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nashville public art

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

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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 The old neighborhood store has been replaced by a Mapco next door.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.

Star Struck Vintage

When you are tucked away in a somewhat hidden spot, it helps to be bold. The spot where Star Struck Vintage is located is indeed a little out of sight, and its mural is definitely bold and hard to miss.

Star Struck Vintage is a vintage clothing store that is an offshoot of a long-standing and now-closed New York vintage store that first opened in Edgehill in 2013. Early last year they moved to the complex of shops and offices at 604 Gallatin Ave, right at the corner with Eastland Avenue. The unit they are in is on the backside of the complex and tucked under an awning, so some bright, pop-art colors are useful for catching the eye of passers-by. Of course, it’s also right in front of that giant hot-air balloon mural by Kelsey Montague, so that’s a clue if you need to know where to find them.

Vintage mural Nashville street art

Their mural is the work of Anthony Billups of Music City Murals, who continues to show great versatility in his work. Star Struck Vintage sells vintage clothing from the ’30s to the ’80s, which probably explains the Rubik’s cube. While the cowboy boots and hat are standard Nashville icons, a look at Star Stuck’s Instagram page suggests they’ve been getting a lot of material from the local music scene.

Vintage mural Nashville streert art

Because of the location with its columns and the fact that it wraps around the building, it’s pretty much impossible to take a clear picture of the whole thing, which is why I’m posting several pictures of it. I suspect the detail area above is what most people will want their picture taken in front of.

Vintage mural Nashville street art

This view is more what you would see from Eastland as you walk by. Billups put up a video of himself working on the mural, and Star Struck put up a different one. The woman you see working with Billups is his wife, Katje Billups.

Vintage Mural Nashville street art

Located at 604 Gallatin Avenue, at the corner with Eastland Avenue. That’s the address of the building. The mural faces an alley on the backside of 604 Gallatin and is visible from Eastland. If you can see the big balloon mural, you’ve found it. Parking can be tricky here. Your best bet is the free parking garage right across Eastland from the mural and Star Struck Vintage. (Lower level – the upper level belongs to the pharmacy.)

Feelin’ Lucky – Hawkers

One of the many things lost as a result of the closure of the long-standing East Nashville staple Family Wash was the mural of a giant multi-colored mule by Herb Williams that once adorned its building. But with a new restaurant in that spot, we also have a new mural.

Hawkers is an Asian street food chain based out of Florida that opened in the old Family Wash site on Main Street a few months ago. As such, it’s no surprise that the giant mural provided by Mobe Oner (aka Eric Bass) has a strong Asian theme. As part of their branding, Hawker uses an image of the familiar Maneki-neko, the Japanese beckoning cat. Wait, that’s what they are called? I didn’t know that they even had a name, but I learn a lot writing this blog.

Hawkers Mural Nashville street art

And yes, beckoning cat, not waving cat. In Japan, that’s a beckoning gesture. They are usually white, which is the color for luck, and in the upper left corner of the mural, Mobe Oner has placed the slogan “Feelin’ Lucky,” hence the title of this blog post. The Maneki-nekos are supposed to be based on the Japanese bobtail, but the flesh-and-blood cats are not nearly as chonky as their artistic counterparts. Maybe it’s all the Asian street food.

Hawkers mural Nashville street art

Only some of the cats in this mural are actually doing the traditional beckoning gesture. We seem them dancing, cooking, stuffing themselves with ramen, and taking selfies. The biggest one of all, appropriate to Nashville, is playing a guitar. You can watch a video of Mobe Oner working on the mural on his Instagram page.

Hawkers Mural Nashville street art

I had to take these pictures at an angle because the cramped parking lot and the addition of an upstairs patio. I was sorely tempted to stand on top of Bolton’s next door, something easily done, to get the picture, but I didn’t, and neither should you. The building is also home to part of the 615 Center complex, as you can see by the sign right next to the Feelin’ Lucky logo.

Located at 626A Main Street. the mural is on the west side of the building, facing towards downtown. There is retail and street parking available nearby.

The Shoppes on Fatherland

One of the more surprising things (to me!) about the development of East Nashville in the last couple of decades has been the success of a couple of different developments of small-sized retail spaces in the Five Points area, including the one called The Shoppes on Fatherland. Turns out that these places that cluster several small businesses in one place are a favorite of both of locals and tourists. Shows what I know about retail and tourism.

The Shoppes themselves are part of a larger collection of properties around the intersection of Fatherland and 11th Street called The Fatherland District (whose website features a nice picture of the “Main Street” of The Shoppes). That in turn is the property of a much larger multi-state company called S&S Property Management with dozens of properties – just in case you thought this kind of development was strictly a local mom-and-pop thing.

Where there is tourism in Nashville, especially where there is tourism and successful businesses, there’s going to be murals. The one featured here went in in late 2020, and it serves not just as a sign but as a giant welcome to anyone coming in to the Five Points district from the south, presumably from Shelby Avenue, one of the main avenues into East Nashville. The kind of branding that in the past might have been done with a billboard or a large sign now warrants a huge mural. This one is by the prolific Eastside Murals, who for some time now have been signing their work Out East Boys, as they have done here.

Shoppes Mural Nashville street art

Now it so happens there is a fence jutting out right where one might usually stand when getting your picture taken in front of the mural, but I imagine the tourists will figure out a solution. This mural is not the only one Eastside Murals has done for this complex. On the west side of the Shoppes, along an alleyway and on the back of a barn-shaped building is a mural they did a few years ago that has a very large “Fatherland District” sign scrolled across it. At the time I wrote about that mural I think I believed it was just as example of neighborhood pride, but now it’s clear that like the mural featured in this post, it’s part of the site’s branding.

Located at 1006 Fatherland Street. That’s the address of The Shoppes as a whole. The mural is on the south side of the complex, on the opposite side from Fatherland Street. It’s visible from the parking lot behind Far East Nashville and from the 200 block of South 11th Street. It lies on the outer wall of Eastside Nails, one of the businesses in The Shoppes. There is street parking nearby and limited parking at The Shoppes, but this area can be hard to park in when it’s busy.

Shed Strong

When looking for outdoor art in Nashville, sometimes it pays to drive around to the back of the building, as I did with the white building off Douglas Avenue that contains, among other businesses, the East Nashville branch of Shed Fitness. Shed Fitness Group is actually a chain, with four of its seven branches in Nashville. It’s been on this blog before, as Tarabella Aversa did a mural for their Germantown branch.

This mural on their Douglas Avenue branch is by Rachel Deeb, a photographer, artist and graphic designer who has also been on this blog before. This is her third mural that I am aware of for a fitness outlet, including Put up your dukes! on the side of the Church Street branch of Title Boxing Club and another mural for MK Fitness on Main Street. Sadly, while the Main Street mural survived the March 3, 2020 tornado, the building it was on was severely damaged and has since been demolished.

Unlike those previous two murals, which were primarily images (boxing gloves for the one, an abstract design for the other) this one leans more strongly to signage, featuring the slogan “Shed Strong.” The kettlebell and dumbbells are an obvious reference to Shed Fitness’s business, while the energetic lines and triangles are found in much of Deeb’s other work, including the the two previous fitness-themed murals. The mural went up last June, not long after the East Nashville branch of Shed Fitness opened. You can watch a video of Deeb creating it (it looks like she did it in one day) on her Instagram page.

Located at 747 Douglas Avenue. The mural is found on the northeast side of the building, which is the far side from Douglas. Enter the parking lot and go around to the back of the building. Obviously, parking is available.

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.

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