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The Gulch Dog Park, Part 1 – Cassidy Bidwell

Having just ended one series, I start a new one. But this one will be shorter than the “Fences of Fame” series, as The Gulch Dog Park only has six murals and a couple of interesting signs. In the summer of 2019, MarketStreet Enterprises, the city-appointed master developer of The Gulch, opened a contest for new murals for a dog park that was then still under development. The new dog park lies at the top of a hill on the west side of the The Gulch, overlooking I-40, just uphill from the Turnip Truck. The artists who won the contest are largely new names in the mural world of Nashville, expanding the roster of our local muralists.

Working from the north to south (north is towards Broadway, south is away from Broadway), the first mural we come to is by Cassidy Bidwell. Bidwell is a local graphic artist and illustrator. Her illustration work, like that seen in this mural, tends to be brightly colored and has a strong pop-art vibe. Though I don’t know when she first created it, the central design of this mural, the record on a record player with the slogan “Lookin Pretty Music City,” first appeared on her Instagram account last May. In that post she lamented how quiet Nashville had become in the early days of the lockdown, and looked forward to it becoming normal. While it certainly hasn’t gotten back to normal, Nashville is definitely nosier right now.

Based on pictures from the announcement of the contest, I think the rock was already in place before the mural went in. This is a smaller part of the park, which is divided into two sections, one for small dogs (where Boswell’s mural is), and one for larger dogs at the south end of the park.

Located at 1216 Pine Street, at the top of the hill. That’s the address of the dog park. This mural is actually close to an alley that lies between Pine and Laurel Street, at the north end of the dog park. It faces east towards 12th Avenue South. This is The Gulch, so plenty of parking, none of it free. However, most Gulch parking is free for the first hour or even longer. Check the signage at each lot and garage.

Part 2

Frankie Pierce Park, Part 3

In August, 2019 Anthony Billups of Music City Murals and Olasubomi Aka-Bashorun did a series of murals in the new Frankie Pierce Park. The murals all honor one of Nashville’s most important Black activists, J. Frankie Pierce.  Pierce was a civil rights activist who played an important part in the women’s suffrage movement in Nashville, and who opened the Tennessee Vocational School for Colored Girls in 1923, which remained open until 1979.

There’s a long Pierce mural on the east side of the park. On the southwest side, there are two Pierce murals flanking a railroad underpass, the southernmost of which I’ve already featured. Today being the first day of African-American History Month, it’s a good time to wrap up this series. This third mural lies across the street from the second one. Here we can read a short biography of Pierce’s life and work in the form of a newspaper article, and learn about her campaigns for civil rights and women’s suffrage.

Frankie Pierce Park is a green space that includes a children’s playground that was built as a public-private partnership between Capitol View, a massive multi-block development, and Metro Parks. It lies in a triangle of land between two elevated railroad lines that separate Capitol View from Capitol Hill.

Today, the neighborhood the park is found in is know as Capitol View, after the enormous development project. There are even developers and real-estate agents who like to call it “North Gulch,” which is truly awful. But as the “newspaper article” that makes up the mural notes, when Frankie Pierce was alive, this patch of land was called Hell’s Half-Acre. Founded during Reconstruction, the neighborhood was populated by Blacks and immigrants. As it lay outside of city limits at the time, it was a place where saloons and all kinds of vice flourished, but was also home to a rich African-American culture. It was razed in the 1950s as part of a Capitol Hill Redevelopment plan, and largely remained empty (or used as parking lots) until the Capitol View development project was built. Gentrification, or just outright destruction of neighborhoods, is not a new problem in Nashville.

Here you can see the “newspaper” mural with its companion, looking out of the park towards the Capitol View development.

Underpass murals Nashville street art

Located at 130 Lifeway Plaza. That’s the address of the park. The mural is found on the south end of the park, on the southern railroad underpass, right off of Nelson Merry Street. The easiest parking is off of Nelson Merry, which you can see in the bottom image, and at Capitol View.

Part 1 Part 2

Frankie Pierce Park, Part 2

Back in August, Anthony Billups of Music City Murals and Olasubomi Aka-Bashorun did a series of murals in the new Frankie Pierce Park. I wrote about the main one in Frankie Pierce Park, Part 1. That mural is on a long wall on the east side of the park, while this is one of two along a railroad underpass on the southwest side of the park.

Frankie Pierce Park is a green space that includes a children’s playground that was built as a public-private partnership between Capitol View, a massive multi-block development, and Metro Parks. It lies in a triangle of land between two elevated railroad lines that separate Capitol View from Capitol Hill.

