Nashville’s street art scene is on fire! The city is known for its music, but the Nashville murals are taking over as a major cultural phenomenon. This mural guide is designed to help you find the most Instagrammable, colorful and mind boggling murals.
Nashville’s Mural Culture is Exploding
Nashville is doing street art in a whole new way. Many groundbreaking street art cities, like Bristol, England have a culture whose gritty graffiti beginnings were driven by an angry youth counter-culture. Not so with Nashville. They skipped the whole disaffected, hip hop, graffiti phase and leaped straight to a fully formed big walls movement. Still other cities, like London’s Brick Lane, have a lot of furtive illegal works appearing (and disappearing) with great regularity. Less so in Nashville. While they do have guerrilla works and graffiti, more of the street art that you’ll find there has sprung from deliberate, commissioned projects organized by collectives.
All of this gives Nashville’s mural scene a clean, bright look that is very Instagrammable, making it popular with a broad cross section of the population. Hey, I’m a street art fanatic, so I’ll skulk down any dark alleyway if it’ll net me a Banksy. But a lot of people prefer their street art to be more accessible and Nashville has that in spades.
Take a Tour or Do it DIY?
There isn’t just one street or neighborhood for finding murals in Nashville. The locations are spread all over the city. For a visitor, especially one who doesn’t have a car, finding them can be tricky. So, I’m recommending two ways for you to see the murals; take a street art tour or do a DIY tour to just a few neighborhoods.
The formal tour is great because it covers a lot of ground and you’ll get backstory on the artists and murals. However, the tour doesn’t cover the downtown area. Alternatively, the benefits of a DIY street art tour is that you will then have time to further explore the neighborhoods, do some shopping and have a bite. The DIY info below shows you four neighborhoods that you can easily get to and explore on your own.
The video above was filmed by Nashville Mural Tours and it features Blek le Rat working on a stencil at the Montgomery Bell Academy. Blek le Rat! He’s the grandfather of stenciling in Paris and his work has inspired Banksy in his
life of crime worldwide fame as a street artist.
This mural and the one below it were created by Guido Van Helten. This mural tells a complete story and it yanked a very emotional response from me. Van Helten paints achingly detailed portraits and the man in this one is a resident of the neighborhood. These murals are located in at 1407 51st Ave in the Nations neighborhood. If you don’t have a car, you can see it on the mural tour. You can also find Van Helten’s work in Reykjavik.
Nashville Mural Tours
I took a tour with Nashville Mural Tours and it ticked all the boxes. It covered all of the best Instagram spots, some secret and hard to find locations, all delivered with a big dose of southern hospitality. The 2.5 hour tour costs $30 and it’s worth every penny. Mary is so serious about her tours, she has even festooned her van in street art. She makes a point of staying up on all of the latest murals in Nashville and she understands the value of the ‘gram. She even offers special private birthday tours for parties of twelve.
Her tours are always evolving, but they touch on art in The Gulch, 12South, Elliston Place garage and the above Van Helten industrial location. She runs tours twice a day and I recommend that you book ahead.
Four Neighborhoods with Clusters of Street Art
The following four areas offer great Nashville mural locations. They all have a high density of art and they are fairly easy to get to. You can easily build them into your Nashville itinerary by mixing in mural spotting with other tourism activities and/or making a point of going out to eat or drink in the neighborhood.
Nashville’s Downtown Core
The Nashville Murals tour doesn’t cover the downtown core, but there’s a lot of street art to be found there. They are all sprinkled in with the bars and museums and you can fairly easily cover them in a two hour self-guided walking tour. I suggest that you start at the Johnny Cash mural on 300 4th Avenue South. Then proceed down 5th Avenue past the Ryman as far as Church street to spot the remaining murals mentioned below.
This was my favorite mural downtown. The sweeping calligraphy technique has such scale and the message was romantic and hopeful. People walk past this mural all day long without pulling back far enough to see the message.
“As long as the moon shall rise. As long as the rivers flow. As long as the sun will shine. As long as the grass will grow.”
The four preceding murals were all part of a project coordinated by the Nashville Walls Project and some of it was sponsored by Gibson guitars. The Walls project has a goal to bring world class artists to Nashville and they are succeeding so far by scoring Guido Van Helten, Louis Masai, Ian Ross and Sentrock.
This neighborhood just west of the tracks is small but hip and popular for breakfast at Biscuit Love and music at the Station Inn. It’s about a mile west of the downtown core and you can walk or pick up a free ride on the Music City Circuit bus.
This is mural is one of the most Instagrammed shots in Nashville. Notice how Montague customized the wings to feature the local music culture. I’m not the Queen of Selfies (by a long shot), but it was very fun getting one at this location. If you do it DIY, be aware there that you may find a line to get your shot. Go at an odd time of day to avoid waiting.
The 12South Neighborhood
Welcome to your next great spot for a street art selfie. Every mural in this neighborhood demands it! 12South offers up a heavy dose of the adorbs, with the Draper James store, 5 Daughters bakery and Frothy Monkey coffee shop. It’s three miles south of town and getting there will cost ~$8 on UberX.
There is also a parking lot located behind the store that has an interesting mural resembling paint chips.
This is a mural with a purpose and if you visit their website and purchase some swag, part of the proceeds will go towards charity.
Oh boy, did I “heart” their donuts. Can you say 100 layers of dough wrapped in a tall sugary package? Eating just one of them is a meal, so stop there for both the mural…and the calories.
Elliston Place Garage
The Elliston Place garage is yet another Nashville Walls project. The whole thing, including the stairwells, is covered. It was a home grown project and most of the participating artists are from Nashville. The garage located at Elliston Place @ Louise Ave. You can find it just east of Bicentennial Park, near Vanderbilt. Getting there from downtown is an ~$8 Uber ride.
More Resources for Discovering Murals in Nashville
- Plan your trip with this three day itinerary.
- Learn more about various projects, including the Elliston parking garage from the Nashville Walls Project.
- Find a Sentrock and other rotating pieces on Charlotte ave with Off the Wall.
- Find other projects from Norf around the city.
- Get background on some of these pieces at Nashville Public Art.
Whether you are visiting this street art for the ‘gram or you want a deep dive into the culture of urban art, I hope that you will enjoy Nashville’s bright, dynamic scene. Happy mural hunting!
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