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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.

Baja Burrito

I’ve known about this mural behind Baja Burrito for some time, but have not posted about it before because I wanted a “clean” picture, without various items stacked in front. But that was a fool’s errand for two reasons. One, this is the back door to a busy restaurant. It is a natural thing for all kinds of crates, trays and garbage cans to be stacked by the door. This is the mural’s natural habitat, and the only way to see it. It’s a worker’s mural. Second, when I finally got the nerve to move at least a couple of large, easily rolled pieces out of the way, the staff that inevitably came out while I was doing it didn’t even seem to notice I was there. Maybe people do this all the time. The big trash can that I left for this photo was really heavy and might have been a grease depository. What it’s hiding is a dog, who is in the slide show below. The piece is signed “Luis Marin Creative.” That website is all about Marin’s photography and videography, with no mention of murals, but the profile shot on his Instagram page is a selfie in front of this mural, so I know I have the right artist. The mural itself doesn’t have much to do with the actual goings-on at Baja Burrito, but it does evoke the relaxed vibe that Baja is known for. There are also two cactus murals separate from this mural – one on a separate building that you would see directly to your left if you were standing where the featured photo above was shot. The other is around front, on the right (east) side of the building. Both are found below.

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Located at 722 Thompson Lane. The main mural is on the backside, facing in the direction of Heather Place, but you can’t see it from the road. Parking in Berry Hill is always a nightmare, as there seems to be no public parking. If you’re just here to see the mural, I recommend the Baja Burrito’s offsite parking on Columbine Place, just off of Heather, straight back (north) from Baja Burrito. But hey, there’s a good meal to be had here, so grab some grub and enjoy the art!

An icon under the bridge, a revision

I have featured the wall under the Dr. D.B. Todd Jr. Boulevard overpass on Herman Street twice before. Originally, it was when the first image on the wall appeared, a portrait of Jimi Hendrix that I featured in a very early post to this blog, An icon under the bridge. That piece was done by Dough Joe of Norf Studios. Later, Norf Studios added two more portraits of Nikki Giovanni and Miles Davis, which I featured in An icon under the bridge, revisited. Now a fourth portrait has appeared, of Tupac Shakur. This is not a Norf Studios piece, but one by JamersonSGC, who frequently signs his work “Low Key Art.” You can see all the portraits together below, and the tag “Mr. Woo,” which I’ve seen in a couple places not far from this wall. If there is any further activity on this wall, I will be sure to keep everyone posted.

Icons mural street art Nashville

Located below the Dr. D. B. Todd Jr. Boulevard overpass on Herman Street, between 18th and 19th Avenues. There is street parking on these streets. Your best bet is probably 18th. Just south of this bridge you’ll find a lot of mural and graffiti art.

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.

UPDATE: While the mural was spared, at least temporarily, this building was severely damaged by the March 3, 2020 tornado. The fate of the mural is unclear. See What we lost in the storm.

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.

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