It honors one of Nashville’s most important Black activists, J. Frankie Pierce.  Pierce was a civil rights activist who played an important part in the women’s suffrage movement in Nashville, and who opened the Tennessee Vocational School for Colored Girls in 1923, which remained open until 1979.

It is her key role in the votes for women campaign in Nashville that is the subject of this mural. A parade of women in the long, white dresses of suffragettes dominates the scene. One of them carries a sign that reads, “August 18, 1920.” That was the day Tennessee became the crucial 36th state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote. Of course, Pierce, as a Black woman in the Jim Crow South, was not able to fully exercise that right even after the amendment passed.

The mural includes a quote from Pierce: “We asking only one thing – a square deal.” (May 1920)

Pierce Quote mural Nashville street art

Below you can see it in context with the other underpass mural. If you were standing where this picture was taken, the main mural would be behind you and to your right. The park is to your right in this photo. You can see some of the Capitol View development on the other side of the railroad bridge.

Underpass murals Nashville street art

Located at 130 Lifeway Plaza. That’s the address of the park. The mural is found on the south end of the park, on the southern railroad underpass, right off of Nelson Merry Street. The easiest parking is off of Nelson Merry, which you can see in the bottom image, and at Capitol View.

Part 1 Part 3

Frankie Pierce Park, Part 1

As part of the massive Capitol View project off of Charlotte Avenue, the developers agreed to create Frankie Pierce Park, a green space that includes a children’s playground that was built as a public-private partnership between Capitol View and Metro Parks. It lies in a triangle of land between two elevated railroad lines that separate Capitol View from Capitol Hill. Real estate folks like to call the area around Capitol View “North Gulch,” but it used to be known as Hell’s Half-Acre, long a Black neighborhood, which was torn down in the mid-twentieth century.

Frankie Pierce Mural Nashville street art

Because of its history, it’s appropriate that the park be named in honor of one of Nashville’s most important Black activists, J. Franke Pierce.  Pierce was a civil rights activist who played an important part in the women’s suffrage movement in Nashville, and who opened the Tennessee Vocational School for Colored Girls in 1923, which remained open until 1979. Her work for women’s voting rights is honored in the Alan LeQuire statue of suffragette activists found in Centennial Park I wrote about in These women came to vote!.

Frankie Pierce Mural Nashville street art

This mural, as well as two others nearby that I’ll post about later, is the work of Anthony Billups of Music City Murals and Olasubomi Aka-Bashorun, and it went up back in August. On his Instagram page, Billups discuss the fact that every day they worked on the mural, they were questioned by police. Billups, who is white, found himself needing to defend Aka-Bashorun, who is Black. Billups says that he has never been questioned by police on any project before, but police repeatedly questioned what Aka-Bashorun was doing. He says:

It was also apparent that when I showed up, the situation de-escalated because I am white. What if I hadn’t been there??

All this while they were working on a mural honoring an important Black activist.

Frankie Pierce Mural Nashville street art

Located at 130 Lifeway Plaza. That’s the address of the park. The mural is found on the south end of the park, on the left side of the eastern railroad bridge, right off of Nelson Merry Street. The easiest parking is off of Nelson Merry, on the other side of the western railroad bridge, at Capitol View.

Part 2 Part 3

Frankie Pierce Park sign

Threshold (The Cumberland Gear Ring)

One of the quieter of Nashville’s iconic outdoor art works is the giant gear ring embedded in the sidewalk along the East Bank Greenway, down by the Nissan Stadium. It doesn’t have the pizzazz of Ghost Ballet, the twisting red sculpture just a couple hundred yards away that’s impossible to miss from across the river on Lower Broad. It’s not controversial like Musica, the dancing pyramid of nudes just off Music Row. It’s just steady and serene, like a quiet sentinel.

Threshold Ring Nashville street art

There’s no plaque (unusual for city-owned art), so most people don’t know it has a name or any idea who’s behind it. It’s by Joe Sorci and it’s called “Threshold.” (That link is from Facebook. His website requires flash, which many browsers block. UPDATE: The website no longer uses Flash.) It was installed in 1999, and it’s the product of a grant from the Metro Development and Housing Authority (which may explain the lack of a plaque – Metro Arts is very good about signage). It’s art based on found materials. Like Ghost Ballet, it’s made from objects left behind by the barge companies that used to operate on the east bank. Specifically, it’s the gear from a steam crane that once loaded and unloaded barges.

