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

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Diana Ross, Arcade Alley

Almost every new business in Nashville needs a mural it seems, particularly if they cater to tourists. That’s double so if you’re hidden in an alley and need to grab people’s attention any way you can. Sometimes the mural appears well before the business even opens. As far as I know, The WayBack PartyBar isn’t even open as of this writing, and it certainly wasn’t open in late March when the new mural was put in by Stephen Sloan, a Nashville artist who signs his work Never Xtinct

Diana Ross mural Nashville street art

It is of course a glorious image of Diana Ross. The mural is based on an iconic photograph of Ross that was shot as part of a portrait session in 1975 by Harry Langdon Jr. (And yes, for those of you with long memories, he is the son of comedian and early Hollywood star Harry Langdon Sr.) The original photo was shot in black and white, so the limited palette of Sloan’s portrait is true to the photograph it’s based on. The angular ribbon of differing shades of orange could be right out of a 1975 stylebook, the sort of graphic that might be part of the opening montage of a ’70s cop show. There’s a brief video of Sloan working on the mural on WayBack’s Instagram page.

Ross Portrait mural Nashville street art

Sloan has done other work around Nashville, including a mural in 12 South promoting the Nashville Zoo. He also recently contributed to a mural honoring Loretta Lynn at the Loretta Lynn Ranch in Humphries County. This is by the way not the only Diana Ross mural in town. There’s another by JamersonSGC (aka Charles Key) on Jefferson Street.

Ross Mural Nashville street art

Located at 217 Arcade Alley, about halfway between Church Street and The Arcade. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

Quanie Cash – Build Up Our Community

It’s not often I post about brand new art, but this eye-catching mural that went up a couple of weeks ago is right in my neighborhood and hard to miss, being in a prominent spot on Main Street. It’s by Kwazar Martin, an Indianapolis artist who’s only been producing murals for two or three years but has already been featured in national media. This mural marks his first work in Nashville.

The subject is Quanie Cash, a Nashville actor, director and musician who is also the founder of The Build Up Foundation, a non-profit that works with at-risk kids. Cash is not only from Nashville, but he also grew up in the Main Street neighborhood. In a post on his Instagram page about the mural, Cash noted:

I never thought growing up that a Mural of me would be on the Neighborhood Store Building my grandma sent me to everyday. 

Today, there is no longer a neighborhood store in the low-slung cinderblock building on Main. The only business remaining in that building is Tammy’s Beauty Salon. The old neighborhood store has been replaced by a Mapco next door. Perhaps because it’s a small building in something of a low spot, it was not damaged by the March 3, 2020 tornado, despite being right in the storm’s path.

The image of Cash in the mural would appear to be based on the profile shot from his Twitter account (that is, the profile shot he was using in May, 2021). On Cash’s Instagram, you can see a brief clip of him working on the mural.

Located at 718 Main Street. The mural faces west, in the direction of downtown. There is parking at 718 and at the Mapco.

Berry Hill Fences of Fame, Part 10

I’m finishing this series with the smallest of the fences around Columbine Park in Berry Hill that are adorned with portraits of iconic musicians. It so happens that in going clockwise around the park, this is where I landed. Like all the others, it was done by Scott Guion, and all were sponsored by the Nashville branch of the House of Blues, which has since been sold to the Universal Music Group. (That story has a picture of Guion working on the first fence I featured in this series.)  

It has on it three artists who have something of an unusual connection. John Fogerty of course gained fame with Creedence Clearwater Revival, but he fell out with them so strongly that he wouldn’t even play CCR material for decades, given the legal battles that ensued from that fallout. Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs first gained fame collaborating as Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys. After years as a defining act in bluegrass, they parted ways over the future of their music. Scruggs was open to experimentation, while Flatt valued a traditionalist approach.

Fun fact: CCR holds an unusual record on the Billboard charts. They have the largest number of number 2 hits without ever reaching number 1 – five. (I highly recommend the podcast that link is from, Hit Parade by Chris Molanphy. Lots of great, nerdy fun about the music charts.)

This particular fence is also part of the reason it took me so long to write about this series. When I first shot these murals in 2017, there was no parking around Columbine Park or anywhere nearby. On a Sunday afternoon, I briefly parked in the empty parking lot of the business where the mural is found to grab this shot. A passerby in an enormous truck proceeded to berate me for being disrespectful to that business and just being a bad person in general. I didn’t really feel comfortable recommending people go see the murals and be subjected to the same thing, or be forced to walk from a long way away. Berry Hill also doesn’t have sidewalks. But there is in fact now parking all around the park and its has become a more welcoming environment.

Located at 2801 Columbine Place at the corner of Columbine Place (west) and East Iris Drive. The mural faces the park. It is set back a ways from the road, so it might be best to admire it from a distance. Parking is available around the park.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9

Dolly at TailGate Brewery

One trend in Nashville outdoor art I can definitely support is the spread of portraits honoring Dolly Parton, like Kim Radford’s and the one by MuckRock. Now, both of those are on walls, and may be a little more permanent than this one. That said dumpsters are heavy, so this one will probably stick around a while. (By the way, I grew up calling them “dempsty dumpsters,” a corruption of the brand name of the original line of dumpsters, “Dempster Dumpsters.”)

