a little shinier when it first went in, but otherwise it has been gracing Porter Road for about six years now.

Mustache sculpture Nashville street art

Colt is also part of Vermilion Murals. Some of their best-know work are the two murals on each side of Carter Vintage Guitars, one of a gigantic guitar, and another featuring  Maybelle Carter. If you’ve been on 8th Avenue South near Division Street, you’ve seen them. As well as murals and designing bike racks, Colt also does her own paintings, some of which you can see at the link to her site above.

I often say I never see bikes attached to the Metro Arts bike racks, but the photo I took of it five years ago proves that’s wrong.

Mustache Sculpture

Today I wouldn’t even bother taking that picture because I like “clean” shots for the blog. Here’s the bike rack from one end, which may give you a better idea of how it is meant to be used.

Mustache bike rack Nashville street art

Located at 715 Porter Road, the complex that includes Pomodoro East. It lies directly in front of Brightside Bake Shop, and is quite visible from the road. Their is ample parking at the complex, and street parking in the neighborhood on the other side of Porter.

Threshold (The Cumberland Gear Ring)

One of the quieter of Nashville’s iconic outdoor art works is the giant gear ring embedded in the sidewalk along the East Bank Greenway, down by the Nissan Stadium. It doesn’t have the pizzazz of Ghost Ballet, the twisting red sculpture just a couple hundred yards away that’s impossible to miss from across the river on Lower Broad. It’s not controversial like Musica, the dancing pyramid of nudes just off Music Row. It’s just steady and serene, like a quiet sentinel.

Threshold Ring Nashville street art

There’s no plaque (unusual for city-owned art), so most people don’t know it has a name or any idea who’s behind it. It’s by Joe Sorci and it’s called “Threshold.” (That link is from Facebook. His website requires flash, which many browsers block.) 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). It’s art based on found materials. Like Ghost Ballet, it’s made from objects left behind by the barge companies that used to operate on the east bank. Specifically, it’s the gear from a steam crane that once loaded and unloaded barges.

Gear Ring Sculpture Nashville street art

It’s actually part of a set. Nearby there are some less well known pieces, including a mosaic embedded in the sidewalk and a long bar with a gear on the end. These are also by Sorci and were made from found materials as well. I’ll feature them in a later post.

Threshold sculpture Nashville street art

As you can see, I’ve photographed it in different seasons. I think that just highlights its unchanging solidity. It doesn’t show up on social media as much as some of the flashier art in town, but unless the city removes it, it’s likely be in place much longer than almost anything in town. People do like to get their photos using it as a frame, and an intrepid few climb it and hang from the top for a photo.

Ring sculpture Nashville street art

This image shows how that might be done. The internal partitions provide handholds that could be used as a kind of ladder to get to the top, if someone were willing to try. You didn’t hear that from me.

Gear Sculpture Nashville street art
Two Nashville icons together, Threshold and the Batman Building
  • Ring Sculpture Nashville street art
  • Gear Ring sculpture Nashville street art
  • Threshold sculpture Nashville street art
  • Gear Sculpture Nashville street art

Located on the East Bank Greenway, which parallels Titan’s Way. If you are on the river side of the stadium, its almost directly lined up with the middle of the stadium. There’s some free parking for the park on the other side of the pedestrian bridge that lies south of the ring.

Tomato Art Fest, 2020

So much that is so different in 2020, so many things lost. For most of us, the social part of life has been greatly diminished since mid March, both on a personal and a community scale. Certainly, the raucous Tomato Arts Fest that comes to the Lockeland Springs neighborhood in East Nashville each August was tampered down a great deal by the pandemic. Instead of massive crowds dressed in red and green down at Five Points, a Porch Parade of cars, some decked out in green and red, brought the fest to the people, music blaring.

Of course, it’s an arts fest, and there was still tomato-themed art to find and buy. One piece in particular you can’t exactly buy but you can admire is this fence by Tarabella Aversa. It’s on 17th Street, which explains the “Love the One 7” motto. It’s not the first Tomato Arts Fest fence, those have been seen before, like the one featured in Robots don’t care about veggies. And it’s certainly not Aversa’s first fence mural. I featured another one by her recently in One Way. Fence art is becoming a little more common, and I’ll be posting more soon.

