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

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Lips

I wanted to call this blog post Lipps, Inc., but that’s an actual thing. Every once in a while I have to write about one of those murals that is in a billion Instagram posts, and everyone has seen, so it’s news to no one, and this is one of those times. The motto of the blog is “No art left behind” after all, and I am trying to catalog everything. This is yet another Eastside Murals piece, the versatile team that has been signing their work “Out East Boys” for a while. The design is by Donald Robertson, which explains the “Donald” written on the edge of the mural. On his Instagram page, you can see that while he doesn’t just do lips, they are a major theme in his work. Also, the “Donald” on the mural looks like his regular signature for his works, so I imagine he did that part himself.

The building is on the side of a UAL outlet, otherwise known as  United Apparel Liquidators, in Hillsboro Village. They are also found on West End, where I wrote about a bold version of their logo painted on the back wall of the building. There’s a little “ShopUAL” Instagram logo on the large window at the street end of the mural.

I photographed this mural on one of the first days of Nashville’s shutdown when there were still a few tourists around. Two women were taking their pictures in front of it and thought I was trying to do the same thing. They wanted me to give them my phone so they could take my picture in front of it for me. I politely declined, and at this point in time, I still would.

Lips Mural Nashville street art

Located at 1814 21st Avenue South. The mural faces an alley on the north side of the building, across from Fido. This is Hillsboro Village, so a fair amount of parking, almost none of it free. In non-COVID times, parking at peak hours can be very hard.

The Villager Flag – Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, a flag. Not just any flag, but the flag that adorns the facade of The Villager Tavern in Hillsboro Village. The Villager is one of the last holdouts against the gentrification of Hillsboro Village. The smokey bar with dartboards and the pictures of patrons plastering the walls has been in place since 1973. I don’t know who painted the flag originally, but it had gotten in pretty sad shape. I do know however that it was recently restored by Eastside Murals. You can also tell from the photo I linked to that it wasn’t always blocked by a pedestrian crossing sign, but pedestrian deaths in Nashville are a problem, so I’m fine with the sign.

I hope that everyone had a good Memorial Day. Always remember our fallen.

Villager Flag mural Nashville Street Art

Located at 1719 21st Avenue South. There’s plenty of parking in Hillsboro Village, but almost none of it is free.

The Dragons of Fannie Mae Dees Park

Yes, dragons. There are two. There is quite a history to Fannie Mae Dees Park and its dragons. Like the mural it inspired, mamma dragon and her child needed to be renovated recently, having deteriorated badly since their creation in 1981. But first some back story.

Sea Dragon sculpture mosaic Nashville street art

The park has its origins in the urban renewal movement of the 1970s. It’s hard to imagine that the neighborhoods near Vanderbilt could have ever been thought of as blighted, but so they were declared, to be taken by eminent domain and demolished for development.  Fannie Mae Dees lived in the path of this “renewal,” and became a fierce activist who fought back. She ultimately lost, and many houses on the south side of Vanderbilt were demolished. One plot slated to become a hospital ultimately proved unusable, and became a park, though Dees did not live to see it. The park was named after her, in honor of her activism – though the land would not have been cleared if she had won.

Sea Dragon sculpture mosaic Nashville street art

Anne Roos, then a board member of Metro Parks, invited Pedro Silva to come to Nashville after learning about a community art project he had done near Grant’s Tomb in New York City, a set of curving, mosaic-colored benches. She thought a similar project might help heal some of the neighborhood strife that resulted from the urban renewal project. And the Sea Serpents were born. Yes, sea serpents – that’s what Silva called them. In this WPLN Curious Nashville article that I got most of this information from (written by Mike Linebaugh), you can see him working on the interior frame. Later, people from around the neighborhood came and painted tiles, which Silva turned into mosaics, much as he had done at the Grant’s Tomb project. He included many faces, including a portrait of Fannie Mae Dees herself, with the house she defended in the background.

Mosaic portrait Nashville Street art

Ultimately, the dragons, as Nashvillians know them, deteriorated. Intermittently repaired over the years, it would take a major renovation project in 2017 and 2018, spearheaded by the Hillsboro-West End Neighborhood Association, to restore the dragons. Again, people from the neighborhood participated in the reconstruction, including some who had been part of the original build. Interestingly, the same things happened to the Grant’s Tomb project. Silva led that renovation but had sadly died by the time the Nashville project was underway.

Sea Dragon sculpture mosaic Nashville street art

And so the sea serpents, err, dragons are restored. And yes, I was able to get these photos because of the pandemic. Sadly, no one can play on them right now.

The head of the larger dragon

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The Middle Hump

The Small Dragon

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The Tail Group

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Located at 2400 Blakemore Avenue. The dragons are close to the center of the park and are easily visible from both Blakemore and 24ty Avenue south. Much of the closest street parking is metered.

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).

The Dragon Mural

It’s a little odd to be adding this mural to the blog now. After all, it did first appear in 1995, making it one of the oldest outdoor murals in Nashville, and it was restored in 2015. But this is another pandemic post, because being in the heart of Hillsboro Village, popular with tourists and locals alike, just a hop-skip from Vanderbilt (which happens to own much of Hillsboro Village), there are cars parked in front of it pretty much 24/7/365. The quarantine takes away, but it also gives. The mural was originally done by Adam Randolph and David Glick, and originated as a community project that included students from nearby by Eakin Elementary. The inspiration for the design was the dragon in Fannie Mae Dees park, itself the recipient of a recent restoration. But time took its toll on the mural (see the first link in this post). Vanderbilt, which owns the building (there’s a reason that first link is to a Vandy PR site), the Hillsboro-West End Neighborhood Association and several Hillsboro Village businesses came together to sponsor the refurbishment, working with lead artist Andee Rudloff. (Glick and Randolph are no longer active artists, but were happy to see the work restored.) Also contributing to the restoration were the artists Ian Lawrence and Sterling-Goller Brown (the artists behind Eastside Murals), Stacey Irvin, and Novelty V. Habit. Like when it first went up, the community got involved. On October 31, 2015, there was a “Dragon Refresh” event that drew in community members to help in the restoration.

Dragon Mural Nashville street art

One notable difference between the original mural and the newly updated version is the sign. “Hillsboro Village Est. 1920” is a new addition of neighborhood pride.

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Located at 1801 21st Avenue South, at the corner with Belcourt Avenue, on the side of the building currently occupied by Posh Boutique. The mural faces Belcourt. This is Hillsboro Village – plenty of parking, almost none of it free. Free street parking is available if you are willing to walk a few blocks.

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