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I believe in Basement East

I believe Nashville mural street art

Perhaps the most famous mural in Nashville, the most famous piece of art, period, is not one but multiple. It’s three, or four or even more, depending on what you decide to count. There are two completely official “I Believe in Nashville” murals, one in 12 South and one in Marathon Village (neither of which is on this blog yet). I say “completely official,” because those are the ones you find on IBelieveInNasvhille.com, the I Believe in Nashville Facebook page, and on the I Believe in Nashville Instagram page. There is also one on Shelby Street done by a local homeowner and not the original artist, Adrien Saporiti of DCXV Industries. There are takeoffs like the I Believe in Petsville mural by Leah Boorse, and an I Believe in Smashville mural by Saporiti himself. This one, on the west wall of The Basement East, is not signed by Saporiti, nor does it appear on any of his websites or social media, but it does sport the IBelieveInNashville.com website and Instagram page addresses, so I’ll call it semi-official. I didn’t see it scrolling through several pages of the #ibelieveinNashville hashtag on Instagram, though interestingly, one that does is the wings mural by Kelsey Montague, featured in Sometimes you have to be obvious and easily the biggest rival for Internet fame to the I Believe in Nashville series. I think that’s odd because the Basement East version is the best one for taking an actual selfie because it’s up high, and thus you can angle your phone and get a decent shot. The wall it’s on features a rotating series of concert murals and one other “permanent” mural of a skeleton. This mural, by the way, will be the 500th pin on the blog’s map. It’s not the 500th blog post – that honor went to 500 Pink Elephants back in July. Early in the blog, I was in the habit of using only one pin where there were multiple works of art, thus the discrepancy, but now I don’t do that and pin every piece. Note that not all of the pins on that map are for art that still exists – check the relevant blog post before making a special trip – but it does give you a good idea of where to find outdoor art in Nashville.

Located at 917 Woodland Street. The mural is on the west wall, facing downtown towards the river. Parking is complicated in this area, given the many businesses and that Basement East is a concert venue. There is street parking on the nearby side streets, 9th Street and McFerrin Avenue.

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.

 

Go slay all the dragons

Dragons mural street art Nashville

There’s a relatively new mural on Douglas that’s been getting a lot of attention on social media, even if it’s not really in a place tourists usually go. Maybe that’s because the guy who paid for it, Drew Holcomb of Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, has promised a weekly drawing until Christmas for a prize package for everyone who checks in in front of the mural. That last link also includes a time-lapse video of the artist, Kim Radford, creating the mural. The mural features lyrics from the Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors song “Dragons,” which also features The Lone Below. The mural, as I said, is getting around. Besides showing up on Instagram, there’s also a video of “Dragons” featuring an animated version of the mural. The East Nashvillian recently published an article about Holcomb which featured a photo of him in front of the mural. I had a chance to talk to the artist, Radford, who told me that while she hasn’t done a lot of her own murals in the past, she’s planning to do more, and recently completed an eagle mural on the side of Elite Bonding on Main Street. Be looking for it on the blog sometime soon. And go check-in on Instagram in front of this one before Christmas for a chance at a prize! The check-in is “Dragons Mural.”

Located at 1224 Lischey Avenue, at the corner with Douglas Avenue. The mural is on the north side of the building, facing Douglas. Nearby street parking is available.

George Jones rides a lawnmower

One of the great legends of country music was George Jones, and one of the best legends about George Jones was the story about the lawnmower. See, Jones went through a long period where he had a serious drinking problem. When he wasn’t allowed to drive himself to the liquor store, he used his driver. And when he lost that option, he took the lawnmower all the way to the liquor store, which was a few miles from where he lived at the time. As he later recalled:

I imagine the top speed for that old mower was five miles per hour. It might have taken an hour and a half or more for me to get to the liquor store, but get there I did.

The New Channel 5 story linked above claims his destination was Colonial Liquor Store, where the new mural is found. Or did this actually happen in Texas? There is a conflict in the sources, but Jones himself said it happened, so Texas or Nashville, it’s still a good story. Colonial Liquors has embraced the legend. Inspired by an episode of Mike Judge’s Tales from the Tourbus (you can catch a glimpse of Jones on the lawnmower in this short trailer), Colonial worked with local artist Shawn Catz, who got permission from Judge and Cinemax (who produced the series) to use Judge’s design on the mural. Jones’s widow was apparently not pleased. But then, the George Jones Museum does have the lawnmower in question on display (just scroll down a bit).

