Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Demonbreun Hill Mural

I recently completed a large mural project on the 1400-1500 block of  Demonbreun Avenue here in Nashville. You know the strip of bars and restaurants that are just down from the "Round About" where Tin Roof is? That's how people have described the area, and it is why they are renaming the area Demonbreun Hill. They have a lot of great ideas to make the area even better than it already is. One of the first things they've done is my mural in an alley/short cut from a patron's parking lot in the back to the front. 

The wall is more than 100' long and varies in height from 9' to 12'. It has the a large DEMONBREUN HILL that runs the length and images mixed in throughout.
The mural is all about Nashville history, one of my favorite subjects. One section is about Timothy Demonbreun while the rest is about the block's former life as a Music Row tourist destination. Come with me as I break down the meaning of my Demonbreun Hill mural.
The first part of the mural you see in the alley is a giant "old timey pointing hand" holding a card with the new Demonbreun Hill logo. This is mainly directional for the foot traffic, but it is also a quick visual reference to history. I repeated smaller pointing hands and the DH logo throughout the mural.
After the big hand is the section based on Timothy Demonbreun. He was Nashville's first resident (other than native tribes). He was a French Canadian fur trapper who was born in Montreal and began traveling south to Nashville during the 1760s at the ripe age of 17. He had a built a cabin in the Sulphur Dell area by 1766. Other settlers didn't arrive until 1778. 
There are no pictures of Demonbreun so I used drawings of fur trappers and the silhouette is based on Alan LeQuire's sculpture near Fort Nashboro.

In the 1970s-1990s the Demonbreun Hill block was for tourists. It was in close proximity to the old Country Music Hall of Fame. These store fronts acted as T-shirt and post card shops, and several country music stars had their own museums.
This man and car were part of the logo/visual identity for the Car Collectors Hall of Fame. It was in the three-story building at the top of the hill, now home to the bank. On the brick walls at the top of the building, you can still see the old, faded sign (ghost sign). It was an anchor for this block.
Next in line on the wall is Twitty City. During the 1980s country star Conway Twitty had an amusement park in Hendersonville and a record store/gift shop on Demonbreun. I remember seeing this Twitty City logo all over town.
Then it's Ernest Tubbs. Tubbs opened a second location of his famed record store on Demonbreun Avenue in the 1970s (maybe late 60s). Lower Broadway had become a seedy place, so for around 20 years he broadcast his Saturday night WSM Radio Show "The Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree” from the Demonbreun location. After every performance the Texas Troubadour would flip his guitar to reveal the word "THANKS".

Now is a good time to talk about the architecture of the block. The original Country Music Hall of Fame had a design based on a classic American barn. So a couple of the buildings on the block mimicked that look. It was very folksy and very different from the current look. I wanted to give a subtle nod to those faux barns.

Two of Nashville's biggest stars of the 80s, Barbara Mandrell and Hank Williams Jr had museums for themselves on Demonbreun. They weren't the only ones. Randy Travis, Alabama, Elvis Presley and others had their own museums.

Last (or first if you enter alley from Demonbreun) is the original Country Music Hall of Fame. It is what really drew people to the area in the 70s-90s. The original Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum opened on Music Row (Music Square East and Division Street) on April 1, 1967. It was a glass barn shape and not very big. It is where BMI publishing is now. Once the HOF moved to its current location the tourist shops and stars museums slowly moved along also. This allowed the block to transform into a vibrant block full of great restaurants and bars ... Demonbreun Hill.