Search

nashville public art

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

Tag

#statue

Four years and counting

Today is the fourth anniversary of this blog, and I present a work of art no Nashvillian has ever seen. Ok, not a very good joke, but the “Musica” sculpture by Alan LeQuire has been a notable absence from a blog with the motto “no art left behind.” It is in fact one of the most commented-on works of art in Nashville, ever since it went up in 2003. The nakedness of the figures has been a main point of discussion, and at various times pranksters have put clothes on them. Recently, they were briefly masked. Perhaps less known is that the traffic circle they sit in is the Buddy Killen Circle. Killen was an important Music Row producer and publisher before his death in 2006. (Pictures of “Musica” in the round can be found at the bottom of the post.)

I don’t think I knew what I was getting into when I started this blog. It’s become a little something of a second job, though I wish I could tell all the folks trying to sell me blog-related services, this is a strictly non-profit hobby. I started at just the right time. Although this is certainly not a murals-only blog, the explosion in the Nashville mural scene is what has sustained it. Four years ago, murals were mainly on auto repair shops, in back alleys, and other out-of-the-way places. Then they migrated, slowly at first and then a rush, to the street-visible walls of local businesses. In the last several months, national chains have begun to enter the mural market, though not yet at full steam. Why has all this happened? In part, it goes back to an early push by Chamber East (the East Nashville branch of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce) and the high-profile example of the works promoted by the Nashville Walls Project. But it is also about a slow-developing movement reaching critical mass. One store-owner gets a mural and gets a lot of attention, and then neighboring businesses want one. Then it starts a few blocks down. Next thing you know, we have several full-time muralists in town and a few people leading mural tours for a living. While I have you here, I’ll tell you my little hobby horse: The artists who do mural work for Latino and other immigrant businesses are some of the most prolific artists in town, they’ve been doing long before anyone else got started, and they deserve to be recognized as real artists!

The blog has grown slowly in activity over the years. The first full year, 2017, 600 views a month was common. In 2018, it rose to around 1500 a month, to a little over 2300 per month in 2019. 2020 has been weird – a 3000 view month in both March and June, with a big crash in the months in between. That may have something to do with the demographics of my readers. Google tells me that my readership skews heavily female, and the largest group of readers are women aged 18-34 – you know, the bachelorette demographic? Who weren’t in town much during the height of the shutdown? By the way, those bachelorettes are another major reason for the mural explosion, as murals pull them in and that drives street traffic, music to any business owner’s ears.

And slowly but surely, Google has taken notice. If you search for “nashville public art,” I’m usually near or at the top of the page. With “nashville murals” and “nashville street art” you can now actually find me, though you still have to work your way through a few pages of links to all the “Here are the best 20 murals for your Instagram shot” articles to find me. For years though, this blog just didn’t show up at all in those kinds of searches. Progress!

The blog needs revamping. The biggest project I have in mind is thoroughly revising the Categories tab. I set up those categories on day one having no idea what I would need, and most of them I never use. I’d like them to reflect better what’s on the blog and be more useful to readers. That’s going to be a big job because I hit 600 posts back in April, but it’s on my list. I know that picture-heavy as it is, the blog can load slowly at times, and I need to work on that as well. Speaking of milestones, the map will have 600 pins on it soon, so look for me to finally post about another major work of art missing from my blog when that happens.

I’m going to keep at it, and sometime, possibly later this year, I’m going to start including work from the surrounding counties. In the meantime, keep reading, and get out there and enjoy the art!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Musica” is located in the middle of Buddy Killen Circle, where Music Square East, Division Street, Demonbreun Street, and 16th Avenue South meet. There is paid parking in the building between Demonbreun and Division and elsewhere nearby. Street parking is available on some nearby blocks.

Little Jimmy Dickens

As he was a long-time stalwart of the Grand Ole Opry, it makes sense to find a life-size sculpture of Little Jimmy Dickens right in the center of the plaza in front of the entrance to the Ryman Auditorium, the Opry’s long-time former home. It’s actually fairly new. It and a statue of Bill Monroe nearby were unveiled on June 7, 2017. Both are by the Mississippi sculptor Ben Watts. (I’ll write about the Monroe statue in a later post.) Brad Paisley, who cites Dickens as an important influence, helped dedicate the statue, noting Dickens’s hard work and commitment to entertaining his audiences. Dickens, who died at 94 on January 2, 2015, had been on stage at the Opry just days before.

Besides his diminutive size and love of funny novelty songs, Dickens was also an early pioneer of the rhinestone style, which West has captured in bronze. Dickens was also a Shriner, and consistently wore a Shriner symbol on his cowboy hats, also seen in West’s work.

The Ryman has announced plans to work with Watts again to produce more statues of iconic country music figures, so expect to see even more bronzes at the Ryman in the coming years.

