Mural art is a particularly difficult media to capture in the confines of a museum or gallery. Yet throughout the world, and particularly in Nashville, murals are often the most powerful and moving forms of expression a viewer can experience — dominant scenes that transform architecture, embody local spirit and quite literally envelop a community.
In “Murals of North Nashville Now,” an exhibition on view until January 5, 2020, Frist Art Museum has brought the growing mural art scene from one of the city’s most culturally and historically rich neighborhoods into its free Conte Community Arts Gallery by collecting eight new, 8-by-12-foot murals from local artists. There is also a map indicating where full-scale murals throughout North Nashville can be found.
“In recent years, as the Nashville area rapidly grows and changes, a vibrant street art community has flourished,” reads a museum press release on the show. “This exhibition focuses on artists who live, work or have studied in the historically African-American neighborhood of North Nashville.”
Frist has commissioned work for the exhibition from Omari Booker, LeXander Bryant, Brandon Donahue, Elisheba Israel Mrozik, the Norf Art Collective, XPayne and young members of the North Nashville community. Each piece demonstrates a core tenet of mural artwork — commentary on the values, struggles or experiences of the community that it anoints. For instance, Booker’s work examines discriminatory lending and investment practices, Donahue’s commemorates victims of local gun violence and Mrozik’s is constructed around the unique battles that African-American women face in our society.
Norf Art Collective, a group of artist/advocates based in North Nashville that includes multimedia artists woke3, keep3, doughjoe and Sensei, provided two pieces for the show, Fly and Forever. In Forever, the artists point a young girl — one wearing the same clothes as a figure in their 26th Avenue and Clarkesville Pike mural Family Matters, but with her teddy bear and apprehensive look exchanged for a paintbrush and more confident stride — down an optimistic path. Graffiti-style writing is interlaced with stacked books and happy students, a tree of lights, Fisk University’s oldest building and North Nashville’s main thoroughfare, Jefferson Street, leading into a full moon. The airbrushed finish and dripping accents are distinctly inspired by street art, while the compiled imagery and hopeful tone lend themselves to the legacy tradition of community-oriented murals.
“The Norf Art Collective presents the children featured in their Clarksville Pike mural … as maturing individuals rising above negative situations and making plans for a healthy future with education, community and clean natural resources as necessary building blocks,” Frist explained. “The Norf Art Collective … is committed to producing public art that addresses social issues and the distinctive historical aspects of the community.”
Frist Art Museum is located at 919 Broadway.