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

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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.

Love Life, Nashville Strong

There’s been a real tendency of late for murals and graffiti art in Nashville to promote positive themes. In the wake of a terrible tornado and an ongoing pandemic, Nashville artists seemed determined to boost spirits. And what better place to do this than right in the middle of the tornado’s path. The old Nashville Industrial Staffing building on Main, which has been empty for some time, seemed to come through the March 3rd storm just fine, despite coming close to being directly hit by the tornado. But that’s the difference between tornadoes and hurricanes, having myself lived through both. Tornadoes are quirky, and hurricanes are thorough.

Mouse graffiti mural Nashville street art

Earlier this summer, Nashville artist E. Watts spruced up the forlorn building with a couple of messages of hope. A familiar-looking mouse is painting the message “Love Life,” while what looks something like a masked ballon is emblazoned with the message “Nashville Strong.” Or, the “balloon” could be the “O” in the word “WOW” – take your pick. Like the graffiti art on Gallatin I featured in my last post, this work is inevitably temporary, but for the time being it lends a splash of color and hope for these difficult times.

Balloon graffiti mural Nashville street art

Located at 606 Main Street, across the street from the East Baptist Church of East Nashville, and next to an abandoned car wash. The murals are on the west side building, which faces downtown. There is parking at the building.

R. Crumb and Pink Tags at Cahal

The building at Cahal and Gallatin has been empty and unused for some time. It’s attached to The Cobra Bar (which itself has some murals) and has had its share of minor graffiti tags. This large installation went in sometime back in the spring. Its longevity is uncertain, for the building is for sale, and presumably, future owners will want to brand the building in their own way. For that matter, these kinds of installations are generally not thought of as “permanent,” even in the sense that word usually means in the mural world, which is only kind-of-sort-of permanent. It carries tags from the UH Crew and may include the work of others. The large banner at the top on the black wall reads “Under Hypnosis.”

Cahal Graffiti mural Nashville street art

One interesting feature is the inclusion of three figures (and one human head) based on the work of Robert Crumb, often known simply as R. Crumb, which is how he signs his work. The one image of his that people are most likely to know is the “Keep on Truckin’” man, a figure who leans back at an extraordinary angle as he walks, with one leg jutting far forward. Crumb’s work has been thought of as revolutionary, but also has been very controversial. Not surprisingly, the homage here is pretty tame. It can be seen from Gallatin Road, after all.

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Cahal Graffiti mural Nashville street art

Located at 2521 Gallatin Avenue, at the corner with Cahal Avenue. The black mural faces north towards Cahal, and the pink mural faces east, on the opposite side from Gallatin. Parking is available in a lot beside the building.

The Tool of Tools

I’ve been watching this mural since sometime in June, but wasn’t sure if it was finished. Well it wasn’t, but a signature recently appeared, so I believe it’s finished now. It’s by Thomas Halloran, and he calls it “The Tool of Tools.” Halloran is a Boston artist who now resides in Berlin, so this mural is a sign of the extending reach of Nashville’s outdoor art scene. While it’s located on the side of the Nashville branch of Status Dough, it’s an obvious reference to the artist spaces and galleries in the complex at 919 Gallatin Avenue, which it faces. 919 Gallatin includes Delgado Guitars, The Red Arrow Gallery, Tournament Studios, and others, and is a major part of the East Side Art Stumble, East Nashville’s art crawl. Thus Halloran’s theme of the tools of creation and the hands that wield them makes good sense here.

Halloran also created a sign on the Gallatin-facing side of the 919 complex, and is working on a second “hands” mural on another 919 building. I’ll feature both later. There’s also a no-littering mural semi-hidden by 919’s dumpster – I’m researching who did it.

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Located at 921 Gallatin Avenue (that’s the address of Status Dough). It faces south towards 919’s parking lot, where parking is of course available.

Arrows Bike Rack

When this set of metal arrows designed to be used as a bike rack first appeared outside the late, great The Post East, I assumed it was part of the Metro Arts Artist-Designed bike rack collection. It certainly looks like it does. Of course, I should have known better, as the arrows were installed in May 2017, while the last Metro-Arts sponsored bike rack was installed in 2015. But who keeps track of such details? A tell-tale clue is the lack of a plaque describing the work and naming the artist – Metro Arts is very good about doing that. Fortunately, the Post East has not deleted its Instagram page, where they credit the artists they commissioned to do the arrows, Ferrin Ironworks. Ferrin Ironworks has been on this site before – check out the fence they made that’s featured as part of Dancing in the alley. I have to say that like the Metro Arts bike racks, I rarely see these arrows being used for their intended purpose. Right now they are hosting a banner indicating that Frothy Monkey East, which has taken over the space, is currently open under pandemic conditions.