As you can see in the slideshow below, this is another in a series of works that has a helpful suggestion as to where the photographer should stand for your photo with Dickens. The empty plaza in my photos also tells you that I shot this during the pandemic shutdown. Even so, I did have to wait for a small group to finish their pictures first.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Located at 116 5th Avenue North. That’s the official address of the Ryman, and long ago it was where you entered the building. However, the modern entrance faces the 100 block of 4th Avenue North, about a half-block north of Broadway. That is where you will find the statue. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

The Gathering

Some of the most visible and seen outdoor art in Nashville are the pieces in William Edmonson Park. With busy Charlotte Pike just steps away, thousands of Nashville commuters drive past these every day, and they have become familiar landmarks for many. Of course, the are an intrinsic part of the John Henry Hale Apartments, an MDHA-run affordable housing complex that was completely rebuilt a few years ago and which borders the park. One of them I’ve written about before, Road to the Mountaintop by Thornton Dial at the northwestern end of the park.

Near the other end of the park are these figures by Sherri Warren Hunter, called “Ther Gathering.” The four figures have not always been Charlotte Pike landmarks, however. Originally, they sat in front of The Oasis Center headquarters, when the center was still on Music Row. In 2001, Hunter gathered volunteers from Oasis and from the community, taught them how to cut and set mosaic, and turned the production of the figures into a real community event. After ten years The Oasis Center moved to a site just west of the park, and in 2013 Oasis donated the figures to Metro Nashville Arts. Metro Arts worked with Hunter to restore and move the pieces safely. A U-shaped string of rock benches allow for seating around the sculptures. Sometime since 2013, the unusual “shades” seen below were added.

The Gathering Sculpture Nashville street art

We live in a time when gathering is of great concern. The COVID-19 pandemic has kept people apart, while the protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Milwaukee police have brought people together – and torn them apart as well. Hunter’s piece reflects a simple truth, that we are social beings, and are often defined by our relationships with each other. And of course our pets.

Located at 1600 Charlotte Avenue. The sculpture lies near the northwestern end of the park, facing along a driveway that comes off of 17th Avenue North, near the intersection with Charlotte. The nearest street parking is one block north on Capitol Point

The AT&T Sculpture

This work took a little bit of sleuthing because it is not labeled. It’s certainly not secret. It lies at 4th and Commerce, at the foot of the Batman Building (aka the AT&T Building), almost directly across the street from the Ryman Auditorium. Certainly, it’s well known to people who work downtown and has been seen by a lot of tourists, and in 2005 it was featured on the cover of the Nashville Business Directory. It turns out that it’s a creation of Lin Swensson, who happens to be the daughter of the architect who designed the AT&T Building, Earl Swensson of ESa. It’s thirty-five feet tall and was unveiled on October 12, 1994. As the Tennesse Department of Community and Economic Development was one of the building’s original tenants, the sculpture was meant to be an abstract representation of Tennessee’s economic growth. The best way to describe it is with the artist’s own words:

The design consists of a granite spire tapering at the top – around the spire is an image of the state of Tennessee.  Out of the state of Tennessee image is a stainless ribbon representing energy emerging, twirling up to meet three kinetic rings representing the world.

The installation was quite a process that involved closing streets and heavy machinery. Swensson herself is apparently still sculpting, but based on her website, it appears her main focus now is healthcare art consulting.

This slideshow takes you on a clockwise walk around the sculpture.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Located at 333 Commerce Street. The sculpture is in a small well just off the corner of 4th and Commerece. There are benches where you can sit and observe the sculpture, or more likely, have lunch. This is downtown – lots of parking, almost none of it free.

The Founding of Nashville

Historic statues, like any way of telling history, always come with a point of view. This statue commemorates the moment that two founders of Nashville, James Robertson and John Donelson, reunited on approximately the very spot the sculpture sits, and clearly represents it as a noble if somber moment. In the middle of the American Revolution, Roberston (shown with an ax over his shoulder) and Donelson (shown with a rifle) were part of a group of colonists who sought to settle along the Cumberland River. In late 1779, Roberston traveled by land from what is now Kingsport, TN with a group of about 200 men. They chose a site known as French Lick to build Fort Nashborough. Donelson came by river with a large group that included families, arriving on April 24, 1780. It’s entirely plausible that Roberston and Donelson shook hands that day. Of course, what the statue doesn’t really address is the Cherokee who lived on this land. Well, the large plaque beneath the two men which tells the story of the founding does mention how Donelson overcame “savage Indians” in his journey downriver. There is a faded “YOU THIEF” underneath Donelson as viewed from behind him. Commentary? (See the slideshow below.) The text of the main plaque also mentions the Cumberland Compact, the “constitution” of the settlers. The large plaque in front of the statue lists the signers of the compact.

Cumberland Compact sculpture Nashville street art

The work was commissioned by Mayor Ben West, who may be best remembered today for a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights movement in Nashville when he agreed with student leader Diane Nash that discrimination based on color was wrong. It was done by Thomas Puryear Mims, who was a professor and artist-in-residence at Vanderbilt University, and was installed in 1963. Mims did a number of other sculptures around town, though this is the first one I’ve discussed on this blog.

