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A Splash of Color

For twenty years, these colorful dancing figures have graced the side of the Watkins Park Community Center. They, along with the mosaics and other figures that adorn the entrance, are called “A Splash of Color,” and were done in 2000 by Doug Stevenson, Ronnica Stanley, and Lynn Harroff.  I got their names from the Metro-Owned Artwork Conditions Assessment Report (pdf), but otherwise, I’ve been able to learn little about them. It’s likely they were associated with the community center at the time. Since then a tree has grown up that obscures the center figures, but otherwise, as the report states, their condition, and the condition of the mosaics, is quite good. Pretty impressive for painted wood exposed to the weather. And they definitely bring color and life to an otherwise drab building. Some differ, but I believe bringing beauty to public spaces is a good use of Metro dollars, though, in these tough budget times, we probably won’t be getting anything new for a while. Good thing these relics are holding up well.

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These are the mosaics and other figures at the entrance.

Watkins Figures mural mosaic Nashville Street art

Located at 617 17th Avenue North. The figures along the wall face south towards Jo Johnston Avenue, while the entrance is on 17th Avenue. The community center has parking, and street parking is available nearby.

By the tracks

It’s been a few weeks since I post any “wild” graffiti to the blog, though for all I know this was done with full permission of the owners. Owners of what? Hard to say. This piece is found on a small concrete building that lies at the corner of 11th Avenue North and Harrison Street, just below the tracks. This is part of an industrial area squeezed between what developers like to call North Gulch to the south and Hope Gardens to the north. It’s an area that has resisted development, a pocket of warehouses and factories a few blocks from the State Capitol. Two long-standing industrial firms are found right across the street. On both sides of 11th Avenue going north and to the east along Harrison Street, is the “campus” of John Bouchard and Sons, a machine shop and iron casting factory that goes back to 1908.  A little farther down Harrison, on both sides of the road, is a branch of U.S. Smokeless Tobacco. While the company goes back to 1822, its Nashville factory on Harrison only goes back to 1996. But its presence suggests this small area will remain industrial. A large plot half a block north of the graffiti mural was recently leveled, tearing down what used to be a Goodwill warehouse that had been severely damaged by fire. The new owners of the site? U.S. Smokeless Tobacco. So, no condominiums, at least not yet.

The little concrete building itself is probably railroad property, though abandoned. For a long time, it was completely screened by trees and occupied by at least one homeless individual. Today, the trees are gone, and a security car is often parked next to it, no homeless to be seen. On the other side of the tracks lies Solis North Gulch Apartments, which start at a little over $1500/month and go up quickly, but the corner of Harrison and Eleventh is likely to stay out of the development craze for some time to come.

UH Graffiti Nashville mural street art

Located at the corner of 11th Avenue North and Harrison Street. Street parking is available, but be aware large trucks come through here frequently.

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.

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.

 

Bugs Bunny and Company

Along the same wall that once housed the mural featured in Hidden skyline, one can now find a set of elaborate graffiti tags, as well as Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny, and of course a camel. Because camels. This art went in in early March, and may soon not be visible. One of those temporary electrical hookups you see at constructions sites has appeared in the yard in front of the mural. Even if the new building doesn’t complete;y hide it, the construction to come will certainly make it hard to take in the whole things. The only tag recognize belongs to Mobe Oner. On his Instagram page, he also credits The Rebel at Large, G. Lowks, bigskan2, and sticker_butthead (the last two are both private Instagram accounts). In any event, this is likely to be blocked from view soon, so check it out now!

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Located at the corner of Herman Street and 19th Avenue North, on the east side. Street parking is available. There is a lot of art on this group of buildings.

