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

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Love Life, Nashville Strong

There’s been a real tendency of late for murals and graffiti art in Nashville to promote positive themes. In the wake of a terrible tornado and an ongoing pandemic, Nashville artists seemed determined to boost spirits. And what better place to do this than right in the middle of the tornado’s path. The old Nashville Industrial Staffing building on Main, which has been empty for some time, seemed to come through the March 3rd storm just fine, despite coming close to being directly hit by the tornado. But that’s the difference between tornadoes and hurricanes, having myself lived through both. Tornadoes are quirky, and hurricanes are thorough.

Mouse graffiti mural Nashville street art

Earlier this summer, Nashville artist E. Watts spruced up the forlorn building with a couple of messages of hope. A familiar-looking mouse is painting the message “Love Life,” while what looks something like a masked ballon is emblazoned with the message “Nashville Strong.” Or, the “balloon” could be the “O” in the word “WOW” – take your pick. Like the graffiti art on Gallatin I featured in my last post, this work is inevitably temporary, but for the time being it lends a splash of color and hope for these difficult times.

Balloon graffiti mural Nashville street art

Located at 606 Main Street, across the street from the East Baptist Church of East Nashville, and next to an abandoned car wash. The murals are on the west side building, which faces downtown. There is parking at the building.

Black Lives Matter

It’s no secret that the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers has sparked a massive protest movement here in America and around the world. Not surprisingly, it has produced art. Perhaps the most widely shared example is a mural in Minneapolis done by Cadex Herrera, Greta McLain, Xena Goldman, Rachel Breen, Niko Alexander, Maria Javier, and Pablo Helm Hernandez. While I would not be surprised if there are others in Nashville, this one at the damaged Jerry’s Artarama on Main (above) and a similar one at Cobra Bar on Gallatin are the only ones I know of in Nashville at this time. I suspect others will emerge if they haven’t already.

This one is obviously temporary, as it is painted on boards covering a window blown out by the March 3rd tornado. Of course, my last post was about another mural on Jerry’s Artarama, but I feel this one is timely, and as construction is already getting started next door and a large disposal unit you see at construction sites has appeared just to the side of this mural, I thought it important to document it now. I also try really hard to credit artists, but this one is unsigned, and I suspect it is anonymous for a reason.

The happy-style letters belie the seriousness of the topic at hand. In my main work, I am a history professor, not an art blogger. I do not know why this particular incident has generated the enormous energy and the wave of protests that it has, while others like it before did not. My future colleagues will spend a lot of time sorting that out. Some reasons seem obvious, but one thing you learn in history, the obvious answers aren’t always right, or they may not be as important as they look. What history-minded people like me can do is document everything, so the full story can eventually be told. Already, the Smithsonian is collecting signs plastered to the fence around the White House so they will be available to researchers and the public in the future.

Below is a shot giving you some idea of how the piece fits with everything else on the wall. I took it at this odd angle because of the placement of the disposal unit. In it, you see murals by Andee Rudloff and Herb Williams, and the remnants of an older mural by Hannah Holgate and Marshall Hall that was severely damaged by the tornado.

BLM mural sign Nashville street art

Located at 713 Main Street. For now, the parking lot in front of Jerry’s Artarama is available, but once this becomes a construction site, that’s unlikely. The nearest street parking is towards downtown on Seventh Street North.

 

Art among the ruins

When I wrote about the aftermath of the March 3rd tornadoes (What we lost in the stormStorm damage, Germantown and North Nashville) I said that artists would be an important part of the rebuilding of Nashville. Already that is clear – within days the Nashville Strong mural went up on the side of Boston Commons at Five Points on a wall exposed by the destruction of the storm. Another victim of the storm was Jerry’s Artarama on Main. The store’s front end was torn apart by the tornado that barreled down Main Street, devastating a mural that spread across the storefront, which had been done by Hannah Holgate and Marshall Hall.

The smashed wall was boarded up, with only scraps of the original mural surviving. Recently, two local artists, Herb Williams and Andee Rudloff, have turned some of that drab plywood into colorful art. Williams did the stylized Tennesee flag, with birds and butterflies circling the stars in the middle, while Rudloff did the colorful array of Picasso-style faces. Look close and you can see three remnants of the original mural in surviving brick columns. The two bordering the flag are a little hard to see as they fit in with the color scheme of the new murals, but the blue and white strip at the far right, which is all that’s left of an image of paint tubes, is more easily discerned. Piled in front of the flag is much of the rest of the remnants of the old mural. Below, you can see how the new ones fit in with the whole facade, and you can see more clearly the extent of the destruction and what’s left of the previous mural. Obviously, this is temporary, but then, isn’t all art, ultimately? When the building is restored and new art goes up, you’ll find it here.