A recent report by Metro Arts on the condition of Metro-owned art rates the condition of the work as poor and places the need for repairs at a high priority (see page 25). You can see some of that in these pictures, including the staining on the bronze and the damage to the pedestal. This sculpture is also protected by the Tennesee Heritage Protection Act, a bill designed to protect Confederate monuments from being taken down, but which applies to all publicly owned historic monuments. To my knowledge, there are no monuments in Nashville to Dragging Canoe, a Cherokee leader who fought against settlers moving into Cherokee lands, including an attack on Forth Nashborough in 1781.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Located on the 200 block of First Avenue South, a little south of Church Street. This is downtown, so lots of parking, very little of it free.

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.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Road to the Mountaintop

Along Charlotte, not far from the Capitol, lies William Edmonson Park, adjacent to the John Henry Hale Apartments, an MDHA-run affordable housing complex that was completely rebuilt a few years ago. As part of that reconstruction, the park was redone as an art park honoring William Edmonson, a decision that in part came out of community discussions. Edmonson was a local sculptor who, in 1937,  became the first African-American and the first Tennessean to have a solo show at the Modern Museum of Art in New York. The park contains three modern sculptures commissioned by Metro Arts (and an arrangement of limestone column fragments honoring Edmonson). This one, “Road to the Mountaintop” (2014) is by Thornton Dial. In many ways, this is quite appropriate. Like Edmonson, Dial was a self-taught African-American artist who devoted himself full-time to art in his 50s after losing employment. While Edmonson worked in readily available Nashville limestone, Dial, a former metalworker, used iron, steel and found objects to create his work. Road to the Mountaintop is made from steel, sheet metal, and automotive paint, and has a weathered look as a result. The main photos here are from October 2019, but the two at the bottom are from July 2016, and you can see some clear distinctions. Dial had this to say about his work (quoted in NashvilleArts Magazine):

“I make my art for people to learn from, but I only have made one piece to go outdoors before this one. I loved the idea that people would be driving down the street and looking at my art outdoors. More people can see it that way and maybe understand what it is that artists like me think and are trying to tell people. The piece is about Martin Luther King and Civil Rights in some ways, but it is also about the struggles that every person faces if they’re a woman or a man, a black person or a white person. We all got to struggle to get up. That’s our job, our duty.”

Here are photos from the park’s dedication, where you can also see some of the other work in the park, works which I will put on the blog in the coming weeks. Oh, and the Nashville Scene’s park reviewer (which is apparently a thing) is not a fan of the park. I think it’s nice, myself.

On a related note, there was a recent attempt by Metro to sell the park in Edghill where Edmonson’s home used to be. It’s stalled for now, and the neighbors want their own art park honoring Edmonson. If it happens, it would certainly be a fitting honor.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Located at 1600 Charlotte Avenue. The sculpture lies at the northeast end of the park, facing 16th Avenue North, near the intersection with Charlotte. The nearest street parking is one block north on Capitol Point.

A refurbished stalwart citizen

One of the very first posts on this blog was A Stalwart Nashville Citizen (July 3, 2016), highlighting the sign of Ironworkers Local 492 on Dickerson Road. But back then, our man in blue was simply gray and had a fair amount of rust as well. Sometime in the last year, 492 obviously thought it was time to spruce the guy up with some fresh paint! And it being Labor Day, it’s an obvious time to celebrate his sharp new look. Now his uniform, tools, gloves, and boots are much easier to make out. And with the new paint job, he will continue to watch over Dickerson Pike (and remind frequent drivers that Trinity Lane is just around the curve) for years to come.

Ironworkers sculpture street art Nashvile

 

Ironworkers sculpture street art Nashville

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At 2424 Dickerson Pike. The union office has a large parking lot, and unless the union workers are practing in the lot, you should be able to park there.

500 Pink Elephants

Well, actually there is only one pink elephant, at least on Charlotte Avenue. But this is the 500th post on this blog, and I thought it was a good moment to post something different! And a good time to take a little vacation of sorts, because this time, WPLN did all my research for me. To be more precise, Sara Ernst, a former multimedia reporting intern at Nashville Public Radio did the research for the podcast Curious Nashville. You can read her story about the elephant, or listen to a podcast episode about various Nashville animal stories, including the pink elephant. Pinkie is currently the mascot of University Motors – you’ll find her on their website, and emblazoned on the shirts of their staff. She’s not the first elephant to reside here. Back when this spot was McPherson Motors, an even larger pink elephant greeted drivers on Charlotte. Even though the original elephant and McPherson Motors were gone for years, there was enough local nostalgia for the old one that when University Motors moved to the site, it seemed inevitable that they too had to have an elephant. But seriously, read Ernst’s story!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Located at 6005 Charlotte Pike. Perhaps the best place to park is the Dollar General next door.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