These Thaxton Waters portraits on the boarded-up building on Jefferson across from Knock-Out Wings have been there for a while. I remember posting to them to Facebook well before I started this blog two and a half years ago. However, for the longest time, there has been a “No Parking” sign plastered across Ray Charles’s face, which is finally gone. Alongside him are James Brown, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin. I think Franklin was still alive when these portraits went up, but now the mural serves as a memorial for all of them. They are very much in the style of other portrait murals Waters has done, such as those featured in Heroes (Norf Wall gallery, part 11) and A Soul Break. I’ve included the whole building in this photograph because I think the artistic experience requires it. Hanging in a gallery, these would still be great portraits, but the experience would be quite different.
Located at what is probably 1307 Jefferson Street, though there is no number. Street parking is available across the street. And you can always enjoy the art after grabbing some grub at Knock-Out Wings!
This version of Miles Barbershop on Jefferson, along with La Unique Hair Design, is closed and has been for some time. What relationship it might have with the Miles Barbershop and Hair Salon on Ewing in northeast Nashville or the Miles Barbershop off Hickory Hollow in Antioch, I don’t know, though the fonts used in their different signs seem the same. The damage from weather and mold is obvious for both the signs and the buildings, but they are a reminder that fancy hand-painted signs are nothing new. This kind of signage used to be common along the Jefferson and Buchan Street corridors, but there is less of it now. Jefferson Street is changing rapidly, and the fate of this building and its deteriorating signs is anybody’s guess. Maybe a future tenant will preserve the signs representing the old neighborhood, as happened when Lockeland Table moved into the old home of Boutique Coiffures.
Located at 1609 Jefferson Street. The signs are on the east side of the building. There is easy parking at this spot.
This is post number 300. For this post, I’m updating on the art I know is now gone. The photo above is an Emily Miller piece once found at the corner of Main and McFerrin. Much of Miller’s work is deliberately temporary, drawn on paper and glued to outdoor walls. Her pieces are more durable than you might think, however, and in fact, this one was deliberately removed when the building was repainted. That’s the fate of most of the works listed here – they have been painted over. Others are gone because the building they stood on is gone.
The blog itself is getting a little better all the time. Statistics wise, since I started it in July 2016, 5450 people have visited the blog for a total of 11,006 page views. Modest, but it has been growing. From a couple hundred views a month when I got started, 800 and 900 has become common, it looks like the blog is about to close in on the second month in a row and third overall for more than 1000 views. The empire grows slowly.
All art is temporary, outdoor art in particular. A list, probably incomplete, of art I have chronicled that is gone or substantially erased. (I will be updating these posts in the coming weeks):
The blog has been quiet for a few days because of holiday madness. (Your intrepid blogger threw a very big party.) This Jefferson street mural has no label, but it’s no trouble to recognize the artist or the subject matter. This is a Yusef Hubb piece, who goes by Dough Joe and is a member of the Norf Collective. And that, of course, is Coach Ed Temple encouraging Wilma Rudolph to run, run, run. Temple was the legendary track coach at Tennesee State University, where among his many accomplishments he coached Rudolph as she prepared for her record-setting gold medal performance at the 1960 Olympics. There is a big statue honoring Rudolph at TSU. There’s one of Temple at First Tennessee Park that is not yet on the blog. Temple died this September. The mural serves as a memorial to him and Rudolph, who died in 1994.
Located at 1022 Jefferson Street, on the west side of the Jefferson Street Sports Bar building. There is parking behind the bar and at nearby businesses. The nearest street parking is across Jefferson on Warren Street.
When does a simple sign become public art? Well, that’s a judgment call, of course. Here, I use a few criteria. Is it cool looking? Would it make a nice portrait/selfie if you were standing in front of it? Is it a well-established neighborhood fixture? The Battle Realtors sign meets all three. It appears prominently on the wall of a large, historic brick home at the top of the hill where Jefferson sails over 40/65. It’s absolutely unmissable. And it’s certainly a survivor. I’m not sure if it dates back to 1984, but I know it’s been there for at least 15 years. Its future is uncertain. Donald Battle, the proprietor, passed away in 2014, and it’s not clear what the status of the business is. The website has been allowed to expire, and there’s no other evidence of activity, on the internet at least. Call this endangered art. Get your selfie soon.
Located at 1033 12th Avenue North, at the corner with Jefferson Street, on the west side of the bridge over I-40 and I-65. The sign is very visible from Jefferson. There’s a mini-car wash directly in front of it. Parking can be found just to the west of the car wash.
