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nashville public art

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

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Glen Campbell, Rhinestone Cowboy

Here is more art in a time of pandemic. It’s unusual for me to have back-to-back posts about works in the same neighborhood, but there is something compelling about Lower Broad right now. The epicenter of Nashville’s tourism industry, it’s normally packed with people and raucous with sound – music, laughter, and the shouts and whoops from bachelorettes on pedal taverns. These days, it’s a ghost town, with only cops and the homeless, and two or three determined tourists. The Glen Campbell Museum and Rhinestone Stage only opened last month. On their Instagram page, they excitedly announced their first customers on February 1. By March 23, like much of the district, they were forced to close their doors by the pandemic.

Along the way, they got a spiffy mural, courtesy of Anthony Billups and Dean Tomasek of Music City Murals. On the museum’s Instagram page, you can see an image of it as a work in progress. It depicts Campbell dressed in rhinestone finery in a desert scene, where the Nashville skyline rises on the horizon like a distant mesa. “Rhinestone Cowboy” was, of course, Campbell’s signature song. While it is tempting to think that the line “I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway” is a reference to Lower Broad, that’s unlikely. The song was written and first recorded by Larry Weiss, a New York native who wrote it shortly after moving to Los Angeles, so it’s much more likely a reference to the one in New York.

Interestingly, the mural is not technically on the museum, which is on the second floor of the building that houses the Nashville branch of Rock Bottom Brewery, and it sits in Rock Bottom’s patio.

Campbell Mural Nashville street art

Located at 111 Broadway, at the corner with Second Avenue, across the street from Hard Rock Cafe. To get up close to it, you’ll need to enter Rock Bottom. The entrance to the museum is on Second Avenue. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

The Listening Room, Selfie Edition

Selfie-bait is a growing trend in Nashville murals and the giant colorful headphones at The Listening Room Cafe is a case in point. I think it all began with the wings mural in The Gulch by Kelsey Montague, who specializes in murals designed to entice people to use them as frames for portraits. Much of the mural movement in Nashville is propelled by business owners who want people to get their pictures taken in front of their mural and of course check in on social media. This mural goes the extra mile. For one, The Listening Room’s Instagram handle, @TheListeningRoomCafe, is on the mural. And, like the mural at Zeal Church, there are instructions as to where the photographer is supposed to stand. Note the cable coming out of the headphones. It’s an arrow, leading to the perfect spot.

The artist is Ty Christian, who has been on this blog for a very different mural. Harmony is more in keeping with his other work, seen on his website (above) and his Instagram page. His mural for The Listening Room is not the only mural on this wall. Earlier I featured a fantastic hand-painted sign by Michael Cooper of Murals and More. I’ve seen at least as many people getting their picture taken with the sign, but admittedly I don’t drive down 4th Avenue every day.

Listening Room murals street art Nashville

Located at 618 4th Avenue South. There is some limited parking at the Listening Room and some street parking on Elm Street. As the mural faces a parking lot, your best bet is to visit early in the day, well before showtime. Enjoy the music and enjoy the art!

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.

The Spirit of Nashville

The “Spirit of Nashville” posters are all over town. You’ll find them in offices, restaurants, and homes all around Nashville. They are the product of Anderson Design Group  (formerly part of Anderson Thomas Design, Inc.) and first appeared in 2003 when founder and lead designer Joel Anderson got the idea for a calendar of hand-drawn retro posters capturing the essence and history of Nashville. Realizing they had far more than twelve ideas, ADG has been producing new posters ever since for the series. There’s even a book that has gone through multiple editions, Spirit of Nashville—The Art & Soul of Music City.  According to their store’s web page about the series, “This project has been a 16-year collaboration of 17 ADG staff artists, researchers, historians, illustrators, printers, calligraphists, and designers.”

The art on the outside of the building, including the large Sprint of Nashville mural, are all metal prints from the series. The mural is a variation of a 2019 design by Anderson himself called “Spirit of Nashville: Leaning Cowboy,” and you can get a print in several sizes. There are many designs honoring all kinds of Nashville icons and institutions. On the first picture of the building below, you can see two large posters (there’s another around the backside), “Music City Pinup Girl” and “State Flag Skyline.” In the middle of the is a small plaque – “Photo Opportunity.” ADG knows something about selfie culture!

Below are some other pictures of the building, and the signs on the ADG store. I put in two angled shots because a couple of the posters are hidden in a straight-on view, and the poster on the backside of the building (“Music City (Man)“) is at the end of the slide show.

Anderson posters Nashville mural street art

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Located at 116 29th Ave North. Street parking is available.

