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.
“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.
Well, that was fast. The tornado came in the very early hours of Tuesday morning. By late afternoon Sunday, Nashville’s artists had responded. Of course, every artist needs a sponsor, and they found one in Mathew Charette. Charette is the owner of Drifters, Beyond the Edge, and Boston Commons and the building that housed the Gold Club Electric tattoo parlor. All three restaurants were damaged, and the Gold Club Electric building was destroyed. But Charette felt the need to
“Shake my fist” at this storm and say “is that all you got storm, you don’t know who you are messing with, we are East Nashville Five Points and we are Nashville Strong”
Now about the photo. I’ve gotten fairly picky about photos on this blog – no shadows, no backlighting, no cars in front. A fence in front? Clipped off signatures? No way! But this morning, when I tried to photograph it, the police wouldn’t let me near, as the whole area was cleared for NES workers who were working to restore power. However, Officer Eric Burford of the MNPD was kind enough to take my phone and walk down to the site and shoot a quick photo for me. Apparently, he had to be quick because NES workers were moving some heavy equipment nearby. I think the picture is completely appropriate. Nashville is under repair right now. A lot is broken, a lot is incomplete. No one has time to complain about inconveniences, but everyone tries to help everyone else. That’s the spirit of Nashville Strong.
Located at 1008A Woodland Street. Right now, you can’t park nearby or even walk up there, at least while NES crews are at work, but in the future, the usual Five Points rules apply. Paid parking if you don’t want to walk, or street parking if you can walk two or three blocks.
In Nashville, and communities to the east, homes and businesses have been shattered and destroyed, lives lost. Much of what has been broken will take months to rebuild, if ever. Families without homes, employees without paychecks. In the face of that, what’s a little art?
In the last few years, there has been a mural renaissance in Nashville, and it’s been my honor to chronicle it. Arguably, it really started in East Nashville over four years ago, with Chamber East doing much to cajole eastside businesses to take a chance on art. And many ultimately did, so many that the east side, from Fifth and Main to well up Gallatin Road, became the most art dense neighborhood in Nashville. Art is part of this neighborhood’s identity. So when a tornado plowed down Main and through Five Points and beyond very early Tuesday morning, it inevitably took a lot of art with it.
Other losses attracted fewer news cameras, but were still quite devastating. This pile of painted concrete blocks is all that’s left of the murals that once wrapped around Hunt Supply Co., a skateboard gear supplier whose building completely collapsed.
Before the storm, it looked like this:
Hunt Supply and Gold Electric Tattoo across the alley are something of neighborhood secrets. You need to know to walk up the alley behind Beyond the Edge to find them, or what’s left of them now. The front side of Gold Electric once had a really fun mural, now shattered in the wake of the storm.
I never blogged about it, nor learned the artist, because I was waiting to get a “clean” picture of the other Gold Electric mural, a memorial to founder Mike Fite. Employee cars were always parked in front of it. Sadly, on the night of the tornado, one was still there and was seriously damaged.
Not so secret was the “Do the Dew” mural by Eastside Murals on the old Family Dollar, just steps away from Gold Electric Tattoo. The building was probably slated for demolition and “mixed-use” development, but it was still a shock to see such a bright and colorful wall collapse, along with the rest of the building. Look close at the rubble and you can see a section of the mural.
The alley between Main and Woodland has also been for some time a place filled with art. Almost all of it is by the UH graffiti crew. It included well-madegraffiti tags, trippy caricatures, and even a surreal sky. The surreal sky, which I dubbed “Panda Sky,” had already been damaged by construction, but now just a slip of it is left. The hypnotic “Under Hypnosis,” of which the word “under” has collapsed, is by the artist Sterbo.
One of the most devastating losses is a work that first appeared on this blog in a piece called “A True Survivor.” No, it’s not a mural, but it’s still a work of art that has been part of the eastside’s image for decades. The Weiss Liquor sign crumbled in the storm and with it a lot of history.
Right behind this building is another piece I never got around to blogging about, in part because it had been partially painted over by another piece I’ve only tangentially blogged about, the giant concert mural by Jason Galaz on the back of Crying Wolf. A fence painted by someone who’s signature I never figured out was partially painted over with a list of concert performers by Galaz. Regardless, the fence collapsed.