Gear Ring Sculpture Nashville street art

It’s actually part of a set. Nearby there are some less well known pieces, including a mosaic embedded in the sidewalk and a long bar with a gear on the end. These are also by Sorci and were made from found materials as well. I’ll feature them in a later post.

Threshold sculpture Nashville street art

As you can see, I’ve photographed it in different seasons. I think that just highlights its unchanging solidity. It doesn’t show up on social media as much as some of the flashier art in town, but unless the city removes it, it’s likely be in place much longer than almost anything in town. People do like to get their photos using it as a frame, and an intrepid few climb it and hang from the top for a photo.

Ring sculpture Nashville street art

This image shows how that might be done. The internal partitions provide handholds that could be used as a kind of ladder to get to the top, if someone were willing to try. You didn’t hear that from me.

Gear Sculpture Nashville street art
Two Nashville icons together, Threshold and the Batman Building
  • Ring Sculpture Nashville street art
  • Gear Ring sculpture Nashville street art
  • Threshold sculpture Nashville street art
  • Gear Sculpture Nashville street art

Located on the East Bank Greenway, which parallels Titan’s Way. If you are on the river side of the stadium, its almost directly lined up with the middle of the stadium. There’s some free parking for the park on the other side of the pedestrian bridge that lies south of the ring.

House of Blues Fences of Fame, Part 3

Travelling clockwise around Columbine Park in Berry Hill, coming from Bransford Avenue, the third fence you come to is one of the youngest. I know from happenstance that the artist, Scott Guion, must have been working on it October, 2017, because I have a photo of from thent where the sign portion (see the photo at the bottom if the post) is white, the sign not yet painted. It’s one of several around the park sponsored by the Nashville branch of the House of Blues. The House of Blues calls them the “Wall of Fame,” but for obvious reasons, I went with “fences.”

BH Faces mural Nashville street art
Bob Marley, Minnie Pearl, Amy Winehouse

This fence is not as dense as the first two, featuring only six artists. It’s also a bit more consistent with ages, showing all of them in the middle/leat-middle stages of their careers, expect of course for Amy Winehouse, who of died young of alcohol positioning. All of them are icons of their genres. We see our first artist on the fences who is not primarily known for music, but rather comedy, Minnie Pearl. Bob Marley, James Brown, Prince, and Waylon Jennings round out an extraordinary list. One thing that is different about this fence from the fist two, it’s the first of the fences I’ve featured in which all of the artists are dead.

BH Faces mural Nashville street art
James Brown, Prince, Waylon Jennings

The blue house in the back was also decorated by Guion, as was the bit of fence in the back ground you can see in the picture at the bottom.

BH Faces Sign mural Nashville street art

See Part 1 of this series for why I’m just now writing about these murals. Spoiler alert: You can finally park in Berry Hill.

Located at 520 East Iris Drive. The mural faces south towards the park. Parking is available around the park.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9

The Gathering

Some of the most visible and seen outdoor art in Nashville are the pieces in William Edmonson Park. With busy Charlotte Pike just steps away, thousands of Nashville commuters drive past these every day, and they have become familiar landmarks for many. Of course, the are an intrinsic part of the John Henry Hale Apartments, an MDHA-run affordable housing complex that was completely rebuilt a few years ago and which borders the park. One of them I’ve written about before, Road to the Mountaintop by Thornton Dial at the northwestern end of the park.

Near the other end of the park are these figures by Sherri Warren Hunter, called “Ther Gathering.” The four figures have not always been Charlotte Pike landmarks, however. Originally, they sat in front of The Oasis Center headquarters, when the center was still on Music Row. In 2001, Hunter gathered volunteers from Oasis and from the community, taught them how to cut and set mosaic, and turned the production of the figures into a real community event. After ten years The Oasis Center moved to a site just west of the park, and in 2013 Oasis donated the figures to Metro Nashville Arts. Metro Arts worked with Hunter to restore and move the pieces safely. A U-shaped string of rock benches allow for seating around the sculptures. Sometime since 2013, the unusual “shades” seen below were added.

The Gathering Sculpture Nashville street art

We live in a time when gathering is of great concern. The COVID-19 pandemic has kept people apart, while the protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Milwaukee police have brought people together – and torn them apart as well. Hunter’s piece reflects a simple truth, that we are social beings, and are often defined by our relationships with each other. And of course our pets.

Located at 1600 Charlotte Avenue. The sculpture lies near the northwestern end of the park, facing along a driveway that comes off of 17th Avenue North, near the intersection with Charlotte. The nearest street parking is one block north on Capitol Point

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