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

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Little Jimmy Dickens

As he was a long-time stalwart of the Grand Ole Opry, it makes sense to find a life-size sculpture of Little Jimmy Dickens right in the center of the plaza in front of the entrance to the Ryman Auditorium, the Opry’s long-time former home. It’s actually fairly new. It and a statue of Bill Monroe nearby were unveiled on June 7, 2017. Both are by the Mississippi sculptor Ben Watts. (I’ll write about the Monroe statue in a later post.) Brad Paisley, who cites Dickens as an important influence, helped dedicate the statue, noting Dickens’s hard work and commitment to entertaining his audiences. Dickens, who died at 94 on January 2, 2015, had been on stage at the Opry just days before.

Besides his diminutive size and love of funny novelty songs, Dickens was also an early pioneer of the rhinestone style, which West has captured in bronze. Dickens was also a Shriner, and consistently wore a Shriner symbol on his cowboy hats, also seen in West’s work.

The Ryman has announced plans to work with Watts again to produce more statues of iconic country music figures, so expect to see even more bronzes at the Ryman in the coming years.

As you can see in the slideshow below, this is another in a series of works that has a helpful suggestion as to where the photographer should stand for your photo with Dickens. The empty plaza in my photos also tells you that I shot this during the pandemic shutdown. Even so, I did have to wait for a small group to finish their pictures first.

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Located at 116 5th Avenue North. That’s the official address of the Ryman, and long ago it was where you entered the building. However, the modern entrance faces the 100 block of 4th Avenue North, about a half-block north of Broadway. That is where you will find the statue. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

Precious Jewel

When I recorded the damage to Nashville’s art from the March 3 tornado, I featured a flag-and-eagle mural by Kim Radford. It was at the time one of only a few outdoor murals she had done in Nashville (and which has happily survived the storm, its wall preserved while the rest of the building is being completely rebuilt). Since then, she’s been increasingly prolific. This guitar-and-birds mural appeared just a few weeks ago, at the corner of Douglas and Lischey, just around the corner from another of Radford’s murals. The guitar is adorned with a Maya Angelou quote, from the poem “You are a precious jewel.”

Precious jewel, you glow, you shine,
reflecting all the good things in the world.

The birds in flight reflect this optimistic theme, sailing away from a flowery guitar. The quote may also reflect that this mural is a memorial. At the bottom of the guitar, it reads:

In Loving Memory: Mohhamed Hossein Seyed Sharifi 10/2/94 – 2/19/19. Heaven couldn’t wait for you.

I would note that now having seen a few of Radford’s murals, she reminds me of Eastside Murals. Some muralists, I see their work, and I know immediately who made it. But Radford and Eastside are not easily pigeon-holed, and work in a number of styles. Thankfully, they both sign their art, which makes my work a lot easier.

It’s also somewhat notable that this mural is found on the facade of Douglas Market Lofts, named after the market that used to sit on this corner. It’s really no longer novel for a business, a condo building in this case, to have murals and other outdoor art. No, it’s becoming increasingly the order of the day, a thing that business owners do to try to get your attention and stand out. And that’s good because we get more art!

Radford Guitar mural Nashville street art

Radford Birds mural Nashville street art

Located at 337 Douglas Avenue. The mural faces east, towards Lischey Avenue. There is street parking available on Lischey, on the block south of Douglas.

Hold Nothing Back

The north wall of what is now Bowie’s (and before that, Piranha’s), seems to be developing as a goto spot for murals sponsored by international brands. About three years ago, Stella Artois commissioned Eastside Murals to do a promotional piece I featured in Drink responsibly!. Last September, it was Audi’s turn. They commissioned No King’s Collective, aka Brandon Hill and Peter Chang, two Washington, D.C. artists, to use their bright, colorful style to promote the Audi Q3. That link is about the 2020 model, while the mural features the 2019. (If you’re reading this in 2021 or later, no guarantee on the link.) Hill and Chang not only painted the mural, but they also painted one of the cars, in a pattern very similar to the mural itself. The phrase “Hold nothing back” shows up a lot in Audi’s marketing campaigns.

