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

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Slow Burn

Continuity and change – it’s one of the most honored, if not hoary ideas in the study of history, the idea that as much as some things change, there are also things that remain consistent. As this Nashville Scene article notes, the little cinderblock building as 726C McFerrin has been host to a series of small joints that served up hot chicken, from The Birdhouse to Ruby Ann’s and now Slow Burn. The East Nashville spot is Slow Burn’s second, the original is up in Madison. The building, as you can see, has a mural for a sign, a mural that practically comes with its own hashtags, with shoutouts to local colleges and other institutions. It’s by an artist who goes simply by Cora, at least in her life as a professional artist.

Slow Burn Mural Nashville street art sign

Like every restaurant right now, Slow Burn is takeout only (and only cards, no cash) to minimize the danger of spreading COVID-19. These are difficult times for our local restaurants. If you are going to get takeout, do what you can to keep out local places afloat.

Located at 726C McFerrin Avenue, near the corner with Cleaveland Street. There is limited parking at this complex.

Storm damage, Germantown and North Nashville

Early Tuesday morning, March 3, 2020, a powerful tornado touched down at the John C. Thune Airport and the tore through North Nashville, going parallel to Jefferson Street but a little north, then ripped through the southern part of Germantown, jumped the river and tore down Main Street and through Lockeland Springs and beyond. In “What we lost in the storm” I chronicled as best I could what outdoor art had been lost and damaged in East Nashville. On Thursday I had an opportunity to explore Germantown and North Nashville, including the Jefferson and Buchanan Street corridors.

I was deeply concerned that these art rich neighborhoods would also have seen many losses, as I knew from reporting that the general destruction was similar to Main Street and Five Points, where much of the damaged art in East Nashville is found. I am very happy to report that this is not the case. With a couple of minor and one serious exception, all concerning pieces I have never blogged about before, the outdoor art of Gernamntown and North Nashville escaped the ravages of the tornado.

Above, you can see a blue tarp on the wall of the Christie Cookie Company building at Third Ave North and Madison Street. It covers an area where the bricks peeled off the wall. When I saw it on Thursday, there were already workers repairing the building (hence the Port-a-Pottie). I don’t know what it will take to repair the wall, but I have little doubt that Christie Cookie will replace the sign if repairs require it to be destroyed. I know that both Seth Prestwood and Eastside Murals have done versions (scroll down) of this sign, but Christie only shows a couple of tiny pictures of the artist who did this one. Failure to credit sign makers is a common error of companies large and small.

At Green Fleet Bikes, located at 934 Jefferson Street, their mural by Dough Joe is fine, but the tornado smashed the welded sculpture of junk bikes the graces the yard. To my, surprise, I never photographed it when it was intact. These two clips from Google Street View give you a sense of what it looked like in April 2019, though I believe it had been added to since and was larger than what you see here.

When I talked to Green Fleet’s owner as he and staff cleaned up the debris from the storm, he told me passers-by thought the smashed up version of the sculpture was all their good bikes mangled up and crushed together by the storm! The original was done by an artist who the owner could only describe as “an artist from Wedgewood-Houston” and had been added on to by staff overtime. The bus in the background, painted by  Andee Rudloff, survived the storm unscathed.

Bike Sculpture street art Nashville tornado

The greatest loss in outdoor art on the west side of the river is the loss of the R&R Liquor Store sign. R & R Liquor, located a little over a block from Green Fleet at 1034 Jefferson Street, had a decades-old three-dimensional sign not unlike the one at  Weiss Liquor on Main Street that was also lost. Nashville’s inventory of this style of sign continues to shrink. No doubt they are expensive to make and replace. Again, I never took a picture of it intact, so I include here a picture clipped from Google Street View.

We can be grateful that the art-rich neighborhoods of Germantown and North Nashville did not lose more, but of course, the damage to people’s homes and businesses was still tremendous. Nashville has a long way to go to rebuild. I know this town, and I know art and artists will play a key role in that rebuilding.

