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Jefferson Street Gateway to Heritage

Like in so many other cities in the United States, when the interstates came to Nashville, the were driven straight through the heart of a vibrant and historic African American neighborhood, the Jefferson Street corridor. As part of The New York Times’s 1619 Project, Princeton historian Kevin M. Kruse spelled out the history of this terrible legacy, focusing on Atlanta but telling a story that applies just as well here. Stitching back together what was torn apart isn’t easy, but the Jefferson Street Gateway to Heritage is an attempt to move in that direction. Jefferson Street is chopped up by interstates twice, but the worst spot is where I-40 sails over almost two blocks, between 26th Avenue and where 24th should be. Perhaps appropriately, it is there where one finds the center of this ongoing Metro-backed beautification process that seeks also to address Jefferson Street’s history. One of the key figures in kick-starting this process was Dr. Learotha Williams, a history professor at Tennesse State University (and colleague of your intrepid blogger). In the first phase, finished in 2012, the design firm Edge led a community-driven process that led to a new plaza under the bridge, featuring columns with plaques honoring various figures from the neighborhood’s history, and a giant mural by James R. Threalkill and Michael McBride. The Jefferson Street this mural shows is geographically fluid (Meharry Medical College is shown next to TSU, not its actual neighbor Fisk University), but fully captures the dynamism of the neighborhood’s past and present. The focus is on Jefferson Street’s deep musical history, which is a recurring theme in other modern Jefferson Street murals, such as the ones featured in Guitar heroes and Back in the Day. The mural also features lost businesses, like the Ritz Theater, while linking to the present with a reference to J.U.M.P., the Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership. The historic plaques on the columns (click to see some closeups – this story describes all the people featured) were done by FORMS+SURFACES and the landscape design was done by LOSE Design.

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Jefferson History mural street art Nashville

Located on the north side of the 2400 and 2500 blocks of Jefferson Street. The mural is on the east side of the site. There are also more history-themed columns on nearby blocks of Jefferson. Street parking is available starting at about 2600 Jefferson St.

 

City Pets

This is a very new mural, finished just about a month ago. I see it on my way to work, but had not been able to photograph it until recently because of all the bright, sunny days we’ve been having – and all the shadows that go with them! This parade of pets on the side of City Pets Animal Care is the work of Leah Boorse. From the looks of her page, human portraiture is her main theme, but she also does a lot of pet portraits, which makes her a natural to bring art to a veterinary care center. Besides pets, there is a very obvious homage to the “I Believe in Nashville” murals by Adrien Saporiti of DCXV Industries in the center of the mural. (The only one of those murals on my blog so far is actually a copycat!) I photographed this mural at an angle because of a chain-link fence that interferes with a straight-on view (see below). And up above the mural, Boorse painted the City Pets logo on a second-floor window (see below).

Boorse has done some other murals, notably a quite different one from this in Deep Ellum. Deep Ellum is a neighborhood of bars and restaurants just east of downtown Dallas that can only be described as “mural intense.” Think 12 South on steroids. As for the City Pets mural, I scrolled through City Pets’ Instagram page to see if the models for these portraits could be found there and saw no obvious candidates, but plenty of cute pets. City Pets opened in this location about three years ago, when outdoor art in this area was a lot less common. Now it fits well with the expanding outdoor art scene along the Jefferson and Buchanan Street corridors, and come to think of Charlotte as well, a few blocks south. It’s also further evidence of just how common it is becoming for Nashville businesses, notably local Nashville businesses, to see art as a key component of what they do.

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Located at 1016 Jefferson Street. It’s possible to park next door in the parking lot fo Ware’s Barbershop, but a fence prevents direct access to the mural. For that, go to Rev Dr Enoch Jones Boulevard one block north of Jefferson to access City Pets’ parking lot.

Topgolf

Top Golf mural street art Nashville

The Topgolf complex off Jefferson Street on the banks of the Cumberland is an enormous entertainment complex. It is only appropriate then that it has an enormous work of art, courtesy of Nathan Brown. I have referred to the style above in the past as Brown’s “colorful geometry problem” style, but I now know he calls it his “geometric gradient style.” This one is more organic than others in this style, such as the one featured in Rainbow pizza, looking strongly like some kind of flower or tree. It sits on a 35×20 ft wall that’s part of The Cowan, Topgolf Nashville’s live performance venue. Note that Topgolf is a national chain. I’ve stated many times that national chains don’t do outdoor art, as it clashes with their branding. But more and more, art is part of the cost of doing business in Nashville. Brown apparently had complete freedom to create his own design. On his website, you can watch a video about its creation and see a number of other photos, including some that were taken from a higher vantage point. Notice the two electric scooters on the side? I had to move about five scooters out of the way that were parked in front of the mural before I photographed it.

Located at 500 Cowan Street, near where Jefferson Street intersects with I-24. The mural is on the northeast side of the building, facing the parking lot. Topgolf has an enormous parking lot, but you may have difficulties parking there at peak hours.

Beaut Creations

In my last post, I wrote that I was planning (eventually) to extend this blog to the surrounding counties because I believe the outdoor art scenes in all these counties are organically connected. Case in point: A new mural on Jefferson Street by Murfreesboro artists Travis and Alicia Maynard, who work under the moniker Murfreesboro Murals. When I first saw it, the bold colors and large portraits of African-American women made me guess it was by JamersonSGC, who has a new portrait just a couple blocks away, but instead it’s by two artists new to this blog. Notice the clever use of nail polish bottles and applicators to fill the mural with even more color. Beaut Creations is not open as of this posting, but the building has recently undergone renovation, so it presumably will be open soon. There was a moped rental company here before, but it was probably too far from the tourist zone to succeed. On the opposite side of the driveway in front of this mural is a Norf Studios piece featured in Get healthy!

Beaut Portrait mural street art Nashville

Beaut Portrait mural street art Nashville

Located at 2037 Jefferson Street. The mural is on the east wall, facing a driveway. There is some limited business parking at 2035 and 2037. The nearest street parking is west past the interstate overpass.

Sing, sing, sing

R&B portraits mural street art Nashville

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!

A fading cut

Barbershop sign mural street art Nashville

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.

300

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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):

Ask not who the wrecking ball calls for (one building destroyed, another painted over)

The Vape USA Gallery (painted over)

The doomed graffiti wars of Madison Mills (painted over)

Unsafe at any speed (painted over)

Ch-ch-ch-changes! (removed – the Miller piece above)

The Carquest Gallery, Part 1The Carquest Gallery, Part 2 (partially painted over)

Where you at?! (painted over)

Color me gone – soon (building destroyed)

The ghost of craft beers past (painted over)

A flower grows in East Nashville (painted over; replaced with new mural)

Going, going gone (painted over)

Sorry you missed the show (painted over)

Children’s Art on Jefferson Street (removed)

Super visible, very temporary, hard to reach (replaced with a billboard)

Woodland creatures, Part 1 (severely deteriorated, and then removed)

The Zoop Gallery on 8th South (removed and/or deteriorated, replaced)

The ruins of 21st and Linden (lost to construction)

Oz Arts Inside/Out, Part 2 (removed)

On imagined seas (painted over, replaced with new mural)

Big Blue (painted over, replaced with new sign)

Frutas! (partially painted over, replaced with new mural)

Wanda (painted over, replaced with new mural)

Run and don’t ever stop

RudolpTempleMural

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.

WilmaRudolph

EdTemple

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.

Memories of battle

BattleRealty

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.

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