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

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Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks

Properly, this piece is called “Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks,” though I think most Nashvillians know it as “the roller coaster looking thing down by the river.” It is far and away one of the most photographed and recognizable works of public art in Nashville. Right across the river from Lower Broad, and an easy walk from there over the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, it’s a major tourist site as well. So why haven’t I put it on the blog before? It is the blog avatar, after all. I don’t know, but I finally got it on the blog to mark a major milestone – 600 pins on the blog map. More about that later.

No, it’s not made from leftover pieces of the Opryland roller coaster, which is a persistent rumor in town. Rather, it’s the product of a national competition to build the very first piece of art commissioned under Nashville’s “Percent for Art” ordinance which sets aside one percent of any of Metro’s general obligation bonds for public art, administered by the Metro Nashville Art Commission, better known at Metro Arts.  The contest was won by Alice Aycock, who based her design on the history of the east bank as an industrial site. Completed in 2007, the piece is 100 feet tall, 100 feet wide, and 60 feet deep. It rests on the foundations of an old gantry crane that once lowered barges into the river.

In comments appearing on the City of Nashville website, Aycock described her creation as a work of static animation. “It changes as you move around it,” the artist explained. “It suggests a certain kind of movement, dance movements, which is why I refer to it as a Ghost Ballet.” (Source)

I personally find it fascinating and have taken hundreds of pictures of it. The first set of photos here show it in normal light from various angles, including what it looks like from across the river.

Ghost Ballet is also a pretty good flood gauge. Normally, the whole work is well above the river, and it’s possible to stand a good 20 feet below its base. When the small part I call “the boat” actually looks like a boat floating on the river, you need to pay attention to the weather, as the risk of flood is increased significantly.

I also like to create more dramatic shots of Ghost Ballet. In particular, the way it interacts with the skyline and the river provides lots of opportunities to create interesting shots.

About the 600 pins – I reached 600 blog posts back in April (and did not realize it at the time). There’s a lag mainly because early on when I started this blog I would use one pin for multiple pieces of art that were in one place. I don’t do that anymore. I also don’t remove pins for art that no longer exists. I would hazard a guess that ten to fifteen percent of the points on the map represent lost art. I try to keep posts updated, so check the link in the pin to see if I’ve noted it as lost. This is not a 100% guarantee though, as I don’t always know what is lost. The patterns on the map are obvious – there are key areas where you find a lot of art. In particular, you find many pieces along Main Street and Gallatin Pike, Twelve South, Downtown, Nolensville Pike, the Jefferson and Buchanan corridors, and Charlotte Pike. The main thing these places have in common is a large number of local businesses. National chains have recently begun to sponsor outdoor art, but this is still primarily a local affair.

Ghost Ballet is located on the East Bank Greenway, next to the Bridge Building. It’s just south of Nissan Stadium. There is in fact free parking. Look for the parking for Cumberland Park, which lies near the river south of the pedestrian bridge (the opposite side from the stadium).

 

 

A bull on Charlotte

This bull with the peony in his mouth perched high above the Cumberland appeared on the outer wall of Elemental Arthouse’s factory store a few weeks ago. Why this bull is apparently standing on one of the arches of the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge is unclear, but images of animals, often surreal, are common in the work of the artist, Jessica Fife. A bull with a peony in his mouth also evokes the story of Ferdinand, the peacefull bull who had no interest in fighting, wanting only to smell all the pretty flowers. Elemental Arthouse has more to do with iron bridges than peaceful bulls. They bill themselves as people who “turn homes and businesses into a work of art,” though wood and metalworking. Signs, furniture, and all kinds of decorative designs are made in the warehouse building this small storefront it attached to. The hashtag that both EA and Fife use for this mural is “#bullsitwall.” I tried to come up with a clever blog title around that but didn’t come up with anything I was comfortable using. Apparently, the plan is that EA will make a bench to go in front of the mural so people can sit and have their photo taken. Hence, “bullsit.”