 

 

 

What we lost in the storm

 

In Nashville, and communities to the east, homes and businesses have been shattered and destroyed, lives lost. Much of what has been broken will take months to rebuild, if ever. Families without homes, employees without paychecks. In the face of that, what’s a little art?

In the last few years, there has been a mural renaissance in Nashville, and it’s been my honor to chronicle it. Arguably, it really started in East Nashville over four years ago, with Chamber East doing much to cajole eastside businesses to take a chance on art. And many ultimately did, so many that the east side, from Fifth and Main to well up Gallatin Road, became the most art dense neighborhood in Nashville. Art is part of this neighborhood’s identity. So when a tornado plowed down Main and through Five Points and beyond very early Tuesday morning, it inevitably took a lot of art with it.

One image more than any other has been the symbol of the tornado damage, Basement’s East’s fallen wall of concert murals with its still intact version of the I Believe in Nashville mural (based on a design by Adrien Saporiti of DCXV Industries). A simple image that speaks to the neighborhood’s musical heritage and its enduring strength.

Basement East mural street art Nashville tornado

Other losses attracted fewer news cameras, but were still quite devastating. This pile of painted concrete blocks is all that’s left of the murals that once wrapped around Hunt Supply Co., a skateboard gear supplier whose building completely collapsed.

Hunt Supply mural rubble

Before the storm, it looked like this:

Hunt Supply Mural street art Nashville

Hunt Supply and Gold Electric Tattoo across the alley are something of neighborhood secrets. You need to know to walk up the alley behind Beyond the Edge to find them, or what’s left of them now. The front side of Gold Electric once had a really fun mural, now shattered in the wake of the storm.

I never blogged about it, nor learned the artist, because I was waiting to get a “clean” picture of the other Gold Electric mural, a memorial to founder Mike Fite. Employee cars were always parked in front of it. Sadly, on the night of the tornado, one was still there and was seriously damaged.

Fite memorial mural street art Nashville tornado

Not so secret was the “Do the Dew” mural by Eastside Murals on the old Family Dollar, just steps away from Gold Electric Tattoo. The building was probably slated for demolition and “mixed-use” development, but it was still a shock to see such a bright and colorful wall collapse, along with the rest of the building. Look close at the rubble and you can see a section of the mural. 

Eastside Murals also created the largest mural that was lost to the tornado. Molly Green at McFerrin was a total loss, the building left in ruins, the ice-cream-colored walls painted by Eastside reduced to rubble.

The alley between Main and Woodland has also been for some time a place filled with art. Almost all of it is by the UH graffiti crew. It included well-made graffiti tags, trippy caricatures, and even a surreal sky. The surreal sky, which I dubbed “Panda Sky,” had already been damaged by construction, but now just a slip of it is left. The hypnotic “Under Hypnosis,” of which the word “under” has collapsed, is by the artist Sterbo.

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One of the most devastating losses is a work that first appeared on this blog in a piece called “A True Survivor.” No, it’s not a mural, but it’s still a work of art that has been part of the eastside’s image for decades. The Weiss Liquor sign crumbled in the storm and with it a lot of history.

Right behind this building is another piece I never got around to blogging about, in part because it had been partially painted over by another piece I’ve only tangentially blogged about, the giant concert mural by Jason Galaz on the back of Crying Wolf. A fence painted by someone who’s signature I never figured out was partially painted over with a list of concert performers by Galaz. Regardless, the fence collapsed.

A more total loss was a large piece of art about art. The facade of Jerry’s Aratama had been covered in art by Hannah Holgate and Marshall Hall, right down to the parking lot itself. The parking lot art is fine, including the signs, but the facade of the building collapsed, largely destroying the mural.

