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

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Losers and the Pandemic

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a mural for the downtown branch of  Loser’s Bar and Grill done by Manuel Fuentes. That mural, on the south side of the building, was a great example of the murals in town specifically designed for people to stand in front and get their picture taken. I wrote about it at the beginning of the shutdown and commented on the irony of it not really being used at the time. Here we are about three months later, and the lockdown has eased, even as cases are rising. There are restrictions on venues like Losers, and their downtown branch remains closed. From their Facebook page, it appears their Midtown branch is open on reduced capacity and is featuring live music. Interestingly, they advertise that both locations have new UV-light systems in their airflow systems to reduce contaminants. Welcome to the emerging new normal. To their credit, they aren’t one of the places cited for violating the current pandemic rules. Someday, this will all be over.

Located at 111 Fourth Avenue South. The mural is on the north side of the building, at the far end of the parking lot if you are coming from 4th. It faces towards Broadway. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

 

Thistle Farms

For years, drivers headed east on Charlotte from the western suburbs were greeted by a mural of flowers on one wall of Thistle Farms, or more precisely, their cafe. This one isn’t it. There was another one here for years that I never shot because there were always, always cars in front of it. But more recently, Michael Cooper of Murals and More produced a new mural for Thistle Farms that I did manage to shoot without cars. The flowers you see are of course thistles, the organization’s namesake. The best way to understand what Thistle Farms does is to read their mission statement.

Thistle Farms is a nonprofit social enterprise dedicated to helping women survivors recover and heal from prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. We do this by providing a safe place to live, a meaningful job, and a lifelong sisterhood of support.

They started by making candles, and now provide clothing, jewelry, home goods, and, at their Charlotte location, a nice place for lunch. The goods are all made by the women in Thistle Farm’s healing and recovery program and the proceeds support the mission. Thistle Farms was founded over 20 years ago by the Episcopalian priest  Becca Stevens, who deservedly is one of Nashville’s most honored citizens, including Nashvillian and Tennessean of the Year, a White House Champion of Change and a CNN Hero. All of this is a measure of how important the work of Thistle Farms is. So buy a candle, get a sandwich, make a donation, whatever you want to do to help.

Thistle Farms Sign

Located at 5122 Charlotte Pike. The mural is on the west side of the building, facing 52nd Avenue North. There’s parking in front of the mural and some street parking is available.

 

Black Lives Matter

It’s no secret that the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers has sparked a massive protest movement here in America and around the world. Not surprisingly, it has produced art. Perhaps the most widely shared example is a mural in Minneapolis done by Cadex Herrera, Greta McLain, Xena Goldman, Rachel Breen, Niko Alexander, Maria Javier, and Pablo Helm Hernandez. While I would not be surprised if there are others in Nashville, this one at the damaged Jerry’s Artarama on Main (above) and a similar one at Cobra Bar on Gallatin are the only ones I know of in Nashville at this time. I suspect others will emerge if they haven’t already.

This one is obviously temporary, as it is painted on boards covering a window blown out by the March 3rd tornado. Of course, my last post was about another mural on Jerry’s Artarama, but I feel this one is timely, and as construction is already getting started next door and a large disposal unit you see at construction sites has appeared just to the side of this mural, I thought it important to document it now. I also try really hard to credit artists, but this one is unsigned, and I suspect it is anonymous for a reason.

The happy-style letters belie the seriousness of the topic at hand. In my main work, I am a history professor, not an art blogger. I do not know why this particular incident has generated the enormous energy and the wave of protests that it has, while others like it before did not. My future colleagues will spend a lot of time sorting that out. Some reasons seem obvious, but one thing you learn in history, the obvious answers aren’t always right, or they may not be as important as they look. What history-minded people like me can do is document everything, so the full story can eventually be told. Already, the Smithsonian is collecting signs plastered to the fence around the White House so they will be available to researchers and the public in the future.

Below is a shot giving you some idea of how the piece fits with everything else on the wall. I took it at this odd angle because of the placement of the disposal unit. In it, you see murals by Andee Rudloff and Herb Williams, and the remnants of an older mural by Hannah Holgate and Marshall Hall that was severely damaged by the tornado.

BLM mural sign Nashville street art

Located at 713 Main Street. For now, the parking lot in front of Jerry’s Artarama is available, but once this becomes a construction site, that’s unlikely. The nearest street parking is towards downtown on Seventh Street North.

 

Williams Salvage Company

Williams Salvage Sign mural Nashville street art

If you stand at the bottom of the west (Downtown) side of the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge and turn towards Lower Broad, you should be able to see this faded sign off to your left. It’s at the back end of a gray-green brick building that lies at 127 Third Avenue South, across the street from the Nashville branch of Big Machine Vodka. As of this posting, the building is empty with a big “Available” sign. I’ve known of the faded sign above for some time, but it has frustrated me. The red lettering is so faded, I could only confidently read “Salvage” in the middle, maybe “Company” to the right. But what salvage company? There are of course old city directories at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, but by the time I thought to do that, COVID has closed everything.

But then I stumbled on this blog post from Brentwood Interiors, which used to be called “The Salvage Store” and was located not in Brentwood, but a couple doors down from the gray-green brick building with the mysterious sign. In it, they mention a collection of salvage and interior goods stores that used to line both sides of this stretch of Third Avenue, from the 1950s into the 1990s. One name they mentioned was “Williams Salvage Company.” Now, while it doesn’t look much like “Williams” would quite fit in front of “Salvage” on this sign (maybe it was abbreviated), it doesn’t take much internet sleuthing to find that yes, Williams Salvage Company was long at 127 Third Avenue South. In this picture, you can see it used to say “Williams Salvage Co.” in bold letters on the front of the building. That sign got painted over, but you can still barely make it out.