Jerry's Artarama Murals Nashville street art

Located at 713 Main Street. For now, the parking lot is open. That may change when reconstruction starts, but there is parking at nearby businesses.

Butcher & Bee

Butcher&Bee mural Nashville street art sign

This may not seem like another tornado-related blog post, but it is. For one, Butcher & Bee, while not particularly damaged, was one of the Main Street businesses shut down by the storm. They did, however, reopen yesterday, with a limited evening menu. No word when they’ll be back to full-time business, but every opening, every repaired roof, is a giant leap forward. But the picture itself was made possible by the storm. I’d wanted to feature the Butcher & Bee sign, made by I Saw the Sign, for some time. But there were often cars parked in front of it, and more importantly, to get the best picture, you kind of need to stand in the middle of Main Street. Well, last week, you could do that! So here it is in all its glory. Look close, and you can see Butcher&Bee’s logo, a bee with two butcher knives.

The reality is, Main Street, and the rest of the places damaged by the storm, have a long road ahead. Greko Greek Street Food opened as well, but other damaged businesses on Main won’t be open for months – if ever. Something else will take their place, but the fabric of Main will always be changed.

Located at 902 Main Street. Parking is tough here in the best of times, and there isn’t much nearby street parking, so you may need to walk a few blocks.

A return to the alley

Almost a year ago (I took these pictures last March) a set of UH crew tags replaced the UH crew tags that once been on the backside of Main Street Liquors and Main Street Market, and which I featured in Back in the alley. The style of these new tags is distinct from the earlier ones, but UH is a versatile crew. This alley and nearby spaces feature several examples of their work. Sadly, one of their best, a trippy mural which I featured in Panda sky, which was on the back of what used to be Make Nashville and is just steps from the tags above, has recently been largely destroyed in a renovation project to its building, 947 Woodland. Change is a constant, and that’s certainly true for outdoor art in Nashville. One change – the building these tags are on used to also include a repair shop called Transmission Exchange. Now it’s been replaced with Crazy Gnome Brewery. The Five Points area used to be the place in Nashville you got your car repaired. That legacy is almost gone.

UPDATE: This mural was damaged by the March 3, 2020 tornado. Its fate is uncertain. See What we lost in the storm.

Main Street Tags graffiti street art Nashville

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Located at 944 Main Street. The installation is in fact in the alley, which can be accessed from 10th Street or McFerrin Avenue. There is some parking in this alley if you are just visiting.

 

A colorful HOME

This is a story of a missing mural. I am certain that next to the front door of HOME there was once a small mural that contained music motifs, including a saxophone, that I both photographed and posted about. I can find no evidence of either. That’s how much art is out there – even stuff I drive by every day I can lose track of. This mural, found on the east side of Center 615,  is relatively new – it went in a few months ago – and is by Atlanta artist Kevin Bongang. He’s done at least three other pieces in Nashville in this same colorful style, including one of the Off the Wall murals on Charlotte. As for the host of this mural, HOME stands for “Helping Our Music Evolve,” and it’s a music industry incubator, where music professionals can connect, collaborate, and get access to production facilities, office and rehearsal space. Now if that ain’t modern Nashville, nothing is.

HOME mural street art NashvilleHOME Main Mural street art Nashville

Located at 615 Main Sreet. The mural is on the lower floor on the east side of the building, facing North Seventh Street. Street parking is available on 7th. The mural does face a small parking lot, and there are often cars in front of. Maybe try very early in the morning.

Seen today, hidden tomorrow

Unknown artistr mural street art Nashville

When the building at 912 Main street was torn down (a building I talked about in A few words and then who knows), this part of the east wall of 914 was exposed. It’s the same wall that contains the mural featured in  Or you could just watch the video, which is on the long-exposed south part of that wall. It’s a Jack Coyle piece, and I decided to go ahead and put it on the blog because I imagine this space will soon be a construction site. Note also that the clearance of the site at 916 (formerly Holleman Transmission) makes the mural in A few words and then who knows much more visible (I put new photos up), but all the murals here might be threatened, either with destruction or simply being hidden by whatever comes next. For that matter, it 914 is ever town down, the mural featured The cats are loose would be lost, as it’s on the backside. So check all of them out soon, as you may not be able to for long. Call them all endangered art.

Located at 914 Main Street. The mural is on the west side of the building, facing downtown. There are a few spaces in front of 914, though your best bet is probably parking across Main on McFerrin, and there’s a light to help you cross.

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