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

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Red Headed Stranger

The mural at Red Headed Stranger in the McFerrin Park neighborhood of East Nashville is one of the most understated of all of Nashville’s murals, which makes it a little difficult to photograph. It’s subtle, not loud, with its light colors and large expanses of white. It’s was made by I Saw the Sign las August, and is based on a design by Mode, a branding and design company out of Charlotte, NC. Red Headed Stranger (an obvious homage to Willie Nelson and the album of the same name) is a taco shop owned by the same people as Butcher & Bee. I Saw the Sign also did the sign/mural on the face of Butcher & Bee’s Main Street branch. RHS’s menu indicates that their tacos are all on flour tortillas, which is not usually my thing, but they have good reviews. To each their own! The portrait at the end is of a cowgirl with an eye-patch, so it’s definitely not Willie Nelson.

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RedHeaded Face mural Nashville street art

Located at 305 Arrington Street, at the corner with Meridian Street. Street parking is available.

Black Lives Matter

It’s no secret that the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers has sparked a massive protest movement here in America and around the world. Not surprisingly, it has produced art. Perhaps the most widely shared example is a mural in Minneapolis done by Cadex Herrera, Greta McLain, Xena Goldman, Rachel Breen, Niko Alexander, Maria Javier, and Pablo Helm Hernandez. While I would not be surprised if there are others in Nashville, this one at the damaged Jerry’s Artarama on Main (above) and a similar one at Cobra Bar on Gallatin are the only ones I know of in Nashville at this time. I suspect others will emerge if they haven’t already.

This one is obviously temporary, as it is painted on boards covering a window blown out by the March 3rd tornado. Of course, my last post was about another mural on Jerry’s Artarama, but I feel this one is timely, and as construction is already getting started next door and a large disposal unit you see at construction sites has appeared just to the side of this mural, I thought it important to document it now. I also try really hard to credit artists, but this one is unsigned, and I suspect it is anonymous for a reason.

The happy-style letters belie the seriousness of the topic at hand. In my main work, I am a history professor, not an art blogger. I do not know why this particular incident has generated the enormous energy and the wave of protests that it has, while others like it before did not. My future colleagues will spend a lot of time sorting that out. Some reasons seem obvious, but one thing you learn in history, the obvious answers aren’t always right, or they may not be as important as they look. What history-minded people like me can do is document everything, so the full story can eventually be told. Already, the Smithsonian is collecting signs plastered to the fence around the White House so they will be available to researchers and the public in the future.

Below is a shot giving you some idea of how the piece fits with everything else on the wall. I took it at this odd angle because of the placement of the disposal unit. In it, you see murals by Andee Rudloff and Herb Williams, and the remnants of an older mural by Hannah Holgate and Marshall Hall that was severely damaged by the tornado.

BLM mural sign Nashville street art

Located at 713 Main Street. For now, the parking lot in front of Jerry’s Artarama is available, but once this becomes a construction site, that’s unlikely. The nearest street parking is towards downtown on Seventh Street North.

 

Out into the open

The March 3 tornado that tore through Nashville did a lot of damage to art on the east side. But temporarily at least, it has brought one work out into the open. The building that housed the Nashville Urban Winery was heavily damaged in the storm, and recently it has been demolished. When the winery was intact, it had a large covered patio at the front. From the street, this mural by Bryan Deese was visible inside the patio, but it was also shrouded, and usually had lots of tables in front of it. I debated putting it on the blog, but each time I thought about it I wound up going with something else. Then suddenly it was fully in the light. It survived the destruction of the building because it sits on a wall shared with Jerry’s Artarama, currently closed due to tornado damage.

The mural’s themes make sense for a Nashville winery, evoking the great wine nations of France and Italy. The trellis shape is the base of the Eiffel Tower. It frames a row of vines from a vineyard, the facade of Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Roman Colosseum. In the center of course is Nashville’s own Eiffel Tower, the Batman Building.

Urban Winery mural Nashville street art
The Nashville Urban Winery mural when the building was intact.

Soon, the cleared lot this mural looks out on will become a construction site. For that matter, the building it sits on is in need of serious repair. So the fate of this mural is highly uncertain. Let’s call it endangered art. I should note it’s also currently inside an area sealed off by a locked fence, but there is a gap between the building and the fence, right at the edge of the mural. You didn’t hear that from me.

Located at 715 Main Street, an address that currently has no building. More accurately, it’s on the east side of 713 Main, the Jerry’s Artarama building. For now, you can park in Jerry’s Artarama’s parking lot.

Precious Jewel

When I recorded the damage to Nashville’s art from the March 3 tornado, I featured a flag-and-eagle mural by Kim Radford. It was at the time one of only a few outdoor murals she had done in Nashville (and which has happily survived the storm, its wall preserved while the rest of the building is being completely rebuilt). Since then, she’s been increasingly prolific. This guitar-and-birds mural appeared just a few weeks ago, at the corner of Douglas and Lischey, just around the corner from another of Radford’s murals. The guitar is adorned with a Maya Angelou quote, from the poem “You are a precious jewel.”