Hidden skyline

Skyline mural Nashville street art

I had been aware of this mural for several months, as it’s on my route home for work. At first, I didn’t write about it because I thought it might be unfinished. But as a few months passed, I figured it must be done. Then the problem was taking a picture. The lot in front of it was overgrown, partially obscuring it. Then the lot was cleared, but a bulldozer and big pile of dirt blocked the view. Finally, the lot was cleared a week or so ago, and I got the photographs I needed. I planned to write about it soon. But just yesterday I saw an Instagram post from Mobe Oner showing that he and some fellow artists had painted a serious of graffiti-style murals over this one. You can see just a few bits of the old one sticking out. Otherwise, this skyline is probably visible only here, and perhaps on the phone of whoever made it. (It’s unsigned.) This blog is in part an archive. Several pieces I’ve written about no longer exist, and this is the third or fourth time I’ve written about art that was already gone. I’m glad I got these photos! The scene is a bit of a fantasy. The view would be from across the river near the Seigenthaler pedestrian bridge, and no such line of trees is there.

Skyline Detail

Located at the corner of Herman Street and 19th Avenue North, on the east side. Street parking is available. There is a lot of art on this group of buildings. The fate of the new murals, which I’ll blog about fairly soon, is uncertain, depending on the development future of this lot. They may get blocked from view.

UPDATE: Here’s the art that replaced this mural.

String theory

String mural street art Nashville

Though I have not quite finished documenting the murals associated with the Norf Wall Project, it’s worth noting that the collection of buildings whose walls host those murals have not been static canvases. New work has appeared over the last two years, some of which has already been painted over faster than I could document it. As well, at least one area of the original project has been replaced, which I will document later. This piece is fairly recent. It is unsigned, but the style looks very familiar, perhaps because this particular style of “string art” is sometimes found in the background of large graffiti installations. The three stars in the middle would seem to be a reference to the Tennessee state flag, though the rest of the design distinctly does not evoke the flag. I think it’s one of the more interesting examples of graffiti art in Nashville. How long it will last in this dynamic spot is anyone’s guess.

Located on the 800 block of 18th Avenue North, just south of Herman Street, underneath the Dr. DB Todd Jr. Boulevard bridge. The mural is on the west side of the road. Street parking is available.

Fading beauty

Beauty sign mural street art Nashville

Handpainted signs like this one are found all around Nashville. They are particularly a feature of North Nashville, in the area of the Jefferson St. and Buchanan St. corridors, long a predominantly African American neighborhood. Steady gentrification has begun to encroach on the area, and some of these signs have disappeared as a result. The stately red brick building at the corner of Monroe and 9th Avenue is a survivor, dating back at least to 1900. JC Beauty Collection has not been so resilient. The building seems to have been empty for several years. One would hope it will be renovated and repurposed. Perhaps the new tenants, should that come to pass, will preserve this old sign, as Lockeland Table did when it moved into the old Boutique Coiffures building. Interestingly, there is a JC Beauty Mart in Clarksville, so perhaps the business simply moved. In any event, this piece of the North Nashville fabric must be considered endangered art.

Located at 817 Monroe Avenue, at the corner with 9th Ave North. This is across from the Kroger on Rosa Parks Blvd. There is parking at the Kroger, and street parking on 9th.

Catered art

CarolyinMain2

Sadly, Carloyn’s Homestyle Kitchen has closed, at least as a restaurant. But as a catering service and a venue for art, it’s going strong. On the north side of the building, we see a scene from the inside (taken at a weird angle because of a fence), while on the back there are portraits, presumably of some of the staff at Carolyn’s. There is also on the south wall what appears to be a “lost” portrait, which I’ve included below. No apparent signatures, and the wear and tear suggests at least some of this has been here for a while. It does look similar to the art seen in Down at the corner and Northside Auto Clean Up, both of which are a few blocks away. The Buchanan Street area is undergoing rapid change, so the long-term fate of these paintings is unknown, but as part of neighborhood history, I hope they stick around.

Located at 1601 Ninth Avenue North, at the corner of Garfield Street. The main mural is on the north side of the building, visible from 9th, while the three ladies below are on the back, visible from Garfield. The lost portrait faces Garfield. Order up some good eats for your next party and enjoy the art!

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