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nashville public art

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

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Tennessee Tough

This mural is hard to miss, given its enormous size (135 feet long, 26 feet high) and its prominent location right across Korean Veterans Boulevard from the Nashville Music City Center. Being that it faces a parking lot, it’s a little difficult to get a “clean” photo, but I finally caught it without cars. It was, not surprisingly, sponsored by the Tennessee Titans, and went up back in September as part of Titans Kickoff Week for the 2020 season. It’s the work of Mobe Oner (Eric Bass), one of Nashville’s most versatile muralists.

Titans Mural Nashville street art

The mural was inspired by Nashville’s response to the March 3 tornado and the pandemic. According to Titans Creative Director Surf Melendez:

“Tennessee Tough really just explains the resiliency of the people of Tennessee. Tennessee Tough are people who get their hands dirty for a living and do what they have to do, like our first responders, essential workers and teachers. Tennessee Tough is our football team.”

Titans Mural Nashville street art

The mural shows an unnamed Titans player with the number “615” (the Nashville area code) on his jersey. Below his arms are the names of all of the counties of Tennessee. Above his arms are a series of quotes from various Tennesseans (or in the case of John Lewis, people associated with Tennessee.) From left to right:

  • “Teamwork is what makes common people capable of uncommon results.” Pat Summit, from “Reach for the Summit”
  • “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Tennessee Williams, from “A Streetcar Named Desire”
  • “The triumph cannot be had without the struggle.” Wilma Rudolph, from a Chicago Tribune interview
  • “We’re ready to go to work for you because you’re our family.” Jon Robinson, from the press conference presenting him as the new Titans General Manager
  • “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” John Lewis (a frequent quote of his)

The mural includes an augmented reality experience, created by MVP Interactive. If you go to the Titan’s page for the mural, you can get a QR code which will start the process (click on “Launch Augmented Reality”). It works on pictures, so try it on the image at the top of the screen (if you are on a computer). The quotes pop out of the mural, and the football player becomes 3-D and spikes the football.

Titans Mural Nashville street art

This press release from the Titans includes a video of Bass working on the mural as well as discussing the process of creating it. He apparently had a lot of freedom in creating the image. You’ll also find an extensive photo essay of the mural’s creation there. The long-term future of this mural is perhaps questionable. The building it sits on, an office and industrial building, is a rare survivor from the industrial past of this neighborhood, and the land it sits on is undoubtedly worth millions – many millions.

Located at 424 6th Avenue South. That’s the address of the parking lot. It lies between 6th Avenue S and Rep. John Lewis Way South (aka 5th Avenue S), just south of Korean Veterans Blvd, and faces to the north. This is downtown, so lots of parking, not much of it free. If you are willing to walk a few blocks, there is some free street parking to the south.

Damaged Stripes

This is a tale of a pristine, precise mural and architecture gone awry. Nathan Brown has produced a number of works in Nashville and elsewhere. Many of his works use what I have sometimes called his “colorful geometry problems” style, though the geometry for this piece at the Stay Alfred Sobro is fairly simple. (I used the Yelp link for that hotel because their own website is quite useless.) There was of course the complication of getting the stripes on the two layered walls to line up, which is a testament to Brown’s skill.

The picture above captures almost all of the mural. As you can see from some of the pictures of it on his website, to really capture all of it you need to be up a few floors in the building across the street, which I didn’t have access to. The other thing that is clear in those pictures – the lower wall is undamaged. Sometime since this mural went up in June, 2016, water leaks severally damaged the wall and the mural. If you look close, you’ll see a series of holes along the wall which are presumably for water draining. Nashville sits on a bed of ancient limestone that is often very close to the surface, and water can move around in strange ways. Obviously, the engineers didn’t get it right here.

The crack creates an illusion. It really looks like the damaged area is a deeper layer, like a few layers of plaster have been peeled off the wall, but that’s not the case. The damage, dirt, repair, and weathering create a trick of the eye. It’s a shame the mural is damaged, but a lot of the great masterworks are damaged, and people still trek to museums and archaeological sites to see them.