Precious jewel, you glow, you shine,
reflecting all the good things in the world.

The birds in flight reflect this optimistic theme, sailing away from a flowery guitar. The quote may also reflect that this mural is a memorial. At the bottom of the guitar, it reads:

In Loving Memory: Mohhamed Hossein Seyed Sharifi 10/2/94 – 2/19/19. Heaven couldn’t wait for you.

I would note that now having seen a few of Radford’s murals, she reminds me of Eastside Murals. Some muralists, I see their work, and I know immediately who made it. But Radford and Eastside are not easily pigeon-holed, and work in a number of styles. Thankfully, they both sign their art, which makes my work a lot easier.

It’s also somewhat notable that this mural is found on the facade of Douglas Market Lofts, named after the market that used to sit on this corner. It’s really no longer novel for a business, a condo building in this case, to have murals and other outdoor art. No, it’s becoming increasingly the order of the day, a thing that business owners do to try to get your attention and stand out. And that’s good because we get more art!

Radford Guitar mural Nashville street art

Radford Birds mural Nashville street art

Located at 337 Douglas Avenue. The mural faces east, towards Lischey Avenue. There is street parking available on Lischey, on the block south of Douglas.

We Are Nashville – Main Street

The best view of the We Are Nashville installation at 916 Main Street is where the Holleman Transmission building used to stand. It was taken down by bulldozers, in preparation for new development. But the photographic mural features the staff of the local fashion line Molly Green, whose Main Street branch once stood next door to Holleman, and which was almost completely destroyed by the March 3 tornado. We Are Nashville is an anonymous collaborative that for the last two years has been documenting who Nashville is today. They have begun to put up wheat-paste installations of the resulting photographs, with QR codes that lead to their website where you can learn the stories behind the images. The start of their campaign to present these photos and stories to the city coincided with the tornado and its aftermath, so it makes sense that some of the early installations are about the people and stories of the storm.

Three stories are part of this particular installation – the destruction of Molly Green, the damage to a historic home in Donelson and its surrounding neighborhood, and the aftermath of the storm in North Nashville and Germantown.

In the center and the far left, we see the people of Molly Green, standing in the ruins of their Main Street store.

We Are Nashville mural street art
From left, Brandon Hartwell, Proprietor; Kelsey Wells, Web and Social Director; Brittany Hartwell, Proprietor; Heather Johns, Visual Merchandising Director; Jessica Lanier, Store Manager; and Mary Lokey, Stylist.

If you were to stand where the photographer stood now, you would see the mural to your direct right, as the Molly Green building has been leveled.

The left side of the mural includes a closeup portrait of Molly Green staffer Heather Johns, but it’s mostly is a portrait of ten-year-old London outside her great-grandfather’s home, David Young Sr. Parts of the home date back to 1870, and if you click on the Donelson story above you’ll see it was more damaged than it appears in this photo.

WAN Molly Green Left

On the right side, we see an image from the immediate aftermath of the tornado in North Nashville. Here, parishioners of the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church on Monroe Street pray together after the storm, their badly damaged church in the background. (The We Are Nashville site does not identify the young man featured in the photo.) This same image is part of an installation at the largely destroyed Music City Cleaners building at Jefferson and 7th.

 We Are Nashville mural street art

A little ways away, about where I stood when I took the photo at the bottom of this post, there are three smaller portraits of Molly Green staffers. They are on the backside of Attaboy. The only deaths recorded in Davidson County from the March 3 storm were of two people who left Attaboy just as the tornado was approaching.

We Are Nashville mural street art
From left, Mary Lokey, Stylist; Heather Johns, Visual Merchandising Director; Jessica Lanier, Store Manager; and Brandon Hartwell, Proprietor.

These are obviously all temporary. Wheat-paste murals don’t tend to have a long shelf life. Like the recent also temporary installation at Jerry’s Artarama a few blocks away, they both memorialize the damage suffered from the storm as well as highlight the strength of Nashville as a community. There is something else about them that speaks to the temporary nature of all art. Just below the four portraits above stands the only remaining fragment of the largest work of art destroyed by the March 3 storm, the wrap-around mural by Eastside Murals that once covered all of Molly Green.

We Are Nashville mural street art

The photographs of the main mural also cover up an old graffiti mural by the UH Crew. You can see some of the process of the mural’s installation on We Are Nashville’s website.

Located at 916 Main Street. The mural faces east, away from downtown, towards McFerrin Avenue. There is street parking on McFerrin on both sides of Main Street.

