What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word Nashville?
Country Music? Cowboys? Bourbon?
What about street art?
You may not know that there is a huge rise of street art in Nashville, thanks to the Nashville Walls Project. The project supports the creation of huge murals painted by street artists from around the world, covering the city with beautiful art.
To find out more about the Nashville Walls Project, we spoke to Co-Founder, Brian Greif.
Where did the idea behind Nashville Walls Project come from?
Nashville Walls Project is primarily two people, Eva Boros and me. We were working on a documentary called “Saving Banksy” while both living in San Francisco. The film is about the importance of street art and graffiti and the need to protect and preserve it. While working on the movie, we came up with the crazy idea of bringing street art to parts of the US that had only seen photos of murals. San Francisco, LA, New York and Miami have a wealth of street art. We wanted to expand street art beyond major cities in the US.
What made you start Nashville Walls Project?
I lived in Nashville before moving to San Francisco. Nashville is a great arts city. It’s known mostly for music, but there is a great graffiti scene there. I made a trip to Nashville in April of 2013 to talk to people and see if the idea of bringing street art to the city was viable. That trip was eye opening. There were great walls every where. Everyone I talked to in the arts and music community were very excited about the concept. So in February of 2014 I moved back to Nashville to bring murals to the city.
What challenges have you faced?
Finding funding is always the biggest challenge but initially getting building owners to agree to murals was difficult. Everyone loved the idea, but no one wanted to be first. Fortunately we met a brave downtown property owner named Dan Maddox. Dan gave us three great walls on a building he owns in the downtown “Arts District”. Herakut, Rone and Curiot painted those walls. Once the city saw the first series of murals, building owners started calling us asking for murals.
We now have great support from companies like Market Street Enterprises and Southeast Venture. They have provided walls for Jason Woodside, Ian Ross and Guido Van Helten. On our first trip to Nashville, Eva and I found a 200-foot tall abandoned grain silo in a part of Nashville called “The Nations”. As soon as we saw that structure, we vowed to get permission to paint it. We eventually made contact with Wood Caldwell at Southeast Venture. Wood made it happen and now there is an epic Guido Van Helten mural on that building.
What’s been the best moment you’ve experienced so far regarding the project?
By far it’s the interaction between the local artists and the international artists. We pay local artists to help with every mural. Some of the international artists have used the local’s as assistants. It is very rewarding to see the local artists establish friendships with the international artists. They share ideas, techniques and experiences. We have seen some close friendships develop between the local’s and the visiting artists. A couple of the international artists have now invited artists from Nashville to travel with them as assistants.
How easy was it to get street artists involved?
All the artists we have approached have been very accommodating. I think there are two reasons for that. Nashville is new territory. The idea of being able to do a very large wall in a brand new city is intriguing to most artists. The second reason is our approach to the project. We are not a mural festival. We allow artists to come paint on their schedule. If they want to come when other artists are here, we do that. If they want to come paint by themselves, we do that as well. Artists are allowed to come on their time table. There is no rush. We want them to spend time in the city and not just paint.
The artists love Nashville. It’s a great and vibrant city with lots to do and a fantastic music scene. Nashville is much more than just country music, although nearly all the artists have asked to tour the Johnny Cash museum for some reason.
What has the public perception been like?
The residents of Nashville love the murals. It’s not uncommon to see crowds of people sitting lawn chairs watching the artists paint all day. When Guido Van Helten was here in May, local bars and restaurants near his wall held “viewing parties” nearly every night. A local group organized a “Bicycle Tour” of the murals recently. They had 67 people on bikes touring the murals. They could have had over 100 people on the tour, but they ran out of bikes.
How do you think the Nashville Walls Project is making a difference to the area?
The impact is significant. We have added to the visual dialogue of the city. The project has opened new opportunities for the local artists. They now have access to more walls and commissions. At the end of our movie “Saving Banksy” there is a Banksy quote, “Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody could draw whatever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited.” – We feel like Nashville is headed in that direction.
What future plans do you have for Nashville Walls Project?
We are taking a break for a two months to promote “Saving Banksy” on Netflix. We will be back doing more murals in the Fall and probably touring the Johnny Cash Museum again.
Head over to Nashville Walls Project website to learn more about the project!