The Audi mural is part of what seems to be a growing phenomenon – corporate firms promoting mural campaigns across the country. Just recently I featured one sponsored by Pandora that produced a mural in Germantown. All this is great – it certainly gets work for artists, possibly at somewhat higher rates than some local businesses can afford. And I think it’s good that this sometimes brings in out-of-town artists, but within limits. For the most part, I think these firms should reach out to local artists first. We need the mix, but we also need to keep our own community going.

This is something of a pandemic post. It’s not often a downtown parking lot right off 3rd Avenue is clear! I shot the mural a little off-center because there is a pole in the middle of the lot blocking a direct shot.

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Located at 174 Third Avenue North. The mural faces north, away from Lower Broad. This is downtown, so lots of parking, almost none of it free, notably not the lot the mural faces.

Heartbeat of Nashville

This is what I like to call a “working mural.” Like the mural on the back side of Baja Burrito, there’s little chance you will ever find this mural not surrounded by the evidence of the business it adorns, in this case, Village Wines, Spirits and Beer. Boxes that once held bottles of wine or liquor are common. Here we see stacking trays and cleaning and loading equipment, and a couple of planters for some reason. For a long time cars, probably belonging to employees, were usually parked here. Maybe because of the pandemic and maybe because the store is under new management, the cars at least are gone. It’s the work of Emily Celeste Alexander and is almost three years old. (Seriously, I’ve been driving by it for a couple years and there were always, always cars parked in front of it.) With a prominent metronome labeled “Heartbeat of Nashville,” it has many well-known Nashville themes, such as guitars and the Batman Building, but also something different, a “Tennesee Butterly,” based on the Tennesee flag and the black-and-white colored state butterfly, the Zebra Swallowtail. The mural actually wraps around the building a bit, something I didn’t notice the first time I photographed it, which is why the arrangement of liquor-store gear and garbage is a little different in the picture below. You can see the mural without obstructions on Alexander’s Instagram page.

Heartbeat Mural music street art Nashville

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Located at 2006 Belcourt Avenue B. The mural faces north, towards the 1900 block of Wedgewood Avene across a small alley. If you are there to shop at Village Wine, there’s free parking. Otherwise, this is Hillsboro Village, so parking is rarely free (though you can get away with it in the pandemic shutdown).

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.

Skyline Guitar

Situated just out of view a very busy lower Dickerson Road is this relatively new guitar mural. It’s found on the north side of 1006 Whites Creek Pike, just steps away from the intersection with Dickerson. While the building seems to have four entrances, the only business I can find with that address is Skyline Lofts, an Airbnb location. Or two of them, to be precise, Loft B and Loft C. Whether the lofts take up the whole building is unclear. The mural is a bit more obvious, though unless you are in the habit of taking Whites Creek as a quick shortcut to Dickerson from Fern Avenue and on to downtown, you’d be unlikely to ever see it. It’s reminiscent of some of the other guitar murals in town. It evokes, very quietly, the idea of a simple skyline in the body of the guitar, though if you look closely, the last building to the right, just above the signature, might be the Batman Building. The signature gives two internet links (and a phone number), one of which is dead, JohnCole45.com. The Instagram page, however, does work, @keepitrail, under the name “C.45,” presumably John Cole. This mural doesn’t look a lot like his other work, but you have to give the client what they want! A small piece of the mural actually wraps around to the front of the building, which you can see in the angled shot below.

Guitar Mural street art Nashville

Located at 1006 Whites Creek Pike, on the north side of the building, facing away from downtown. There’s a wide shoulder on the opposite side of Whites Creek where you can park. Be careful, this is a shortcut street with fairly fast traffic.

