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Creativity in Tennessee shows in the music, food, spirits and art created here. Murals have become an increasingly popular way for cities and towns to express the spirit of local life. Below are a number of murals that make for a great Instagram-worthy photo op. Grab your camera and your car keys for a mural road trip through Tennessee.
While in downtown Cleveland, Tennessee, stroll through Back Alley Gallery where art is displayed in doorframes of all shapes and styles. You can open each door to discover local art in an interactive setting. Festoon lighting adds charm to the space and the alley also hosts musical performances and pop-up art exhibits.
Plan a few days exploring the Kingsport Mural Trail, a collection of 23 Instagram-worthy stops throughout Kingsport. Check out the handy mural map to find all of them. While you’re hunting for the public artwork, check out local eateries like The Mustard Seed Cafe, Pal’s Sudden Service, Main Street Pizza and spend some time trying local and regional brews at Model City Tap House. Do some shopping at local boutiques like Charlemont Boutique for shoes, clothes and accessories, A Little Dab fashion boutique, Hometown Cottage 1775 for home décor, candles, accessories and more. And, browse Kingsport’s Antique District full of mid-20th century to classic Americana collectibles.
Knoxville is an artsy kind of town, so what better way to take in some art than strolling downtown on a mural tour? Find them in alleyways, stairwells and on the sides of buildings. Local artists are showcased and all of them make great photo-ops. Some fan favorites include the murals in Strong Alley, Weaving Rainbow Mountain – 43, 10-ft wide steps between UT Campus and Worlds Fair Park painted by Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn, and Cal Johnson Park where the basketball courts have been transformed into a colorful piece of street art.
Tennessee’s Scenic City is celebrated for its outdoor beauty, but also for its street art as well. Take in scenic murals around town like the Traveling Musician on Station Street by muralist The Artist SEVEN. While on Station Street, check out Songbirds Foundation to see their rare guitar collection, have a drink and great meal at Stir and catch a comedy or live music show when the sun goes down. Other notable Instagram walls include the Flying Donut Mural by Joseph Giri where you can grab a donut or sweet treat in the bakery next door, the plethora of murals on Chattanooga’s Main Street including the darling Polka Dot Wall across from restaurant Hi-Fi Clyde’s. Check out even more public art pieces with Chattanooga’s Experience Art map.
Take a stroll around Johnson City to see the many murals around the downtown area. There’s a public art map you can reference to ensure you see as many as you can. Some murals worth seeing include Marci Berkheimer’s “Wagon Wheel” in the downtown breezeway; Bill Bledsoe’s “A Highway Runs Through It” across the street; Ian Brownlee’s “Wildabout” adjacent to Atlantic Ale House; as well as Daas’ “We’ll Always Be Together” and “Johnson City: 150 Years,” a 10-panel mural collaborated by nine schools and the Johnson City Parks and Recreation art group.
The artist Iron painted the Tennessee TriStar Rainbow on Walnut Street in downtown Murfreesboro. Hunt for other street art murals in town while checking out local restaurants, shops and more. There are two murals at Mayday Brewery where you can snap your picture then step inside for local brews on tap. Do some shopping at Quinn’s Mercantile and get a photo with their Instagram-worthy mural. Grab a quick bite at Vine Street Market and then take a photo in front of their cute public artwork.
Nashville’s creative community shines as public art can be seen on the sides of restaurants, water tanks, old silos, garage doors and shops. Check out as many murals you can find in neighborhoods like 12South, East Nashville and Germantown among others. Some fan favorites include “What Lifts You – Wings” and “What Lifts You – Hot Air Balloon” by Kelsey Montague in The Gulch and East Nashville respectively, the bright and colorful Hillsboro Village mural by Andee Rudloff and the “Love Y’all” mural by Joseph Ernst in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood. Here’s a full list of murals you can visit while in Nashville.
Jackson is home to a variety of murals downtown. One in particular is the colorful “Love Your Neighborhood” mural. Located walking distance from The Carnegie featuring The Tennessee Legends of Music Museum, The Blacksmith Restaurant and Jackson’s AMP at the Market music venue, the mural is a photo worthy painting by Courtney Searcy.
Memphis is known to be the home of blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll; but, you can add public art to its list of crowning achievements. While exploring Memphis’ music, barbecue and culture, check out a few fan favorites including the “I Love Memphis” mural by Brandon Marshall in the Cooper Young neighborhood next to Memphis Made Brewing Co.; “The Sound of Memphis” mural by Damon Lamar Reed and Pugs Atomz which pays homage to Memphis’ music scene on Main Street, across the street from Aldo’s Pizza; and “The Upstanders” mural by the Memphis Mural Brigade, Nelson Gutierrez and Cedar Nordbye across the street from the National Civil Rights Museum that honors civil rights leaders.