A more total loss was a large piece of art about art. The facade of Jerry’s Aratama had been covered in art by Hannah Holgate and Marshall Hall, right down to the parking lot itself. The parking lot art is fine, including the signs, but the facade of the building collapsed, largely destroying the mural.
Two more total losses are found in the alley behind Smith and Lentz Brewing. There was a lovely, bizarre fence by Andee Rudloff and Max Grimm that belonged to the house behind Smith and Lentz. Only a single post remained when I checked on it Wednesday. And on the backside of Smith and Lentz was another Eastside Murals piece I never blogged about, I think because it didn’t seem too public behind the bar’s fence, now ripped down by the storm. You can see what it looked like intact on Eastside’s Instagram page.
The featured mural of the eagle at the start of this post is by Kim Radford and lies on the east wall of Elite Bonding. I never got around to writing about it because I was saving it for a patriotic holiday. (While it’s relatively intact, the work Radford did on the other side of the building is largely gone, the wall having collapsed. Here’s what the eagle looked like undamaged.) I suppose there’s a lesson to be learned about impermanence and not assuming everything will always be what you expect. Another example of this is the East Nashville “EN” murals, which are sponsored by Chamber East. I’ve never put one on the blog for some reason. The one by Troy Duff at Burger Up is intact, but given the state of the building, it’s hard to say if it will last.
Tuesday, after the storm, I had more visitors to this site than I’m used to. People wanted to know what it all used to look like, to see what had been lost, to remember what things that had been broken looked like when they were intact. If you want to help artists who have been hurt by the storm, start here. Here is a page with more general information about volunteering and donating for tornado relief.
East Nashville will rebuild, it will prosper, thought scars will remain. And I predict that Nashville’s artists will be in the thick of it.
Back in April 2018, there was a major mural art show put on by a consortium of artists that called themselves Impermanent. An old warehouse in The Nations was completely covered in murals. The name was chosen appropriately, as those murals have since been painted over. More recently, this giant image of their name appeared on the side of Bongo East at Five Points, courtesy of the artist Sterbo. It’s appropriate here too, as things always seem to be changing in Five Points. That white building in the background is the boutique Vandyke Hotel, where before a meat-and-three had been for years. The hotel’s construction destroyed or hid three murals on the other side of Bongo East.
And “impermanent” is appropriate for another reason. This wall once held, briefly, an installation of the Inside/Out portrait project developed by French artist JR and sponsored by OZ Arts Nashville. While I blogged about the other installations in this series, I never got around to writing about the Bongo East version, but here is what it looked like.
The small image in the middle of the Impermanent mural is a triple version of Sterbo’s logo.
Located at 107 11th Street South, just off Five Points. It faces a large yard on the south side of the building. This is Five Points, so plenty of paid parking, as well as street parking, but for that, you may have to walk a block or two depending on the time of day.
I have written many times on this blog about how national chains don’t do local art. They have their centralized branding, and that’s that. Good luck finding any local outdoor art anywhere near Rivergate Mall. It can, in fact, be done, but that example is on a local business. Lately, however, things are changing. Top Golf is a recent example, and of course, the local version of Cracker Barrel’s faux-local chain Holler & Dash has its mural. (Cracker Barrel recently bought Maple Street Biscuit Company and plans to rebrand all of its Holler & Dash sites, so that mural may be in danger.) But Kroger is not pretending to be local and is a much more traditional firm than Top Golf, so a big, giant, neighborhood-celebrating mural for its grand reopening done by local artists, Eastside Murals to be precise, is a significant development. I’ve noted that more and more local companies are seeing outdoor art as part of the cost of doing business in Nashville, and maybe now at least some of the big corporate firms are also beginning to get that message. I’ve also noted that art breeds art, and Main St/Gallatin Pike from 5th Street to Trinity Lane is one of the most art-dense neighborhoods in Nashville. The Eastland Kroger sits right in the middle of that stretch. This particular mural came about as a result of Kroger collaborating with The Studio 208 owner Ashley Segroves, who’s been a strong advocate and promoter of mural art in Nashville for several years. Says Seagroves:
Kroger worked with The Studio 208 and Eastside Murals to collaborate for a uniquely East-side vibe. The coolest part of the story is that one of the artists, Sterling [Goller-Brown], grew up behind me on Eastland Ave. I watched him learn to play drums. Full circle and so fascinating since Kroger wanted to stay as local as possible.
