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

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Graffiti

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 The old neighborhood store has been replaced by a Mapco next door.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

Tatuajes Raza

Most people think of the Nolensville Road corridor and Antioch as the main areas to find Latino-owned businesses, but there’s also a cluster in Madison. So it’s no surprise to find a Latino-themed tattoo parlor there, Tatuajes Raza. The black-and-grey storefront on Gallatin is the work of musician and artist Ghosty Lowks (he has a more art-themed page called “The Phantom Collection“).

The mural contains a stylized image of one of the more enduring symbols of Mexico, the Aztec Sun Stone. It is known to many as the “Aztec Calendar Stone,” but while it does have the names of the days and months on it, it is not really a calendar, but a representation of the largest cycles of time in Aztec thought, great ages known as “Suns.” At the end of each, the Sun would be destroyed and and a new Sun born. They saw themselves as living under the Fifth Sun. (Did I mention I’m an historian of Latin America?)

“Raza” as part of the store’s name is also significant. It’s a reference to the idea of “la raza cósmica,” the cosmic race, an idea of José Vasconselos. He was an education minister in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution and thought in Mexico, where people from all over the world were found, that the strengths of all these peoples combined created a newer, stronger people. It has become an important idea in Mexican national identity.

We see various people in the mural. There’s an an ice cream vendor with the tattoo “familia” on his arm, but that’s a tattoo needle, not an ice cream cone on his cart. The eyeless face above him seems to have a Nashville skyline for a headdress.

Ice Cream Man mural Nashville street art

There are more eyeless faces, a woman with a shotgun, a mustachioed clown and another Aztec image that might be Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god. “Chuy” and “Buda,” as best I know, are nicknames of the owner. (And yes, that’s me just barely reflected in the doorway.)

Located at 322 Gallatin Pike South, a few blocks south of Old Hickory Boulevard. The mural faces Gallatin. This is a tricky area to park. There is some parking in front of Tatuajes Raza and neighboring businesses. Otherwise, you might need to do some walking.

Electric Thunder

I would not ordinarily do two posts about the same neighborhood in a row, and I try to avoid posting when I don’t know the artist. But this mural is likely to be gone soon, so I decided it was time to post about it.

Electric Thunder Studios is in Berry Hill, about a block away from the well known fences with portraits of music icons. Like those, I had also been reluctant to write about this mural because of the unfriendly sense of a neighborhood with no parking and no sidewalks. The parking at least is somewhat solved. So why do I say this mural is going away? Because the building is for sale. Indeed, as of this post, it is listed as being under contract. The listing also indicated the studio equipment is not part of the sale, so either Electric Thunder is moving or closing. Either way, it’s doubtful the future owners will want to keep what amounts to a large sign for the previous occupants.

The mural above is on the side of the building. There also used to be a second mural, presumably by the same artist, on the front of the building, but that has been painted over. Below is a picture of it, and you can see its relationship to the remaining mural. File these murals under both “lost art” and “endangered art.”

Electric Thunder mural Nashville Street art
Electric Thunder mural Nashville Street art

Located at 2824 Dogwood Place. The mural is on the south side of the building, facing a driveway. The nearest parking is on the next block over, around Columbine Park.

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.

Krest, 2018

Krest Graffiti mural Nashville street art

One of the earlier posts on this blog was about this very wall, and some similar-looking graffiti, only mostly in yellow. I worked out that the earlier one read “Krest,” but I didn’t have any idea who the artist was, and I gave it the cheeky title, “For that perfect smile.” You know, as in “Crest”? Well, this time around I know exactly who did it because he signed it this time – Troy Duff, aka Duffomatic, and yes, this one also reads “Krest.” In both cases, Duff did the work as part of the Hands on Creativity festival sponsored by Plaza Art. The earlier one was done for the 2015 festival, while this one was done for the 2018 festival. Duff was sponsored, at least for the second one, by Montana-Cans, a spray paint company. The previous one was painted over, presumably by the building owner, so Duff had a blank canvas to work with the second time around.

This little neighborhood squeezed between Lafayette and the interstate is known as Pie Town. Why that? Because apparently a few years ago some of the business owners wanted to rebrand the area, known for being a little rough around the edges. If you look at a map, it does sort of look lie a wedge of pie, bordered by Lafayette, 8th Avenue, and I-40. It remains surprisingly ungentrified for an area so close to downtown, though it is changing slowly.

Located at 617 Middleton Street. Nearby parking is easy. The mural is on the west side of the building, facing Plaza Arts.

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