On Brown’s Instagram page, you can see a short video of him working on this mural. Blue painter’s tape is absolutely involved.

Located at 310 Peabody Street. That’s the address of the hotel. The mural faces the 400 block of Fourth Avenue South, right at the corner with Peabody. This is downtown. Lots of parking, almost none of it free.

Flood

Somehow I’ve been writing about outdoor art in Nashville for four years and had managed to miss this rather large downtown mural. But it’s on Third Avenue South, which is not nearly as trafficked as 2nd and 4th, the main north-south arteries in this part of SoBro. It’s by two Tennessee artists, Erica Swenson and Stacy Ann Taylor. While it sits on the side of Diversified Equipment Company (which still has a prominent sign for the long-closed Shuler Business Sytems Inc.), it’s for and was sponsored by members of The Anchor Fellowship, which is on the other side of the parking lot (taking this picture, I had my back to the church). Swenson, who first came to Nashville as an intern for Michael Cooper at Murals and More, was a member of Anchor when work on the mural began in 2008, and members of the church raised money for the project. “Flood,” as she calls it, took time. A blog post from Taylor dated October 2011 indicates that she and Swenson were still working on it at that point, but it was probably finshed not long after that. Its age shows, and there has been some minor flaking.

On her website, Swenson describes the mural:

Mesmerizing waves riot into the parking lot, drawing the viewer out into the sublime sea. The arches provide a comforting shelter from the vastness on the horizon. Their ruined state invite the imagination to contemplate what was, what could have been, and what is. Trees on either side facilitate a transition between the ancient, man made structure and the reclaiming elements of nature. They merge with the purpose of the pillars, possessing the ambition to hold up the sky. Although the cathedral walls are no more,the grandness behind the arches now is so much greater than what could have been before.

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The figures in the columns are the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus, St. Peter (identifiable by his keys), adult Jesus, and St. Francis of Assisi (identifiable by dress and the bird in his hand).

The same team also did a large Noah-themed mural at Inglewood Baptist Church, but I’ve been reluctant to put it on the blog, as you need to be deep on church property and on their playground to see it clearly.

This mural is located at 635 Third Avenue South. The mural faces north, towards downtown and towards the church. As long as the church parking lot is not taken up by parishoners, there is parking there. Otherwise, there is street parking on Third.

Survivor

Chromatics Full

I remember the first time I visited Chromatics. I was with a friend of mine who is a photographer. This would have been in the mid/late 1990s. Digital photography was on the rise, but film was still common, particularly with professionals. She was picking up some prints they had developed for her. Chromatics was (and is) in SoBro, more precisely in Pie Town, but this wasn’t when SoBro was cool. Rather, it was cheap – a rundown warehouse district where a big building like this one was easier to acquire than today and must have been even more so in 1979 when Chromatics first opened. Chromatics survives, adapting and flourishing with the revolutions in photography, surviving when many in the business perished. And so too its mural. The panel down on the lower right says that it was “blasted out by TACKZ 7 miles ahead Ciudad de Lost Angeles 5.93.” TACKZ is the nom de plume of a Los Angeles-based graffiti artist associated with the Seventh Letter group (which is also responsible for the mural in Angels will rise), a group that goes back more than twenty years. I have seen older pictures of this mural where the colors are much richer (and where the building next door is industrial, not the hip Tennessee Brew Works), not faded like it is now, so I can easily believe it has been greeting the morning sun for twenty-four years, since May 1993. That would make it one of the oldest outdoor murals in Nashville. It survives, along with the store it advertises. And check out their website – another old school survivor! UPDATE: They have seen thoroughly modernized their website. When I originally published this, they had a very late 1990s-style page.

Located at 625 Fogg Street. The mural actually faces Ewing Avenue, except for a little addendum on the Fogg side. Chromatics has parking, though don’t park long unless you are doing business there. Maybe park at Tenessee Brew and enjoy the art along with your beer?

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