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Art as Style: Nashville on the Road & In the Sky

Artists clamor to Nashville to express through autos & street art

Emmy Burton
January 26 2022

When thinking about Nashville, what comes to mind? Is it the Country Music Hall of Fame or Music Row? Perhaps it is the mouth-watering barbecue found around every corner of the city. Maybe what comes to mind is the bustling entertainment and fashion history. All of these visuals are true, but there are two unexpected elements to the city that are just as apparent but not as well known; the car and the street art scene. Let’s hit Nashville’s streets first.

Art Deco on wheels - Nashville 

1938 Hispano-Suiza H6B Dubonnet “Xenia” Coupe/ Frist Art Museum

Art isn’t just classified as a masterpiece once painted on canvas or a wall. Art extends itself to fashion, the environment, and vehicles, too. There are as many opportunities to experience the street of Nashville while mural hunting, but there is also a discreet corner of the city dedicated to loud, proud art on wheels.

In 2013, The Frist Art Museum in Nashville opened their doors to a unique art deco series Sensuous Steel: Art Deco to showcase Art Deco automobiles from some of the most renowned car collections in the United States. The exhibit included motorcycles and vehicles from the 1930’s and ‘40’s representing the iconic Art Deco style. Vehicles showcased included:

934 Voisin Type C27 Aérosport Coupe / Frist Art Museum

Lane Motor Museum

Lane Motor Museum / Mural

Where can a tourist or local go to see both incredible vehicles and murals? Look no further than the Lane Motor museum of Nashville. Upon entering the grounds, there are three main murals painted to pay homage to Jeff Lane, the vintage collection of cars inside, and an adorable dog.

Lane Motor Museum / Mural

Inside, founder Jeff Lane has compiled a personal collection alongside donated vehicles to showcase the classic beauty of vintage European vehicles. The museum has increased collections to represent planes, motorcycles, cars, bicycles, and even boats! There truly is something for everyone.

Lane Motor Museum

Whether you are drawn to the murals of the city or the vehicles in museums, Nashville is full of artistic opportunities for every taste. Just be careful not to blink, you might miss an artistic masterpiece in the sky or on the road.

Art & Architecture: Nashville’s Urban Gems

Spend enough time in the city of Nashville and you will find coffee shops with bright images of flowers decorating the outside or parking garages with uplifting messages painted on the side. There is eclectic street art, passionate messages about justice and peace, images paying homage to famous residents, and murals outside of boutiques that look like they could hang in a museum.

Nashville Mural by Beau Stanton

With something for everybody to post on Instagram, there is also a rich history behind one iconic image in particular. An image that represents Nashville with a powerful message behind it

Street art around every corner

Postcards from Hawaii - I believe in Nashville
Who and what started the street art scene is arguable, but most local Nashville residents reference the “I Believe in Nashville'' mural as one of the first trendy and Instagrammable spots tourists visit in the Music City. Another popular mural is the “What Lifts Your Wings” painted by Kelsey Montague, found in the heart of the city.

Postcards from Hawaii - What Lifts You

As Instagram-worthy as many Nashville murals are, The Old Man in the Sky is living art that carries a powerful message.

The Old Man in the Sky

On the drive from Memphis to Nashville the Old Man in the Sky is a towering 160ft mural painted on the side of what seems to be an abandoned building. In 2017 Australian artist Guido Van Helten came to Nashville in search of a muse to paint on the side of the abandoned silo. Known for his graffiti style street art, Van Helton’s final production was unlike anything he had painted in the past.

His muse turned out to be Lee Estes, a 91 year old west Nashville native and a pillar in his community. The region of west Nashville known as “The Nations” was historically known as a largely underprivileged community, often overlooked and underserved. Lee Estes spent his life as a pillar of inspiration by volunteering his time at St. Luke’s Community House and advocating for the residents.

Old man in the sky mural 

Van Helten recognized the importance of Estes’ work and invited him to become the towering image representative of the community he so tirelessly served. He painted the now iconic image on the abandoned silo with a hopeful message to all those who witness his art. The message is to keep fighting for a better future. The children seen on the silo were based on two boys the artist met and witnessed at the community home Estes served.

The image of the children next to their protector who is seemingly looking ahead to secure a better future is captured perfectly. Lee Estes, although aged, is standing tall, firm, and grounded as the protector of the children and visionary for the future. The realism portrayed in the painting can be seen in the intricate lines on Lee’s face and the powerful fist of defiance clutching just below his creased trousers.

Street mural in Nashville. 

Murals are certainly classified as street art, but what about vehicles in Nashville? The city is dedicated to style across the board, and that dedication has extended into the world of bold, eccentric, classic, and luxury vehicle ownership. Nashville has been host to iconic Art Deco museums dedicated to showcasing vehicles from the 1930’s and ‘40’s as well as created dedicated spaces to representing classic, iconic vehicles in the heart of Nashville.







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