The most obviously local part of the mural, besides the words “East Side” and the train trestle bridge from Shelby Park, is the map. If you are used to maps having north at the top, you’ll be a little confused. North is actually to the left, where the grapefruit and peaches are. On the flipped map below, the red “K” in the center of the red circle is where Eastland Kroger is. The map is a little abstract, so ignore the inconsistencies.
Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come. The visual fabric of Nashville would be greatly improved if more national chains followed Kroger’s example. Also, I must note this Channel 4 story about the Kroger grand reopening. It says only that the mural was done by “a local artist.” Really? It’s actually signed. Please everyone, unless an artist wants to remain anonymous, or is genuinely impossible to identify, credit them for crying out loud.
Located at 711 Gallatin Avenue. The mural is on the south side of the building, facing Eastland Avenue, behind the pharmacy. It’s a grocery store, so lots of parking is available.
When is hidden art not hidden art? When it’s only visible from an alleyway, but that alleyway has a fair amount of foot traffic. Hunt Supply Co. supplies all your skateboarding needs and is found in an alley a couple doors back behind Beyond the Edge in the Five Points district. According to Google Maps, the alley is called “#929 Alley.” As a long-time resident of Lockeland Springs, which borders Five Points, this is news to me. Hunt Supply has been in place for a few years, long enough to acquire multiple stages of art. For some time, there was an Emily Miller wheat-pasted and skateboarding paper wolf just below the sign (see at the bottom). The current work is by David Wright of Manecoon Sign Company and an artist he credits as @_wanted_1 on Instagram (that account has no pictures or information). It features a western scene, which may or may not have much to do with skateboarding, but the wolf at the end mimics Miller’s piece. If you check out the Instagram page of Jason Hunt, the store’s owner, you’ll see a fair amount of wolf imagery, and the shop dog, Harley, has something of wolf-like look. There’s a large sign in the back which was also done by Wright.
UPDATE: This building and all its art was destroyed by the March 3, 2020 tornado.
Located at 118 South 11th Street D. The “D” means “behind.” There is a path that reaches from 11th to Hunt Supply, but the real front of Hunt Supply, and the main mural, faces the alley. The alley can be reached from the 1000 block Woodland Street between Five Points Pizza (at 1012) and Boston Common, aka Batter’d & Fried (at 1008 A). It can also be accessed from the 1000 block of Russell Street, next to the YMCA Community Action Program building at 1021, or from the paid parking lot next to Beyond the Edge.
For a long time, before the mural boom in Nashville, one of the only murals in town I was aware of was this one, the “East Nashville: You Are Here!” mural at Five Points, on the north-facing wall of what used to be Eastside Cycles and will soon be MOAB Bikes. The decision to paint over it in mid-2016 with a new mural was controversial at the time and even prompted some vandalism (you can see the new mural at that link). I’m writing about it today because of a post to the East Nashville Facebook page (that’s a closed group) by the original artist (whose name I had never known before), Nathaniel Allen. Of course, I’ve been using this mural as the banner for my blog since the inception, but since I didn’t know the artist, I never got around to posting about it. This blog is not just a guide to what’s out there now (and it’s incomplete as such a guide), but also an attempt by me to record the history of outdoor art in Nashville and create an archive for lost art. At least 10% of what’s on this blog no longer exists, and I do at times blog about pieces that are gone, though at three years later this is the farthest back I’ve gone to recover lost art. If you can’t open that Facebook post above, I can assure the decision to paint over this mural remains quite controversial, but it’s hardly the only mural in Nashville to be lost, and there will certainly be more. Allen posted on his own Facebook Page a couple of posts detailing the process of producing the “East Nashville: You Are Here!” mural you might want to check out.
Formally located at 103 South 11th Street, at Five Points. It’s worth walking around this area, as there is a lot of art in the Five Points area now. There is paid parking at Five Points, but with a bit of luck, you can find free street parking within a block or so.