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Down below the overpass

A few months ago, these images appeared beneath the bridge where I-40 rises over Jefferson Street. They seem somewhat primitive in style, perhaps done by an untrained or inexperienced artist. They include tigers, musical instruments, a car, and sports equipment. To the far left, barely visible because of the glare towards the outer part of the wall, is a basketball and a racquet. More visible are the tigers, the car, and the instruments. The tiger to the far right has a football to one side and another basketball on the other. The tigers are probably the most important clue. While nearby Tennesse State University does indeed have a tiger mascot, it’s also true that McKissack Middle School, just a little farther away, uses a tiger for its mascot. Given the style of the art, I’m betting that some unnamed McKissask student (or students) produced these works. About a block east, on a trestle bridge that borders Wilson Ladies Salon (2043 Jefferson Street) there is a pig riding on the hood of a car that clearly seems to be by the same artist(s). I’m not including it here, because Wilson has a pretty fantastic sign that needs a post of its own, and I’ll include it in that post. This mural is on the southwest side of the overpass. At the other end, across the street, and at the northeast end of the overpass, is the mural featured in Jefferson Street Gateway to Heritage. And just to the right of this mural, on a wall facing Jefferson Street, is one of the first murals I wrote about on this blog, which is featured in Freedom Riders on Jefferson. This overpass is a busy place for art!

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Located at the southwest end of the overpass, which splits Jefferson between the 2400 and 2500 blocks. There is a fence that makes it impossible to walk directly to them. You have to start a half-block east where the exit ramp connects with Jefferson Street. There is no “No trespassing sign” – the fence is probably meant mainly to protect the landscaping. Parking is problematic. You used to be able to park under the bridge on the north side, but that is now marked “No parking.” You’ll have to park a block or more away and walk.

A Lady of Jefferson Street

 

Several months ago, this striking portrait by the artist who goes by JamersonSGC appeared on Jefferson Street – and led to me getting a photo credit from the Frist Art Museum. Frist held an exhibit in Fall 2019 about the murals of North Nashville called, appropriately, “Murals of North Nashville Now.” (The exhibit is closed, but I think you can still get the book.) It featured indoor works by a number of artists who have appeared on this blog and included a slide show of many of the murals of North Nashville. This is where this wall comes in. Jamerson’s piece sits alongside “A Soul Break” by Thaxton Waters, a mural that’s about a year older. It so happened I had shot Water’s piece before this portrait went up, and the museum wanted a “clean” shot of “Soul Break” without Jamerson’s face for their slideshow – and voila, I got a photo credit at the Frist. Thanks, Low Key Art! (That’s Jamerson’s usual tag, as you see here.) Oh, the mural? Well it’s certainly a powerful portrait, and I have no idea who it is supposed to be but it’s a face that’s had to ignore.

UPDATE: The artist contacted me. The portrait is a stylized version of a photo of a young Diana Ross. I can see it now.

Diana Ross portrait photo

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. If it’s closed off, you can try the alley behind or park across the street.

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!

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