Now, technically, I should have saved either Radford’s or MuckRock’s for today, as they are both women artists and today is International Women’s Day (and my father’s birthday!), but honoring Dolly is certainly in the spirit of the day, as she has long been a supporter of women’s rights and is something of a feminist icon, even though she’s careful about using the term “feminist.”

Dolly Parton Mural Nashville street art

This piece appears to be signed “ALORD 20,” which confused me for a bit until I remembered that Drew Lord is the art director of Tailgate Brewery and responsible for all their art. The dumpster, you see, is located in the parking lot of their Demonbreun Street location (right across the street from the (in)famous Musica statue). The mural includes some outlines of the pickup truck that serves as one of Tailgate’s logos (look under the name “Dolly”). That this work was done by Tailgate suggests it has some staying power, certainly as long as Tailgate Brewery remains in that location.

Dolly Parton Mural Nashville street art

The mural is based on a widely distributed photo that is probably from a 1970s promotion shoot. I have not been able to find who the photographer is, but Parton herself tweeted a copy of it on August 8, 2018, which apparently was International Cat Day. Her caption? (Or is that “cat-tion”?) “Just kittin’ around!” But of course.

Located at 1538 Demonbreun Street. The dumpster with the mural is in a small parking lot next to the traffic circle where the Musica statue is, and sits at the exit from the parking lot onto 16th Avenue South. There is parking in this area, but most of it is either pay lots or belongs to nearby businesses. Grab a brew and enjoy the art!

House of Blues Fences of Fame, Part 7

Of the many fences surrounding Columbine Park in Berry Hill with murals that depict famous musicians, only one is not immediately visible from the street, as it is in the parking lot of what used to be the main House of Blues building. (The whole complex of House of Blues properties in Berry Hill was bought in January, 2019 by Universal Music Group.) The mural can be seen from East Iris Drive, but a water tower partially obscures the view. Like the whole set, this fence was created by Scott Guion for the now closed Nashville branch of the House of Blues.

Faces Mural Nashville Street art
T Bone Burnett

This particular fence is just as eclectic as the others, with a range of artists representing everything from classic country to modern hip-hop. Like the other fences, the people depicted are shown at a range of ages, and this is also one of the only fences where the majority of people shown are alive. Prominently displayed with a halo of rays that make his image look almost three-dimensional is T Bone Burnett, a guitarist and song-writer best known for his work as an influential and prolific producer.

Faces mural Nashville street art
Patsy Cline and Stevie Ray Vaughan

In the middle are two stars who perished young in aviation accidents, the legendary Patsy Cline and the wildly talented guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. They were only 30 and 35, respectively, when they died.

Faces Mural Nashville Street art
Joe Walsh and Snoop Dogg

Next to Vaughn is a portrait of another guitarist, Joe Walsh, who fist gained fame with the James Gang and then became a superstar with the Eagles. And at the far left is Snoop Dogg, aka Snoop Lion, aka Snoop Doggy Dogg, aka Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. He’s labeled here as Snoop Lion, a name he used for a time in 2013 in promotion of reggae record, and is depicted engaging in one of his favorite activities.

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 517 East Iris Drive. The mural faces north across the parking lot towards West Iris. The parking lot is most likely to be empty on Sunday. Parking is available around the park.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10

House of Blues Fences of Fame, Part 6

Of the many fences surrounding Columbine Park in Berry Hill with murals that depict famous musicians, the only fence that faces the park from the east lies directly in front of what used to be the main House of Blues building. The whole complex of House of Blues properties in Berry Hill was bought in January, 2019 by Universal Music Group. This fence is not as crowded with portraits as some of the others, probably because when it was first painted, there were two large trees in front of it that have since been removed. Like the whole set, this fence was created by  Scott Guion for the now closed Nashville branch of the House of Blues.

The people portrayed on this fence were all deeply influential, and it includes a couple of superstars. Like the other fences, Guion plays around with ages, with some of the artists shown as quite young, while others much older. Unlike some of the other fences, all of the artists depicted here have died. The left side of the fence includes the two biggest stars, with a middle-aged Johnny Cash and younger Aretha Franklin.

Berry Hill Faces Nashville street art
Johnny Cash and Aretha Franklin

The rest of the artists shown are important for their instrumental work, their singing, and their songwriting. Albert King was an important blues guitarist and singer best known for the song “Born Under A Bad Sign.” Carl Perkins was a was one of the key singer-songwriters of the early the rock-and-roll era who was known as the “King of Rockabilly.” He worked with a Rolodex of major artists, including a number of collaborations with his fence-mate Cash.

Berry Hill Faces Nashville street art
Albert King and Carl Perkins

On the right side of the fence we find Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf and Ralph Stanley. Reed was highly influential in the development of electric blues guitar playing. Howlin’ Wolf was also deeply influential in blues, as a singer, songwriter, guitarist and harmonic player. Stanley was a towering figure in the creation of bluegrass music. The reality is American music would sound very different without the people depicted on this fence.

Berry Hill Faces Nashville street art
Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf, and Ralph Stanley

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 517 East Iris Drive. That’s the address of the building it stands in front of. It faces west towards the park and Columbine Place. Parking is available around the park.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10

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

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