My pictures are from last Spring, while this was still The Post East. In the featured photo above, you can see a sliver of the Oliver and Sinclair mural featured in Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Co.

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Located at 1701 Fatherland Street, at the corner with 17th Street. Street parking is available.

Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks

Properly, this piece is called “Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks,” though I think most Nashvillians know it as “the roller coaster looking thing down by the river.” It is far and away one of the most photographed and recognizable works of public art in Nashville. Right across the river from Lower Broad, and an easy walk from there over the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, it’s a major tourist site as well. So why haven’t I put it on the blog before? It is the blog avatar, after all. I don’t know, but I finally got it on the blog to mark a major milestone – 600 pins on the blog map. More about that later.

No, it’s not made from leftover pieces of the Opryland roller coaster, which is a persistent rumor in town. Rather, it’s the product of a national competition to build the very first piece of art commissioned under Nashville’s “Percent for Art” ordinance which sets aside one percent of any of Metro’s general obligation bonds for public art, administered by the Metro Nashville Art Commission, better known at Metro Arts.  The contest was won by Alice Aycock, who based her design on the history of the east bank as an industrial site. Completed in 2007, the piece is 100 feet tall, 100 feet wide, and 60 feet deep. It rests on the foundations of an old gantry crane that once lowered barges into the river.

In comments appearing on the City of Nashville website, Aycock described her creation as a work of static animation. “It changes as you move around it,” the artist explained. “It suggests a certain kind of movement, dance movements, which is why I refer to it as a Ghost Ballet.” (Source)

I personally find it fascinating and have taken hundreds of pictures of it. The first set of photos here show it in normal light from various angles, including what it looks like from across the river.

Ghost Ballet is also a pretty good flood gauge. Normally, the whole work is well above the river, and it’s possible to stand a good 20 feet below its base. When the small part I call “the boat” actually looks like a boat floating on the river, you need to pay attention to the weather, as the risk of flood is increased significantly.

I also like to create more dramatic shots of Ghost Ballet. In particular, the way it interacts with the skyline and the river provides lots of opportunities to create interesting shots.

About the 600 pins – I reached 600 blog posts back in April (and did not realize it at the time). There’s a lag mainly because early on when I started this blog I would use one pin for multiple pieces of art that were in one place. I don’t do that anymore. I also don’t remove pins for art that no longer exists. I would hazard a guess that ten to fifteen percent of the points on the map represent lost art. I try to keep posts updated, so check the link in the pin to see if I’ve noted it as lost. This is not a 100% guarantee though, as I don’t always know what is lost. The patterns on the map are obvious – there are key areas where you find a lot of art. In particular, you find many pieces along Main Street and Gallatin Pike, Twelve South, Downtown, Nolensville Pike, the Jefferson and Buchanan corridors, and Charlotte Pike. The main thing these places have in common is a large number of local businesses. National chains have recently begun to sponsor outdoor art, but this is still primarily a local affair.

Ghost Ballet is located on the East Bank Greenway, next to the Bridge Building. It’s just south of Nissan Stadium. There is in fact free parking. Look for the parking for Cumberland Park, which lies near the river south of the pedestrian bridge (the opposite side from the stadium).

 

 

The Flowers of Rosebank

This colorful display of flowers is something I might ordinarily be hesitant to put on the blog, as it is not only at a personal home, it’s also at the end of a short driveway, set back from the road. But I was contacted by one of the homeowners to let me know about it and suggest I put it on the blog. The artist is Melody Cash, a local artist and graphic designer. You wouldn’t know it from that website, but on her Facebook page, you can see that this isn’t her only fence work and also not her only flowers on fences. I’m not sure where some of that other work is, but I’ll be sure to put it on the blog if I find it. The homeowner who wrote to me, Allison, said that they are happy for people to stop and take pictures of it and get their picture made it front of it. Please be respectful if you do.

Located at 1425 Rosebank Avenue. You can park a short distance away on Sheridan Road, or if you feel like a walk, this is only a block or so from Cornelia Fort Park.

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.

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