Hopefully, the Tomato Arts Fest will be back in all of its full glory next August. Whatever happens, I’ll be documenting any outdoor art it produces.

Located at 1800 Eastland Avenue. That’s the address of the house. The mural actually faces 17th Street North, along the 500 block, near the corner with Eastland. There is street parking available on 17th. This is a private home, so please be respectful.

Dolly at The Five Spot

This mural of Dolly Parton by Kim Radford is only a little more than a month old, but’s already made quite a splash. Lots of people have posted it to social media, and the Tennessean did a story about it. The pandemic has probably stifled its reach a bit, but pandemics come and go, Dolly is forever.

The mural came about in part out of social media. Radford had a deal to do a similar mural for a downtown honky-tonk, but when that fell through, she turned to social media, and soon The Five Spot, an East Nashville music venue near Five Points, offered its wall. Like a lot of local music venues, The Five Spot remains closed. If you want to help them out, they have a GoFundMe account. As of publication, they are at $23,000 of a $75,000 goal.

Right when Radford was doing the mural, Billboard magazine published an interview with Parton in which she expressed support for Black Lives Matter.

“I understand people having to make themselves known and felt and seen,” she says. “And of course Black lives matter. Do we think our little white asses are the only ones that matter? No!”

Radford added part of the quote to the mural, starting with “of course,” and substituting Parton’s signature butterflies for the S’s in “ass.”

Kim Radford, by the way, only got really active doing outdoor murals in Nashville about a year ago or so. Since then, she’s become one of the more prolific of our local artists. In particular, she’s done a series of pieces for Grimey’s New and Pre-Loved Music I hope to feature soon.

This mural is on my street, and I might have put it up sooner, except that small parking lot in front of it is often full. You might have your best luck early in the morning.

Located at 1006 Forrest Avenue. The mural faces east, away from downtown and nearby Gallatin Road. There is street parking on the 1100 block of Forrest and other streets nearby.

The East Room

One thing the ongoing pandemic has not stopped is the outdoor art scene in Nashville. Certainly some commissions never materialized as some businesses cut costs and others closed. But new art is still appearing. A few months ago, this new mural appeared at The East Room on Gallatin. It’s by Matthew Depew, who also used the label “Popcorn Art,” and the mural carries the hashtag “#popcornmurals.” I don’t know why he uses that name, but the mural, which is on a set of panels, is highly textured. It’s depiction of a road leading off into a surreal landscape is reminiscent of the yellow brick road mural by Anthony’s Billups for The Griff Apartments.

There’s also a pretty impressive sign on the side of the building, but I don’t know the artist.

East Room Sign mural Nashville street art

Of course, like all our public venues, The East Room is struggling. As of press time, their calendar is blank, though they do have an announcement for a series of virtual concerts they are taking part in over the next two months. Recently, the Metro Council approved a $2 million grant to help keep small, independent venues afloat. The National Independent Venue Association is running a lobbying campaign called “Save our Stages” to try to get Congress to step in to save an industry that is in serious trouble. Let’s hope they are successful.

Located at 2412 Gallatin Avenue. There is limited parking on site for the other businesses in this building. Street parking is available a short distance north on Chester Avenue.

Unfinished, Unknown

The exuberant, graffiti-style sign for A&B Towing has been up for well over a year, possibly much longer. But it is also distinctly unfinished. It’s hard to see in this picture, but the artist sketched out more of both the hook and the chain, but never completed them. For that matter, the rest of the word “truck” is stenciled in but was never painted, and that letting seems to in the midst of an unfinished editing process. I say “artist” because I don’t know who did this. There is an interesting dot, like a period at the end of the “Towing” banner, which is exactly where a signature would go. It otherwise doesn’t make much sense in the context of the rest of the mural.

Not all muralists sign their work, but the ones that do, don’t sign them until the work is done. So it would seem when the artist was about 90% done, they walked away. Why? It could be something mundane, or it could have been some sort of disagreement with the business owners. A and B Towing does seem to be active, but it also has no internet presence at all, so I don’t know much about it. And as it’s been at least a year-and-half, I really don’t think the artist is coming back. Not all art is completed, and some of the great masterpieces are unfinished works. This one is likely to remain a bit of a mystery.

Located at 707 East Trinity Lane, at the corner with Pittway Drive. The mural faces east, towards Pittway. There is parking at the building, and some street parking on Pittway.

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