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

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Hold Fast (An Off The Wall project)

One of the projects that inspired this blog was the Off the Wall project on Charlotte organized by Tinsley Dempsey. Fourteen murals along the wall protecting  Abbot West Storage from Charlotte and wrapping around as the wall turned and ran down 28th Avenue North led to a lot of blog posts. (The first one is here, and has links to all the others.) The first of those murals went up in 2016, and the last one a little over a year ago in April, 2019. Now there is a postscript. This new mural is on one of Abbot’s storage buildings, facing 31st Avenue North, just off Charlotte. It’s the product of Tarabella Aversa (who in the past has gone by Tara Marie Aversa) and went up in late April of this year, with the sponsorship of Dempsey. Its flower motif is familiar from Aversa’s other work, such as the mural featured in Flowers of Walden.  Its message of strength resonated in the aftermath of the March 3 tornadoes, which did so much damage to Nashville and nearby communities. But a lot has happened since then. Aversa has since linked it to the cause of justice embodied in the protests that arose in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. The mural’s mix of delicate beauty and fierce strength with a message of perseverance will no doubt be relevant for many causes to come.

Located at 3020 Charlotte Avenue. This mural actually faces 31st Avenue North and is easily visible from Charlotte. Your best bet for parking is perhaps across Charlotte at Cross Fit Nashville, and there is street parking on Felicia Street one block north of the mural.

Thistle Farms

For years, drivers headed east on Charlotte from the western suburbs were greeted by a mural of flowers on one wall of Thistle Farms, or more precisely, their cafe. This one isn’t it. There was another one here for years that I never shot because there were always, always cars in front of it. But more recently, Michael Cooper of Murals and More produced a new mural for Thistle Farms that I did manage to shoot without cars. The flowers you see are of course thistles, the organization’s namesake. The best way to understand what Thistle Farms does is to read their mission statement.

Thistle Farms is a nonprofit social enterprise dedicated to helping women survivors recover and heal from prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. We do this by providing a safe place to live, a meaningful job, and a lifelong sisterhood of support.

They started by making candles, and now provide clothing, jewelry, home goods, and, at their Charlotte location, a nice place for lunch. The goods are all made by the women in Thistle Farm’s healing and recovery program and the proceeds support the mission. Thistle Farms was founded over 20 years ago by the Episcopalian priest  Becca Stevens, who deservedly is one of Nashville’s most honored citizens, including Nashvillian and Tennessean of the Year, a White House Champion of Change and a CNN Hero. All of this is a measure of how important the work of Thistle Farms is. So buy a candle, get a sandwich, make a donation, whatever you want to do to help.

Thistle Farms Sign

Located at 5122 Charlotte Pike. The mural is on the west side of the building, facing 52nd Avenue North. There’s parking in front of the mural and some street parking is available.

 

Frida Kahlo

If Americans are familiar with any Mexican artist, it’s likely to be Frida Kahlo. Her surreal self-portraits that often depicted her physical and psychological suffering appear all over the place, and Salma Hayek even played her in a movie. So it’s no surprise to find her on the side of Plaza Mariachi, a Latin–themed shopping and entertainment center on Nolelesiville Pike. There was actually a festival celebrating Kahlo last July on the 112th anniversary of her birth, in which the mural was unveiled, and which included a city resolution honoring Kahlo.

The work itself is by José G. Vera-González. Vera’s done a lot of work in Nashville, though most of it has been indoors, with at least one exception, the mural featured in La Mexicana Market. It appears to be based on this photograph of Kahlo done by Nikolas Muray in 1939. It includes themes that Kahlo used in her own images. Both butterflies and hummingbirds for instance are found in “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird,” (1940), while flowers are all over her work, though the cala lillies seen here are more a feature of the work of her husband, Diego Rivera. And of course, she has a unibrow. Kahlo put it in all her self-portraits, and it would be disrespectful to leave it out. Pottery, on the other hand, seems to be a signature of Vera’s work.

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Located at 3955 Nolensville Pike. The mural is hard to see until you are right upon it. It’s on the south side of the buidling, where Madera Coffee Roasting Company is. There is extensive parking available.

Pandora at Saint Stephen

This is Nashville, and mural and sculptures inspired by music are part of our community identity. So it is no surprise that Nashville was chosen by the music streaming service Pandora as one of the eight American cities to participate in its “Sound Walls” project. Artists were commissioned to produce both a mural and a playlist of the music that inspired their mural. In Nashville, the artist Pandora selected was Alexandria Hall. As she says in this video, “This mural kind of represents the connective power that music has on all kinds of people.” On her Instagram page, there are a series of posts depicting the making of the mural. You can listen to the playlist of the music that inspired her if you have a Pandora account. Passers-by can get it from a QR code (look for the word “Pandora”). The playlist includes artists such as Kevin Ayers, Bonny Doon, and Weyes Blood.

Pandora mural Nashville street art

Fortunately, Nashville-based Mundane put together a showcase of all the murals in the series, along with links to their playlists. I couldn’t seem to find one from Pandora. The mural, of course, sits on the outer wall of Saint Stephen, which sports another mural in their semi-public patio. Oh, and this is not a pandemic post. Parking is illegal in front of this mural!

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Located at 1300 Third Avenue North. The mural faces Monroe Street. There is limited street parking on Third, and a pay lot a little past Sant Stephens, north on Third.

 

The green leaves of the Gulch

It’s a strange time to be writing about outdoor art in Nashville. This mural by California artist Ian Ross and sponsored by the Nashville Walls Project is about three years old. I’ve tried photographing it before, but even early on a Sunday morning, there always seems to be cars in the parking lot in front of it, blocking the mural. It’s a giant pay lot in the heart of the Gulch, a hotspot for Nashville tourism. But this is the time of coronavirus, and most of the tourists are gone, including around noon on a Saturday when I took this. Even at the famous wings mural by Kelsey Montague, only a couple of people were getting their picture made when I drove by and no one was waiting, when usually the line is a block or two long.