Two more total losses are found in the alley behind Smith and Lentz Brewing. There was a lovely, bizarre fence by Andee Rudloff and Max Grimm that belonged to the house behind Smith and Lentz. Only a single post remained when I checked on it Wednesday. And on the backside of Smith and Lentz was another Eastside Murals piece I never blogged about, I think because it didn’t seem too public behind the bar’s fence, now ripped down by the storm. You can see what it looked like intact on Eastside’s Instagram page.

The featured mural of the eagle at the start of this post is by  Kim Radford and lies on the east wall of Elite Bonding. I never got around to writing about it because I was saving it for a patriotic holiday. (While it’s relatively intact, the work Radford did on the other side of the building is largely gone, the wall having collapsed. Here’s what the eagle looked like undamaged.) I suppose there’s a lesson to be learned about impermanence and not assuming everything will always be what you expect. Another example of this is the East Nashville “EN” murals, which are sponsored by Chamber East. I’ve never put one on the blog for some reason. The one by Troy Duff at Burger Up is intact, but given the state of the building, it’s hard to say if it will last.

East Nashville Burger Up

Tuesday, after the storm, I had more visitors to this site than I’m used to. People wanted to know what it all used to look like, to see what had been lost, to remember what things that had been broken looked like when they were intact. If you want to help artists who have been hurt by the storm, start here. Here is a page with more general information about volunteering and donating for tornado relief.

East Nashville will rebuild, it will prosper, thought scars will remain. And I predict that Nashville’s artists will be in the thick of it.

You Belong (at The Russell)

Not many hotels are found in hundred-year-old churches, at least not in Nashville, which certainly makes The Russell stand out. So too does their mural and sign done, appropriately, by I Saw The Sign, run by Meghan Wood and a partner identified only as “Stinky.” The building is indeed a Nashville treasure. First built in 1904 as the Russell Street Presbyterian Church (also known as the Edgefield Cumberland Presbyterian Chruch) the building housed the Russell Street Church of Christ from 1913 until 2001. The building, which survived the catastrophic East Nashville fire of 1916, was severely damaged in the 1998 tornado. Unable to pay the costs of reconstruction, the congregation sold the building to developer March Egerton in 2001. He repaired it and sold it to The Power House Christian Center in 2003, which passed it on to Life Church International in 2013, who sold it to its present owners in 2017 (there are various organizations by those names).

There’s no missing the building’s history. Besides very obviously looking like a church, there are the magnificent stained glass windows. I include the outdoor views here, but off course they are even more spectacular from the inside. The hotel also honors the spirit of the building through its Rooms for Rooms program, where a portion of the hotel’s proceeds is given to organizations that assist the homeless.

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Located at 819 Russell Street, at the corner with 9th Street South. The mural faces 9th, while the stained glass windows are visible from both 9th and Russell. The historic plaque is by the entrance. There is street parking in this neighborhood. The lot across the street from the mural is hotel parking.

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.

The Once and Future Elliston Place Soda Shop

Elliston Soda Sign mural street art Nashville

It says it there right on the sign. “Good Food Since 1939.” Many a Nashvillian has fond memories of Elliston Place Soda Shop. I’ve had a few burgers there myself. Recently, escalating rents almost forced owner Skip Bibb to close the restaurant for good, but Nashville developer Tony Giarratana bought the restaurant to prevent that fate, promising to renovate and reopen it this year. Recently it was announced that the soda shop would move next door, into a larger 1907 building that once housed the Cumberland Telephone Exchange. That means that everything in and on the old building that Giarratana plans to incorporate in the new site must be removed from the old. The three-dimensional neon sign that once welcomed customers has already been taken down, leaving behind this hand-painted sign (and Purity Dairies ad, who probably paid for it). It’s not clear how old it is, but the only other example on the internet of a hand-painted Purity mural I could find is in Smyrna, TN and it dates back to the late 1950s. Given the wear-and-tear on this one, that’s a probable approximate date for the Elliston sign as well. It certainly can’t be pre-1946, when Ezell’s Dairy became Purity. Since Elliston Place Soda Shop is going into a new building, the fate of this sign is very much up in the air. Interestingly, in the very rough rendering for the new shop, a version of this sign is included. In fact, it’s actually a cut-and-pasted photo of the old sign. Either way, this one is almost certainly endangered art.