I’m not sure when Williams Salvage closed. I do know that when Hastings Architecture bought the building in 2002, it was referred to by the Nashville Business Journal as “the old Williams Salvage building.” (Hastings has long since moved on.) These old sings are disappearing. Relics of a different era, they remind of us of a Nashville long gone. I hope whoever moves in leaves the faded Williams Salvage Company sign in place.

Located at, you guessed it, 127 Third Avenue South. The sign is on the south side of the building, overlooking a parking lot. This is downtown, so lots of parking, almost none of it free. Hint: On the other side of the pedestrian bridge, there’s still some free parking for Cumberland Park.

12 South Edition – NLGOY

In the selfie wars of Nashville, the Gulch Wings may be King, but the “nashville looks good on you series” is certainly a contender. Of course, I recently got a shot of the one on a small building behind Frothy Monkey’s 12 South outpost easily only because the crowds are gone, so chalk this up as another pandemic shot. There’s also one on the Anderson Group Real Estate building on 21st South (which I haven’t put on the blog yet) and my favorite, the big one on Nolensville Pike. They’re all done by the artist who bills himself online as NASH.TN Note the small white block next to the word “good.” It’s a notice asking people to please not take down the banner. In the immediate aftermath of the March 2nd tornadoes, banners reading “volunteering” were placed over the word “nashville” on all three murals, making them read “volunteering looks good on you.” Here it is on the one on Nolensville Pike. Tornadoes,  pandemic, what’s next? Another flood? Nashville needs a break.

There is also a Legos Man by for Becks on the back side of the building and a couple of other small pieces by Raddington Falls. One of them may be responsible for the unsigned stencils on the north side of the small building.

Located at 2509 12th Avenue South. The mural is on a small building in Frothy Monkey’s back yard, which can also be reached by a small alley behind Frothy Monkey that runs between Beechwood and Sweetbriar Avenues. That’s where you’ll find the Legos Man. There is street parking, particularly if you are willing to walk a bit, and a fair amount of paid parking in the immediate blocks.

Looking Pretty

This particular wall at the corner of Dallas and 12th in the 12 South district has seen a series of murals that Eastside Murals has played a role in. The mural promoting the American Heart Association’s “Nashville at Heart” campaign that I featured in Last year’s heartthrob was their work, as was the mural that followed – which I never blogged about. Oops – search for “#peacelovegooddeeds” on Instagram – you’ll find lots of pictures of it. This one they helped on, but it isn’t their design. The designer and main artist is Austin artist Emily Eisenhart. That it’s her design is pretty obvious from a quick look at her Instagram page. You’ll note the main theme seems to be people wearing blue pants. The mural sits on the side of a building currently occupied by one of the Nashville branches of Madewell, a clothing store that specializes in denim. Eisenhart also did a mural for Madewell in the Williamsburg district of Brooklyn, in the same signature style. The Nashville mural also had a community component. Students from Pearl-Cohn, an entertainment magnet school, came out one day last March when the mural went in and helped paint it. This is probably why under the word “Madewell,” it reads “Created in support of music and art programs in Metro Nashville’s public schools.” On Eisenhart’s Instagram page, you can find several posts about the production of this mural.

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Located at 2709 12th Avenue South. The mural faces south, towards Dallas Avenue. There is paid parking nearby, and street parking if you are willing to walk a bit. It’s fairly easy right now, but it will be harder when the pandemic ends and the tourists come back.

Glen Campbell, Rhinestone Cowboy

Here is more art in a time of pandemic. It’s unusual for me to have back-to-back posts about works in the same neighborhood, but there is something compelling about Lower Broad right now. The epicenter of Nashville’s tourism industry, it’s normally packed with people and raucous with sound – music, laughter, and the shouts and whoops from bachelorettes on pedal taverns. These days, it’s a ghost town, with only cops and the homeless, and two or three determined tourists. The Glen Campbell Museum and Rhinestone Stage only opened last month. On their Instagram page, they excitedly announced their first customers on February 1. By March 23, like much of the district, they were forced to close their doors by the pandemic.

Along the way, they got a spiffy mural, courtesy of Anthony Billups and Dean Tomasek of Music City Murals. On the museum’s Instagram page, you can see an image of it as a work in progress. It depicts Campbell dressed in rhinestone finery in a desert scene, where the Nashville skyline rises on the horizon like a distant mesa. “Rhinestone Cowboy” was, of course, Campbell’s signature song. While it is tempting to think that the line “I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway” is a reference to Lower Broad, that’s unlikely. The song was written and first recorded by Larry Weiss, a New York native who wrote it shortly after moving to Los Angeles, so it’s much more likely a reference to the one in New York.

Interestingly, the mural is not technically on the museum, which is on the second floor of the building that houses the Nashville branch of Rock Bottom Brewery, and it sits in Rock Bottom’s patio.

Campbell Mural Nashville street art

Located at 111 Broadway, at the corner with Second Avenue, across the street from Hard Rock Cafe. To get up close to it, you’ll need to enter Rock Bottom. The entrance to the museum is on Second Avenue. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

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.

 

 

 

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