Ross Mural Nashville street art Gulch

Ross’s mural is a riot of green, swirls of paint suggesting leaves and flowers. It’s enormous and even wraps around the building on the top. There’s a video on Vimeo that shows Ross working on the mural, and it seems it was a little brighter when it was first made, though that may just be the light. Interestingly, though this project was sponsored by the Nashville Walls Project, it doesn’t appear on their website. Ross also works on canvas and is represented locally by The Studio 208. If we ever have First Saturday Art Crawl again, currently canceled because of the virus, maybe you can drop by and see some of his work.

Ross Mural Nashville street art Gulch

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The building the mural is on says “Cummings Signs,” but they are no longer located there.

Located at 200 12th Avenue South. Well, that’s the official address of the building. The main mural faces 11th Avenue South, on the block between Laurel Street and the Demonbreun Street bridge, which sails over 11th. The pieces of the mural that are shown in the second slideshow are found at the corner of 12th Avenue South and Demonbreun. To get to them from the main mural, take the exit at the far left of the second photograph on this page, and turn right on 12th. This is the Gulch, so lots of parking, all of it in pay lots and garages, but most of it is free for an hour or more.

Hanging Around

Ready for a pun? Hanging Around is a custom frame shop. And if you look at the mural, you can probably guess it’s found at the corner of 8th Ave S. and Lynwood. Back in May, the store acquired a new work by Kristy Oakley, of Where the Art Is. Oakley has produced community murals before, and while this is more focused on the store, it has some of the same elements of familiar local sights she has used in those murals. The skyline is roughly what you would see a block or so north of Hanging Around as you crest the hill on Eighth heading downtown, including the State Capitol and the Sheraton building, though large trees block out the view of the Batman Building at that spot. Look closely at the mural and you’ll see Oakley has put in a couple extra plugs for herself. Besides the main signature, there’s a “Where the Art Is” bumper sticker on the van and the luggage tag says “Kristy Oakley.” There’s hot chicken in the van and references to our local sports teams, and of course a guitar. The frame is reminiscent of a similar though less crowded one in one of her Donelson community murals.  (This is the other one.)

Hanging Around Mural street art Nashville

Located at 1508 Eighth Avenue South. The mural is on the north side of the building, facing Lynwood Avenue. There is street parking on Lynwood.

Irises for The Iris

There’s long been a hotel on Iris Drive just off Thompson Lane. But recent renovations have produced a very modern version of a boutique hotel. The Iris Motel is a hotel you could visit and easily never see any staff. As they say on their website, “communication is mostly virtual.” There is no front desk, and the lobby is really just a common area for guests. To add a little life to this hyper-digital form of lodging, a giant mural of irises, naturally, has been provided by Folek Kelof, who signs his work with just “Folek.” Perhaps in keeping with the digital nature of the hotel, Folek’s irises are angular and blocky. They look to me something like English irises, but there are so many varieties of irises, there are many potential candidates. The mural is a little hard to photograph, as it faces a driveway that is bordered by another building on the other side. You can’t quite get the whole thing with a front-facing view, which you can see below.

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Located at 656 W Iris Dr. There is free public parking across the street. 

The Owl and Rose

On the Charlotte Avenue branch of the local chain M.L. Rose Craft Beer & Burgers (so named because their original location is in the Melrose neighborhood) you can find this mural of an owl and a rose. As in L Rose. Mel-Rose. M(Ow)L Rose. It’s kind of like “M.L. Rose,” and M.L. Rose does use an owl in its logo.  The piece is by two artists who have been on this blog a lot, Nathan Brown and Eric Bass, aka Mobe Oner. The rose is reminiscent of the rose Brown did for Topgolf, though less sharply geometric. The owl has more of the geometric shapes Brown is known for, though for what it’s worth, that side is signed by Mobe Oner. (Which may mean nothing at all.) I have to say I debated whether the owl was, in fact, an owl or a cat until I remembered that an owl is part of M.L. Rose’s branding. To take the picture above, I had to climb a low wall and get up on the landscaping. Below is the best view from the sidewalk. There is a tree that blocks a direct view.

Rose Owl Mural street art Nashville

Located at 4408 Charlotte Avenue. The mural is on the west side of the building facing 45th Avenue North. There is paid parking as well as M.L. Rose’s parking, and some limited street parking in front of the fire station behind M.L. Rose.

Flowers of Ma’Kai

MaKai Mural Nashville street art

One muralist who has been popping on this blog a lot recently is Tara Marie Aversa (who also uses the name Tarabella Aversa on Instagram.) And why not? She’s been very productive of late. Back in July, she painted this mural for Cafe Ma’Kai on Wedgewood. Ma’Kai is Hawaiian for “towards the ocean,” so the classic surfer’s wave and the collection of tropical flowers make sense, partirulay since so much of Aversa’s work features a lot of flowers. Interestingly, if you peruse Ma’Kai’s Instagram page, you’ll see they’ve been taking photos of food and customers in front of this wall long before they got a mural. Now they have a more colorful background to work with. It’s also another example of Aversa successfully working with a difficult canvas. Here it was very rough stone, and in Living Waters, it was a corrugated metal wall. On her Instagram, you can also see a couple of production shots.

Located at 1210 Wedgwood Avenue, just west of 12th Avenue South. There is a small parking lot at this shopping center, and there is street parking on Wade Avenue just to the north. The mural faces Wedgewood, on the south side of the building.

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