Jones Quote mural street art Nashville

This mural, by the way, covers the mural featured in Mystery of the Spheres.

Located at 2401 Franklin Pike. The mural is on the north side of the building, facing Hillview Heights Road. There is parking at Colonial and across Hillview Heights.

Set Free

Madison is not awash in outdoor art, so this particularly bright and bold recent addition to Madison’s visual fabric really stands out. It’s on the side of  Set Free Church on Gallatin. Set Free, housed in an historic storefront, is a church that emphasizes charity, particularly towards the homeless. That’s appropriate, as it’s set in one of the less prosperous parts of Davidson County. The artist is Max Gramajo, who goes by Maxx242. He’s based out of Southern California in the Los Angeles area, and as far as I know, this is his first work in the Nashville area. The pastor at Set Free, Roosevelt Sargent, who goes by “Pastor Flo,” also has connections to the Los Angeles area, so it’s not so surprising this Los Angeles artist wound up doing work in Nashville. (Sargent has a picture on his Instagram feed that shows the mural in progress.) I like how even a Californian knows to put the Batman Building in a Nashville mural! Also credited in the signature box (see below) are Jason Galaz and Milton Chavez (and on his Instagram post about the mural the artist also credits “Super Dave.”)

Set Free Mural street art Nshville

Signatures

Located at 505 Gallatin Pike South.  The mural is no the north side of the building facing Harris Street.

A new anthem

One of Nashville’s newest murals is not 100% new, as it incorporates traces of a previous mural. Which makes sense, as this is a new mural to celebrate a company’s rebranding and reorganization. ole media Management (no, that’s not a typo, they used lower-case letters in their name) recently became Anthem Entertainment. The new name is that of a company ole recently bought, which had been founded by Rush’s manager Ray Danniels. If you look below, you’ll see what the old mural looked like, and you can see that Tara Marie Aversa, who did the new mural, cleverly incorporated the central part of that earlier, more austere mural in her much more exuberant new work. (I have not been able to determine who made the original.) Like her work for Walden, this piece is overflowing with flowers, but here the flowers are background, with the stars of the Tennesee state flag given pride of place, as in the previous mural. As befitting Anthem’s role in the music business, there are also instruments and a microphone, and a silhouetted man who looks a lot like a young Johnny Cash to me.  (Image taken from this article.) Check out Aversa’s Instagram page, where you’ll find a series of posts detailing the process of creating this mural.

Ole mural street art Nashville

There was also an ole sign on the front of the building that is also now gone.

ole sign street art Nashville

Located at 462 Humphreys Street. The mural is on the east side of the building and actually faces Martin Sreet, Street parking and parking at the business is available.

Three years and counting

Because I’ve been doing a lot of travelling lately, I was out of town for the third-year anniversary of this blog, which happened on June 30. Much has happened since the second anniversary of this blog. For one, the outdoor art scene continues to blossom here in Nashville. New murals appear seemingly every day, and at my usual three-posts-a-week pace I’ll never catch up! And the world has noticed. Do a quick Google search for “Nashville street art” or “Nashville murals” or related searches, and you will find dozens and dozens of articles, blog posts, and various guides to whatever the author considers to be the best, the prettiest. or most “Instagramable” murals. And while this blog doesn’t show up very high in those searches, traffic has been steadily improving. The first year, the blog got a few hundred views a month. In the second, 1000-1500 views a month. In the third year, that number hovers in the low 2000s. Still small fry, but the moving in the right direction. And unlike any of those articles or “guides,” I really am trying to chronicle it all!

Kind mural street art Nashville
As it was last year, the subject of the most popular post on this blog.  Read about it in The Kind Way.

Many of the observations I made in the post I wrote about the second year anniversary remain true. The relationship between art, tourism, and gentrification remains strong. It’s still true that most art, particularly murals, is found on local businesses, not chains. Nashville business owners are getting the message – murals generate foot traffic, and they encourage people to take a picture and “check in” at the business, which amounts to free advertising. And art very much still breeds art. Businesses and building owners are encouraged to seek out artists for their site when they see their neighbors doing the same thing.