La Hacienda Taqueria

Facing the front parking lot of La Hacienda Taqueria, one of the original Mexican restaurants on Nolensville Road, is a mural that has been seen by tens if not hundreds of thousands of people by now. But it’s unsigned, and most people would have no idea who might have made it. Even the staff just points to the signature on the main mural inside, which was clearly done by the same artist. It reads “M. Torok ’99.” Well, there is a painter and muralist named “M. Torok” with a deep connection to Nashville, Mitchell Torok. Torok, who now resides in Texas, had a long career in country music as a performer and, in partnership with his late wife, Gail “Ramona” Redd, a songwriter. He is best known for the songs “Mexican Joe,” (which was an even bigger hit for Jim Reeves) and “Caribbean,” and he and Redd wrote successful songs for a number of other artists. But before he became a recording star, he got a dual degree in Art and Journalism from Stephen F. Austin University. He must have had a reputation as a visual artist in Nashville because he  “was commissioned to paint a 110-foot, five-panel mural titled “The History of the Grand Ol’ Opry”, which was on display in the Ryman Auditorium until it was remodeled for live performances.” (Wikipedia) (That remodeling happened in 1994.) He also painted an 85-foot long mural called “Elvis-A-Rama” detailing the life of Elvis Presley, which was last seen in a museum owned by Jimmy Velvet that closed in 2006. It’s unclear what happened to that mural. The La Hacienda murals, including the ones inside, are a little worse for wear, but still going strong. The outdoor one featured here has been broken up by the construction of an outdoor seating area, but you can see that hidden part below in the slideshow. And being from 1999, it is definitely one of the oldest outdoor murals in town. That I know of only the Chromatics mural (1993) and the renovated painter mural at the Hard Rock Cafe are older (date unknown, but it was hidden for decades by an adjoining building that was torn down in or just before 1994, when Hard Rock opened). The Angels Will Rise/Seventh Letter mural came just after La Hacienda, in 2001. As of this writing, Torok at 90 years old is apparently still alive and painting and writing in Texas, making him perhaps the oldest and certainly one of the oldest artists I’ve featured on this blog. UPDATE: I have since discovered the mural on the side of Nudie’s on Lower Broad is dated 1993.

Hacienda Mural street art Nashville

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Located at 2615 Nolensville Pike. The mural actually sits on the north wall (facing downtown) of La Hacienda Supermercado next door at 2617. There is parking in front and in the rear of the restaurant (the rear parking is reached from Grandview Avenue). If you want any chance to see it without cars parked in front, arrive before 10:00 a.m., which is when the restaurant opens each day.

Set Free

Madison is not awash in outdoor art, so this particularly bright and bold recent addition to Madison’s visual fabric really stands out. It’s on the side of  Set Free Church on Gallatin. Set Free, housed in an historic storefront, is a church that emphasizes charity, particularly towards the homeless. That’s appropriate, as it’s set in one of the less prosperous parts of Davidson County. The artist is Max Gramajo, who goes by Maxx242. He’s based out of Southern California in the Los Angeles area, and as far as I know, this is his first work in the Nashville area. The pastor at Set Free, Roosevelt Sargent, who goes by “Pastor Flo,” also has connections to the Los Angeles area, so it’s not so surprising this Los Angeles artist wound up doing work in Nashville. (Sargent has a picture on his Instagram feed that shows the mural in progress.) I like how even a Californian knows to put the Batman Building in a Nashville mural! Also credited in the signature box (see below) are Jason Galaz and Milton Chavez (and on his Instagram post about the mural the artist also credits “Super Dave.”)

Set Free Mural street art Nshville

Signatures

Located at 505 Gallatin Pike South.  The mural is no the north side of the building facing Harris Street.

The Delgado calacas

In a small shop in the collection of galleries and other businesses at 919 Gallatin Ave is a business with a long history. Delgado Guitars had its start as a family business in 1923 in the city of Torreón, Coahuila, in north-central Mexico. Over the last century, the family and the business moved many places, eventually winding up in Nashville. And over those years Delgado Guitars has maintained both instrument making traditions and Mexican cultural traditions. Thus the very Mexican subject of calacas and calaveras found in the mural on their front door. Calacas are the skeletons, often in fancy dress, that are so important in Mexican art, particularly in representations of the Day of the Dead, while the calaveras are brightly painted skulls also common in Mexican art. They have a long history, as political satire, but also as a reflection of Mexico’s roots in Mayan, Aztec, and other Amerindian cultures. The artist who produced this work comes from another part of the world. Olasubomi Aka-Bashorun was born in Lagos, Nigeria and grew up in Oklahoma. He now has a gallery in The Arcade, the DBO Gallery. While the Delgado mural is a different theme from much of his work, its bright, strong colors are very much like his other paintings. This mural verges on hidden art. Not only is it impossible to see from the road, but also, since it’s on a door, you won’t see it when Delgado Guitars is open! So you’ll need to come twice, right? Certainly you will if you want to see both the guitars and the mural.

Calacas mural street art Nashville

Calavera mural street art Nashville

Located at 919 Gallatin Avenue. There is a fair amount of parking available at the venue.

 

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