Street Art in Tennessee Small Towns
Directly between Knoxville and Chattanooga, the small town of Sweetwater has history, outdoor recreation and a main street full of local restaurants and shopping from shops filled with rare antiques, boutiques with original artwork, fashions and home furnishings. Take a memorable photo-op at the ‘This Girl Can’ mural, completed by artist Kim Radford. DMA Events, a Tennessee-based public art nonprofit, was awarded the National Endowment for the Art’s women’s suffrage project grant and chose Sweetwater as a mural recipient for its suffrage history. The women’s suffrage mural is located at the corner of Oak and Morris streets in downtown Sweetwater.
Let the mural in downtown Ducktown serve as a guide on what to do in this charming downtown close to outdoor adventure. The mural, located next door to Rod's Rockin' Rolls, depicts the five big adventures you can experience: rafting on the Ocoee River, fishing, camping, hiking and biking. After you snap your photo, head into Rod's Rockin' Rolls, a family-owned Southeast Asian cuisine restaurant featuring spring rolls and sushi bowls, along with to-die-for pasta dishes and chef’s basket specials like Crab Rangoon with homemade chili sauce, beer-battered fish choices and more. It's where the locals go for a great meal. Across the street from the eatery is The Company House, a bed-and-breakfast dating back to the pre-Civil War era. According to history, the doctor who lived there at the time treated both Union and Confederate wounded. Today, you'll find seven charming guest rooms, each with a private bath and each morning, you'll wake to the smell of fresh coffee and breakfast treats baked by the proprietor, Margie.
In Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town, even the mural has history. Painted around 1895, the Mail Pouch mural shows an advertisement for Mail Pouch Tobacco, processed by Bloch Bros. of Wheeling, West Virginia. The upper portion is an advertisement for Augustus B. Cummings, who was a local businessman and possibly one of the inventors of the first plow. This portion is called a privilege panel, and was traditionally given to the building’s owner or occupant as compensation for allowing the tobacco company to paint their sign on the building. Originally built as a saloon around 1888, the Mail Pouch Building’s sign wall was restored in 1994. Today, the building houses The Crafty Peddler, a craft shop that has folk art, baskets, pottery, jewelry, home and garden décor.
Spend a day in charming Cookeville where you’ll find local shops, restaurants, a brewery and beautiful artwork. On the Historic WestSide are a handful of murals you can check out, including a beautiful floral mural painted by Brett Whitacre. The mural is located on South Cedar Avenue on the backside of Mint Salon. A block away is the First Responders mural on the side of the Cookeville History Museum, on Broad Street you’ll find the “There’s Only One Cookeville” mural and a beautiful mural next to 37 Cedar restaurant.
The town of Columbia recently launched the new Columbia Cultural Trail app which leads you through the Columbia Arts District. Follow along to find colorful murals, live music venues, historical markers, cultural stops and more. The trail is approximately 3.5 miles and can take about an hour and 15 minutes to complete. Download the app on Google Play or Apple.
Wilson County has 13 murals as part of the county-wide mural initiative, Paint WilCo. Seven street art murals within walking distance of the historic Lebanon, Tennessee square including three that are interactive. There's even a public art piano painted in bright colors that you can play. The newest mural, “You Are My Sunshine” was painted by 4th and 5th grade students at Jones Brummett Elementary School with art teacher Alexis Hamnett. It’s located at 241 E. Main St. Lebanon, TN. Start planning your mural road trip to Wilson County with this mural guide.
Travel on the Tennessee Music Pathways and stop for a selfie in front of the Rockabilly Highway mural, painted by Nashville artist Brian Tull, to pay homage to McNairy County’s rockabilly roots. Explore downtown Selmer after your photo op. Try a slugburger at the Rockabilly Cafe; learn about the legendary Sheriff Buford Pusser at the Sheriff Buford Pusser Home & Museum; and, make some outdoor memories on hiking trails and mountain biking trails in and around Selmer.
Take a stroll through The Walls Art Park in Waverly. The park has 18 different Instagram walls with 36 different places to paint. Murals and art from a variety of local and regional artists are featured. The park is open from dawn to dusk. Murals are changed every so often to make sure each visit is new and exciting.
Niota is the home to one of the most inspirational stories of the 19th Amendment. When a letter, written from a front porch in Niota by Febb Burn, made its way to Harry T. Burn who casted the one vote that gave women the right to vote. Jade Lewis' "The Long Road to Victory" depicts Niota’s part in the passing of the 19th Amendment and can be found on the side of the Niota Public Library. The mural portrays five national Suffrage leaders: Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt.
Travel to quaint downtown Lawrenceburg for downtown shopping and local restaurants. As you browse downtown, stop and snap a photo at the 50-foot-long mural in downtown Lawrenceburg, created by Tennessee artist Megan Lingerfelt. The "Wave of Lace" mural honors Lawrence County's history in the women's suffrage movement. While the 19th Amendment was ratified in August 1920, Lawrenceburg was ahead of the curve. The town saw both Black and white women vote in its first mixed-sex municipal election May 13, 1919.
Share your Instagrammable mural moments by using #MadeInTN and tagging @tnvacation in your social media posts.