Cash mural street art Nashville
Despite, or perhaps because it no longer exists, the subject of the second most popular post on this blog. See The Johnny Cash Mural

Having recently traveled to New Orleans and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I can say that our mural/outdoor art scene compares well to those areas. One mistake we did not make, which until recently New Orleans had, was to put onerous permitting limitations on art. I would also say that while there are definitive art districts, in particular 12 South and Downtown, we do a good job of spreading art out – just look at my map.

I continue to be concerned about the impact of gentrification, notably on the less celebrated artists who have decorated Hispanic and Black-owned business. In particular, the work of the artist I have dubbed the “Unknown Buchanan Street Artist(s)” is endangered. That’s one reason I do this blog, to archive what is an inherently ephemeral form of art.

Restaurant mural street art Nashville
One of the “Unkown Buchan Street Artist(s)” murals that may be threatened by gentrification. See Catered Art.

For now, this will continue to be a Davidson County-only blog. When I think of some of the massive collections of work I have yet to chronicle, notably the Elliston Place garage and the dozens of musician portraits in Berry Hill, it’s hard to think about expanding. For that matter, I have dozens of files under the heading “Future Blog Posts,” most of which I need to do more research for or reshoot photos (I have gotten very picky about the pictures I use.) But visiting the Metroplex (as Dallas-Ft. Worth is known), I realized if I lived there I would have to do an area-wide blog, and I think I will have to do so here as well in time. The surrounding counties have developing outdoor art scenes of their own, often by the same artists who work in Davidson County. It’s really the same scene, and singling out Davidson County is somewhat artificial.

Bird Mural street art Nashville
Still my answer when people ask me about my favorite mural in Nashville. In part, because you are very unlikely to find it on Instagram. See A bird in the bush

The header photo is the mural at Chromatics. The artist who made it, TACKZ, recently contacted me, which reminded me that, to my knowledge, only the refurbished Painter Man at the Hard Rock Cafe on Lower Broad is older. The Chromatics mural is a true survivor, dating back to 1993. We definitely have a very different outdoor art scene than we did in 1993. We actually have one now! I intend to continue to chronicle it as best I can.

The Delgado calacas

In a small shop in the collection of galleries and other businesses at 919 Gallatin Ave is a business with a long history. Delgado Guitars had its start as a family business in 1923 in the city of Torreón, Coahuila, in north-central Mexico. Over the last century, the family and the business moved many places, eventually winding up in Nashville. And over those years Delgado Guitars has maintained both instrument making traditions and Mexican cultural traditions. Thus the very Mexican subject of calacas and calaveras found in the mural on their front door. Calacas are the skeletons, often in fancy dress, that are so important in Mexican art, particularly in representations of the Day of the Dead, while the calaveras are brightly painted skulls also common in Mexican art. They have a long history, as political satire, but also as a reflection of Mexico’s roots in Mayan, Aztec, and other Amerindian cultures. The artist who produced this work comes from another part of the world. Olasubomi Aka-Bashorun was born in Lagos, Nigeria and grew up in Oklahoma. He now has a gallery in The Arcade, the DBO Gallery. While the Delgado mural is a different theme from much of his work, its bright, strong colors are very much like his other paintings. This mural verges on hidden art. Not only is it impossible to see from the road, but also, since it’s on a door, you won’t see it when Delgado Guitars is open! So you’ll need to come twice, right? Certainly you will if you want to see both the guitars and the mural.

Calacas mural street art Nashville

Calavera mural street art Nashville

Located at 919 Gallatin Avenue. There is a fair amount of parking available at the venue.

 

The Listening Room

Listening Room mural sign street art Nashville

The music venue The Listening Room Cafe has had many incarnations. Founded by Chris Blair, it first appeared in Franklin in 2006. Blair moved it to Cummins Station in 2008, and again to its current location on 4th Avenue un 2012. And it is on 4th Avenue that we find on a stark white wall this sign featuring The Listening Room’s logo, created by Michael Cooper of Murals and More. On the bottom right of the photo, you can see his usual signature, which as always includes his phone number.

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 show time. Enjoy the music and enjoy the art!

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