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Feelin’ Lucky – Hawkers

One of the many things lost as a result of the closure of the long-standing East Nashville staple Family Wash was the mural of a giant multi-colored mule by Herb Williams that once adorned its building. But with a new restaurant in that spot, we also have a new mural.

Hawkers is an Asian street food chain based out of Florida that opened in the old Family Wash site on Main Street a few months ago. As such, it’s no surprise that the giant mural provided by Mobe Oner (aka Eric Bass) has a strong Asian theme. As part of their branding, Hawker uses an image of the familiar Maneki-neko, the Japanese beckoning cat. Wait, that’s what they are called? I didn’t know that they even had a name, but I learn a lot writing this blog.

Hawkers Mural Nashville street art

And yes, beckoning cat, not waving cat. In Japan, that’s a beckoning gesture. They are usually white, which is the color for luck, and in the upper left corner of the mural, Mobe Oner has placed the slogan “Feelin’ Lucky,” hence the title of this blog post. The Maneki-nekos are supposed to be based on the Japanese bobtail, but the flesh-and-blood cats are not nearly as chonky as their artistic counterparts. Maybe it’s all the Asian street food.

Hawkers mural Nashville street art

Only some of the cats in this mural are actually doing the traditional beckoning gesture. We seem them dancing, cooking, stuffing themselves with ramen, and taking selfies. The biggest one of all, appropriate to Nashville, is playing a guitar. You can watch a video of Mobe Oner working on the mural on his Instagram page.

Hawkers Mural Nashville street art

I had to take these pictures at an angle because the cramped parking lot and the addition of an upstairs patio. I was sorely tempted to stand on top of Bolton’s next door, something easily done, to get the picture, but I didn’t, and neither should you. The building is also home to part of the 615 Center complex, as you can see by the sign right next to the Feelin’ Lucky logo.

Located at 626A Main Street. the mural is on the west side of the building, facing towards downtown. There is retail and street parking available nearby.

An Elite Eagle

This is not a March 3 tornado anniversary blog post. Well, mostly not. Two days after the tornado, I posted a piece called “What We Lost in the Storm,” about the outdoor art in East Nashville damaged or destroyed by the tornado. A couple days later I also wrote about that happened in North Nashville and Germantown. For the East Nashville article, the featured photo at the top of the blog post, the one you saw if someone shared the article, was of Kim Radford’s eagle mural at Bill’s Elite Bail Bonding Company on Main Street. I noted at the time I had never actually done a proper blog spot about this mural. I am now finally correcting this.

Radford did the Elite Bonding eagle mural in August 2019. I had a chance to talk to her about it then, and my memory is that she told me that the owner wanted something patriotic, hence the eagle. This was one of Radford’s first outdoor murals in Nashville, and she has since gone on to be one of the more prolific muralists in town. For example, most of the murals at Grimey’s are her work.

Because of its themes, I had intended to save the Elite Bonding mural for a patriotic day, like July 4 or Veteran’s Day, and had there been no tornado, that’s exactly what I would have done. That this mural survived with only minor damage is miraculous, and a testament to both the arbitrary nature of tornado damage and the willingness of the business owner, Bill Tomlinson, to repair and restore his building instead of raze it and start over. When Radford originally did this mural, she continued the geometric flag pattern on the opposite, west-facing side of the building. That half of the building collapsed, and the roof was ripped off, but the wall with the eagle survived.

Eagle Mural street art Nashville tornado
The Elite Bonding Eagle by Kim Radford as it appeared on March 5, 2020.

The damage to it is modest. Mostly what looks like damage is actually places that weren’t painted in the first place because something was covering that part of the wall before the storm. There is a stripe that looks like a repaired crack on the right of the mural. In fact, there used to be a gutter there. That stripe was never painted in the first place. The only real damage is a few dings and scratches. A few quite reminders of the storm, if you know what to look for.

I didn’t get any pictures of the completed mural before the storm. For that, you’ll need to check Radford’s Instagram page – here it complete, and there also several shots of the mural in progress. I do have my own nighttime shot of the eagle in progress.

Elite Eagle Mural Nashville street art

Located at 940 Main Street. The mural is on the east side of the building, facing away from downtown. There is plenty of parking here and at nearby businesses.

Do the Dew, Again

This colorful mural by Atlanta artist Kevin Bongang is not the first “Do the Dew” mural in Nashville. PepsiCo launched their “Do the Dew” global advertising campaign back in 2015, and as part of that campaign they have sponsored a number of murals. In early 2019, Eastside Murals produced their own “Do the Dew” mural on the old Family Dollar near Five Points. That was one of the many murals destroyed by the March 3, 2020 tornado. Indeed, the building it was on completely collapsed.

Almost exactly two years after that first Nashville “Do the Dew” mural went up, Bongang created this one. This is at the Citgo station at Fifth and Main, an intersection that is something of a gateway to East Nashville.  (The other main one would be Woodland and Fifth, near where the giant EAST mural is found.) The bulk of people coming from downtown pass by this spot as they come to the east side. Before this new mural went in, there was a small, rather quirky mural on this wall greeting drivers that focused more on Nashville themes.

Bongang’s mural fills the whole wall and spills around the corners on to the other walls (see below). While highlighting the “Do the Dew” theme, it’s more of a wild pastiche of images, including several birds. The mural faces across the river towards Nissan Stadium, which may explain the football, and the musical notes are likely a nod to Nashville’s status as Music City – or they may just be birdsong. This by the way is not Bongang’s first Nashville mural. He has a few others in town, including one just a few blocks away at Center 615.

Located at 500 Main Street. The mural is on the west wall, facing towards Fifth Street and downtown. There is parking at the Citgo.

Gone but not forgotten

A little over a year ago, this mural appeared on the Citgo at Fifth and Main. It generated some discussion, mostly not favorable. That Citgo does sit on what amounts to the main entrance to East Nashville from downtown. (The other one would be Woodland and Fifth, near where the giant EAST mural is found.)

I don’t think it was the technical execution so much as the color palate that bothered some people. The Titans and Predators symbols are done well, as is the sleeping yet playing cowboy. But the green, yellow, black, blue and red clash, and it fells incomplete. Still, I had every intention of putting it on the blog. The motto here is “No art left behind,” after all. But I was unable to determine who the artist or artists were. It’s signed Yung King and ALRW, but I’m not even sure if those are one or two people.

I’m putting it up today because it’s gone. I saw yesterday that a new mural is going up in its place. I’m memorializing it both because I do try to keep a record of lost art, but also out of respect to the artist(s). It takes courage to put your art out there, particularly in such a well-trafficked spot where thousands of drivers pass by every day. Art doesn’t happen if someone doesn’t take chance. So remember East’s loud-and-proud greeter, even if it was only around for a year.

Formerly located at 500 Main Street. The mural was on the west wall, facing towards Fifth Street and downtown. A new mural is in preparation on that wall and I will report on it in the next few weeks. There is parking at the Citgo.

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.

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