Located at 2111 Elliston Place. The sign is on the east side of the building, facing towards downtown. There is metered parking on Elliston Place, and some free parking on nearby streets.

 

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.

G.P. Rose & Co.

This may at first just appear to be a picture of an old brick building, found on 8th Ave South just south of the railroad bridge, a building which until recently housed the Downtown Antique Mall. Look closer though, and a faded set of signs emerges. Damage on the taller part of the building has erased part of the original sign, and banners, one for the departed antique mall, one advertising the building for lease, hide much of the long thin signs down the length of the building.  (There’s a clip from Google Street View below that doesn’t have the leasing sign.) They advertise a firm that was called G.P. Rose & Co. According to the 1919 edition of  Grain and Farm Service Centers, Vol 43 (scroll down to the bottom of page 1143, the linked page) G.P Rose & Co. was founded in 1884, the successor to Smith & Rose. The company featured direct access to the L & N and the N.C. & St. Louis Railroads (there are still tracks behind the building, and rail traffic still passes by regularly) and was powered by three 35 h.p G.E. engines (in 1919, anyway). There were two buildings at the time that could hold a total of 95 thousand bushels and handled wheat, oats rye, field seeds, and cowpeas. As the signs on the building say twice, “A Feed for Every Breed.” It’s quite conceivable the sign goes back to 1884. If so, it would have been originally painted 136 years ago. It’s also possible the sign is somewhat younger or was substantially altered at some point – being sure will take more research. But it’s very likely to be one of the oldest painted signs in Nashville, if not the very oldest. Nashville was a much smaller place back then, as can be seen from the 1889 G.M. Hopkins Atlas of Nashville, and there aren’t many candidates left. For instance, you can see a few faded letters high up on 423 Broadway, present home of the downtown version of Mellow Mushroom, which seem to read “—WELL BROS & Co” that may be from the late 19th century, but that’s about it for Lower Broad and its cross streets. The 1889 Hopkins Atlas also explicitly shows G.P Rose, though back then 8th Ave was called Spruce Street (see the excerpt below). I also found on eBay a collection notice signed by Mr. G.P. Rose himself, dated April 29th, 1885 (which I bought!) – you’ll find it at the bottom. It would be really nice if this sign was spruced up. That will likely depend on the building’s next tenant, assuming it’s not torn down.

GP Rose sign street art Nashville

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Located at 606 Eighth Ave South. It’s possible to park for a while in the space just south of the building, between it and Norris Architecture next door. Otherwise, you’ll need to park on the other side of 8th Ave.

Urban Juicer, Eastside Edition

If you think about it and are a little generous, you can say that the twisted straw on this mural spells out the word “urban.” Which makes sense, since this mural sits on the side of the Gallatin Road version of a local juice bar chain called The Urban Juicer. If you look at that website, you’ll see long, super twisty straws are part of their branding, so this colorful version hinting at all the different kinds of juice you can get fits right in. It’s by David Wright of Manecoon Sign Company, who rarely signs his work, but if you peruse that Instagram account, you’ll see that his art is all over town. The picture above doesn’t capture the whole work, as there is also a The Urban Juicer logo and slogan off to the side, but that would have made a bad header photo for this post (see below). Maybe give The Urban Juicer a try – they were voted Best Juice Bar in the Nashville Scene’s Best of Nashville poll in 2019.

Urban Juicer Mural street art Nashville

Located at 1009 Gallatin Ave. The mural is on the south side of the building. Note that the parking lot it faces is not The Urban Juicer’s parking lot. There’s is in front of and behind their building. There is also street parking on Sharpe Avenue, just to the north.

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