Fife, who teaches art at Austin Peay University, also has written that she has recently bid on more murals in Nashville, so hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of her animals in odd places!

Bullsit mural street art Nashville

Located at 4206 Charlotte Avenue. The mural faces west, away from downtown. Street parking is available on 42nd Avenue, and to some extent on 43rd. The mural lies between these two streets.

The Riders

Between 2010 and 2015, Metro Arts sponsored a series of artistic bike racks by local and regional artists that are now scattered around town. One of the first to go in was this one, The Riders (2010) by Seth Conley. Being based at the foot of the Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, it’s seen by thousands of commuters and tourists every day, even more on a game day. The sculpture is something of a cheeky visual joke, a set of peloton riders racing along to which you to can attach your very stationary bike. (A peloton is a pack of riders who take turns riding in front, where they are fully exposed to the wind, while those behind draft off of them.) I’ve featured a few of these bike racks on the blog before – rarely do you see any bikes attached to them. Those scooters in the back, however, had been neatly placed all around the bike rack when I went to photograph it. They beeped at me a lot when I moved them. The artist, Conley, took a little work to verify, in part because none of his other work looks anything like this. But on his artist Facebook page, where you can see much of his art, there is a picture of the work when it was barely halfway done. Conley hasn’t updated that page since 2018, perhaps because his current job likely keeps him busy – Senior Creative Art Director at Wizards of the Coast, the home company of both Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. (His Instagram page is a little more up-to-date.)

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Located on the 400 block of First Street South, just south of Nissan Stadium and of Victory Avenue, across the street from the east end of the Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. This is in the middle of a giant parking lot. The only part that is reliably free is the part labeled “Cumberland Park Parking” right across the street from the bike rack.

Rivive on 12 South

On this blog, I’ve neglected somewhat the 12 South neighborhood. (And yes, my Nashville memories go back to when it was just 12th Avenue South.) It’s one of the most important tourist destinations in Nashville, which means it has a lot of murals and it’s also a hard place to get clean pictures of murals, with all the people and cars. And parking? Uff. But I really should have posted about this one sooner, because it’s one of the better murals in Nashville. It’s not flashy, with a muted palette, but it also looks like nothing else in town. It’s by a prolific local artist I’ve featured many times, Eric Bass, aka Mobe Oner (the name he signs most of his work with, including this). The fox is just beautiful (see the close up in the second slideshow below). Look at the tall tree on the far right. In the summer, and especially in late fall, it will blend with the live trees behind it. This mural also has something of a twin as well, because it’s sponsored by Rivive, a non-profit that looks to raise awareness about and improve river resources in the Nashville area. They also sponsored a mural downtown by Beau Stanton. Both murals are meant to make viewers think about river conservation and about the forces that impinge on rivers. Mobe Oner’s mural is more explicit than the one by Stanton. Here we see not only what the Cumberland River has to offer but also what threatens it. The Cumberland slices through downtown and is the reason Nashville exists. The wildlife depicted absolutely can be found on its shores, very close to downtown, notably in Shelby Bottoms Park. People really do kayak right downtown, and there are boat ramps on the east bank in Cumberland Park. But obviously, the city, with all its industry and people, makes life tough for the river as well. There’s a giant riverside metal recycling plant right downtown, PSC Metals, of which there has long been a discussion about moving it somewhere else, but as yet to no avail. And in the mural, you can see two icons of Nashville – the Batman Building, and construction cranes. The pressures on the river are real, and sometimes it fights back, but it’s certainly a critical Nashville resource, and the more it can be protected, the better.

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Located at 2814 12th Avenue South. Despite the sign, Iyengar Yoga, now called Chestnut Hill Yoga, is no longer in the building. The mural is on the south side of the building, facing Paris Avenue, on which there is street parking. The reality is parking is hard in this neighborhood, given all the tourists. Be kind to the people who actually live here in making your parking choices.

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