Music in black and white

Altru Creative mural street art Nashville

Usually, if I’m having trouble researching an artwork, it’s because I don’t know who the artist is. But the signature for Eastside Murals is very clear here. No, what took some digging was figuring out what Eastside’s client, Altru Creative, actually does. Check out that website. Music business, check! But what they do in the business isn’t all that clear, even if you read all their blog posts. However, their Facebook page is more helpful, as they’ve checked the categories Advertising Agency, Media Agency, and Music Production Studio on the “About” section. Those categories would seem to include promoting music shows and festivals while working primarily in the worlds of house, electronica, dance, hip-hop, and R&B. That triangle in the middle is their logo, and their name is tattoed on the DJ’s hand, so it seems this counts as a sign as well as a mural. It’s Nashville, so of course, there’s an image of the Batman Building, but also a crane with a wrecking ball, which is also very much a symbol of today’s Nashville.

Located at 1036 West Kirkland Avenue. The mural faces the road. There is a large gravel parking lot, and street parking is available.

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.

Melrose Forever

Sitting near the busy intersection of Kirkwood Avenue and Franklin Pike on the backside of Melrose Mini Mart sits this tribute to three Tennesse R&B greats: Clifford Curry, Dobie Gray, and Bobby Hebb. Curry lived in Knoxville, and he recorded in Nashville, while Ray was born in Texas and lived in Nashville as an adult, and Hebb was a life-long Nashvillian. Curry was a master of Carolina Beach Music and was inducted into the Beach Music Hall of Fame, and is perhaps best known for “I Can’t Get Hold of Myself.” Gray and Hebb had bigger, iconic hits you all know but may not know who was behind them. While Gray had other hits, it’s “Drift Away” he’s best known for, though younger audiences may know the 2002 duet/remake with Uncle Kracker better than the original 1973 edition. Hebb is the guy behind “Sunny.” That link, by the way, is to a stripped-down live version, since y’all already know what the studio version sounds like. You can hear it in your head right now, yes? All three men have passed in recent years; Hebb in 2010, Gray in 2011, and Curry in 2016. The mural is by Steve Ford, a Nashville artist who sells his work at Lazy Lane Graphics, and specializes in “Southeastern Sports Art,” i.e., art about your favorite college football teams from the South. As far as I know, this is his first mural in town.

Located at 2609 Eighth Avenue South (Franklin Pike). The mural is on the north side of the building, facing towards downtown and the Dollar General at 2605. You can usually park in the parking lot between the two stores, but any day but Sunday, cars from the auto repair place attached to Melrose Mini Mart are likely to be parked in front of the mural.

Blek, Barista, and Beethoven

It’s not often that a graffiti artist gets written up in the local news, his arrival in town excitedly heralded by local arts groups. But Blek Le Rat is not just any graffiti artist. He’s an internationally known French street artist, known to some as the “godfather of stencil,” that is, the use of stencils to make images on walls. He toured the U.S. south in late 2018, creating works in the Texas cities of Waco, Houston, and Austin, and also here in Nashville. He left stencils at Montgomery Bell Academy and the one above at the Germantown branch of Barista Parlor. In this video interview with WPLN, he explains that he came to Nashville because it is the capital of music and because he thinks his work would be ignored and unappreciated in a more outdoor art-dense city like New York. The subject is a young Beethoven, who Blek presents in more modern dress, imagining how the old master might present himself to the Nashville of today and its music. He also thinks “the real America is in Nashville, a city like Nashville.” The video is worth watching because it captures a lot of his process as he produced the Beethoven portrait. It’s not as simple as spraying a stencil! The picture below gives you a sense of context.

Bleck Beethoven mural

Further down the wall is the work of another stencil artist, For Becks, who is local. I’ve featured his Lego Men before. Here we see one of his “Like” stencils, which are popular on Instagram, including this one.

Barista Like mural street art Nashville

Located at 1230 4th Avenue North. Both murals actually face the 300 block of Monroe Street. The Blek piece is obviously at the corner with 4th, while the For Becks piece is almost all the way down at the other end of the wall, near the back of the building. Street parking is available on 4th.

Skyline Guitar

Situated just out of view a very busy lower Dickerson Road is this relatively new guitar mural. It’s found on the north side of 1006 Whites Creek Pike, just steps away from the intersection with Dickerson. While the building seems to have four entrances, the only business I can find with that address is Skyline Lofts, an Airbnb location. Or two of them, to be precise, Loft B and Loft C. Whether the lofts take up the whole building is unclear. The mural is a bit more obvious, though unless you are in the habit of taking Whites Creek as a quick shortcut to Dickerson from Fern Avenue and on to downtown, you’d be unlikely to ever see it. It’s reminiscent of some of the other guitar murals in town. It evokes, very quietly, the idea of a simple skyline in the body of the guitar, though if you look closely, the last building to the right, just above the signature, might be the Batman Building. The signature gives two internet links (and a phone number), one of which is dead, JohnCole45.com. The Instagram page, however, does work, @keepitrail, under the name “C.45,” presumably John Cole. This mural doesn’t look a lot like his other work, but you have to give the client what they want! A small piece of the mural actually wraps around to the front of the building, which you can see in the angled shot below.

Guitar Mural street art Nashville

Located at 1006 Whites Creek Pike, on the north side of the building, facing away from downtown. There’s a wide shoulder on the opposite side of Whites Creek where you can park. Be careful, this is a shortcut street with fairly fast traffic.

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