Jefferson Street has more and more public art, and the stretch just before it reaches 28th has some particularly strong examples. One is this Thaxton Waters piece, called “A Soul Break,” which features Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Tony Williams, and Ella Fitzgerald. Waters runs the Art History Class Lifestyle Lounge & Gallery with his wife Deyonna. Situated for a time at 1305 Jefferson, the Lounge was an “art gallery and museum dedicated to presenting the lifestyle of Historical Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) and the neighborhoods that birthed them.” It did more than that, offering art classes, history tours, a lending library and more. Unfortunately, the building sold last summer, and the gallery is no longer there. (The story at that link has a lot more information about Waters, his work, and the mission of the gallery.) The gallery has since done pop-up activities as Waters looks for a new space.
Located at 2615 Jefferson Street, on the old Eyecatchers building. The mural is on the east wall, facing towards the interstate. There is a gravel lot right in front of the mural you can park at, and a parking lot on the other side of the building.
Sometimes, when searching for outdoor art, you wind up in less than pleasant places. The easternmost support of the Jefferson Street bridge, where Jefferson passes over an unnamed access road just before reaching Cowan Street, is not a place Nashvillians would ordinarily take tourists, and unless you work at one of the industrial sites nearby, nor is it a place Nashvillians would visit themselves. Unless you are homeless, or a graffiti artist. There’s plenty of evidence of people spending time here – discarded bottles, food wrappers, and the like, as well as a mattress it’s hard to imagine anyone sleeping on. But the seclusion that some homeless people appreciate also attracts graffiti artists, given access to a large concrete wall. There are many layers of tags here, with each artist painting over the previous one. If you ever visit, you’re likely to see some names other that what I captured when I found it. Someone has labeled the current crop “usual suspects,” hence the blog title. There is also an interesting “eye” on a nearby pylon (featured below). I should note that the panel on the far right currently has a reference to sexual assault. It’s not clear what the meaning is – I have chosen not to include a close-up of that part.
Located under the Jefferson Street bridge just west of Cowan, next to the Cross Point Church. To reach it, take Oldham Street west towards the river and turn right on the access road just after the railroad tracks. Just before you get to the bridge, there’s a dirt road on the right that leads to the graffiti. I suspect this will get paved as part of the large construction project underway just past the bridge. This is an industrial area, so try not to park where you’ll block large trucks.
Since last summer, a collection of musical greats has been freewheeling on the east wall of Green Fleet Bicycle Shop, courtesy of @doughjoe, otherwise known as Yusef Hubb. Stevie Wonder, Etta James, Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin and Little Richard are all getting a little crazy, though how Hendrix is managing to ride and play at the same time — well, he’s Jimi Hendrix. You don’t question. Hubb, who is part of the Norf Collective, frequently depicts musicians in his work, such as in An icon under the bridge, revisited. The #ridenorf tag references a Jefferson Street Art Crawl from last June. Green Fleet Bicycle Shop, besides being a place to get a new bike or repair your old one, also does bicycle tours of Nashville and will rent you a bike to do a tour on your own. The bike store grew out of Green Fleet Messengers, which is still going strong.
Located at 934 Jefferson Street. The mural faces east. There is some parking at the store, including around back (best accessed from Enoch Jones Blvd.) Not much street parking nearby, so you might have to walk a bit. Hey, you were going to rent a bike anyway, right?
Particularly because of the work of the Norf Collective, the Jefferson Street corridor has seen a recent explosion of murals and other public art. One of the oldest pieces on Jefferson, which helped kick start the public art movement along this historic street, is a Michael Cooper (of Murals and More) piece at the I-40 underpass. This 2009 piece was a collaboration between Cooper and local high school students. Cooper took drawings and designs from the students and turned them into a coherent mural. After Cooper drew it, students joined in painting it. The mural honors the Freedom Riders. Jefferson, of course, has long been the beating heart of the African American community in Nashville, and students from the three universities along the road, Fisk, Meharry Medical, and Tennesee State, were active in the Freedom Riders and numerous other activities in the Civil Rights era. The placement of the mural is poignant for another reason. I-40, I-65, and I-440 cut the Jefferson Street neighborhood into pieces, doing everlasting damage that the community continues to work to repair. Nashville is hardly the only city where the interstates were built through the heart of African American neighborhoods. It was a common practice. If you have wondered why some protesters have taken to blocking interstates, there’s definitely a history there. This mural has been vandalized in the past, which forced Cooper to coat it with a clear coating that makes vandalism easier to remove.
Located on the southwest side of the I-40 underpass on Jefferson Street, at the beginning of the 2500 block. Street parking is available across the street, though traffic can make crossing hard. Some parking is available at nearby business.