Art among the ruins

When I wrote about the aftermath of the March 3rd tornadoes (What we lost in the stormStorm damage, Germantown and North Nashville) I said that artists would be an important part of the rebuilding of Nashville. Already that is clear – within days the Nashville Strong mural went up on the side of Boston Commons at Five Points on a wall exposed by the destruction of the storm. Another victim of the storm was Jerry’s Artarama on Main. The store’s front end was torn apart by the tornado that barreled down Main Street, devastating a mural that spread across the storefront, which had been done by Hannah Holgate and Marshall Hall.

The smashed wall was boarded up, with only scraps of the original mural surviving. Recently, two local artists, Herb Williams and Andee Rudloff, have turned some of that drab plywood into colorful art. Williams did the stylized Tennesee flag, with birds and butterflies circling the stars in the middle, while Rudloff did the colorful array of Picasso-style faces. Look close and you can see three remnants of the original mural in surviving brick columns. The two bordering the flag are a little hard to see as they fit in with the color scheme of the new murals, but the blue and white strip at the far right, which is all that’s left of an image of paint tubes, is more easily discerned. Piled in front of the flag is much of the rest of the remnants of the old mural. Below, you can see how the new ones fit in with the whole facade, and you can see more clearly the extent of the destruction and what’s left of the previous mural. Obviously, this is temporary, but then, isn’t all art, ultimately? When the building is restored and new art goes up, you’ll find it here.

Jerry's Artarama Murals Nashville street art

Located at 713 Main Street. For now, the parking lot is open. That may change when reconstruction starts, but there is parking at nearby businesses.

Slow Burn

Continuity and change – it’s one of the most honored, if not hoary ideas in the study of history, the idea that as much as some things change, there are also things that remain consistent. As this Nashville Scene article notes, the little cinderblock building as 726C McFerrin has been host to a series of small joints that served up hot chicken, from The Birdhouse to Ruby Ann’s and now Slow Burn. The East Nashville spot is Slow Burn’s second, the original is up in Madison. The building, as you can see, has a mural for a sign, a mural that practically comes with its own hashtags, with shoutouts to local colleges and other institutions. It’s by an artist who goes simply by Cora, at least in her life as a professional artist.

Slow Burn Mural Nashville street art sign

Like every restaurant right now, Slow Burn is takeout only (and only cards, no cash) to minimize the danger of spreading COVID-19. These are difficult times for our local restaurants. If you are going to get takeout, do what you can to keep out local places afloat.

Located at 726C McFerrin Avenue, near the corner with Cleaveland Street. There is limited parking at this complex.

Terra-Drift

About a year and a half ago, the California artist Skye Walker came through town and did three murals as part of his Sea2Sea Mural Tour, which you can follow on his Instagram page. (Check the hashtag #sea2seamuraltour.) The first one, featured in Keep a Breast, is on the Hair World Beauty Supply at 2503 Gallatin and promotes breast cancer awareness and testing. The second, Gaia, is part of a beautification project by merchants and residents of 2nd and 3rd Avenues North. This one, which Walker calls “Terra-Drift,” found at the Hair World at 500 Gallatin, came about because the owner of Hair World liked the Keep a Breast mural so much, he commissioned another mural for the second location. The picture above actually crops the mural, which is very long and thin, and hard to photograph because of obstacles, as you can see below. The artist has a nice drone shot that takes it all in on his Instagram page.

Hair World Mural street art Nashville

In some way, this is a tornado-related post. Hair World stays busy, and there are always cars parked in this lot and along the length of the mural. But the store lost power for a few days, and I was able to shoot it car-free for once. This mural lies only about four blocks north of Five Points, where there was so much damage from the storm.

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Located at 500 Gallatin Avenue, at the corner with Mansfield Street. The mural is on the north side of the building. For now, there is a large parking lot available, but the closed bank that goes with the parking lot is for sale, so the future of the lot is uncertain. Street parking is available nearby.

 

Butcher & Bee

Butcher&Bee mural Nashville street art sign

This may not seem like another tornado-related blog post, but it is. For one, Butcher & Bee, while not particularly damaged, was one of the Main Street businesses shut down by the storm. They did, however, reopen yesterday, with a limited evening menu. No word when they’ll be back to full-time business, but every opening, every repaired roof, is a giant leap forward. But the picture itself was made possible by the storm. I’d wanted to feature the Butcher & Bee sign, made by I Saw the Sign, for some time. But there were often cars parked in front of it, and more importantly, to get the best picture, you kind of need to stand in the middle of Main Street. Well, last week, you could do that! So here it is in all its glory. Look close, and you can see Butcher&Bee’s logo, a bee with two butcher knives.

The reality is, Main Street, and the rest of the places damaged by the storm, have a long road ahead. Greko Greek Street Food opened as well, but other damaged businesses on Main won’t be open for months – if ever. Something else will take their place, but the fabric of Main will always be changed.

Located at 902 Main Street. Parking is tough here in the best of times, and there isn’t much nearby street parking, so you may need to walk a few blocks.

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