As I have always been curious about the world around me. Taking in whatever I can get. In everyday things. Taking it as it comes. Running on instinct.
For the most part, it has always been living in the moment here.
Every time we pass by 51st Avenue, this incredible exquisite mural catches my eyes. It is outstanding. Well placed. One of the most amazing murals here. It is located in an industrial section on the west side of Nashville.
The sense of watching this was not ordinary. Viewing this piece of outside art is different from looking at an art indoors. And for any person who is a mural enthusiast, this is no ordinary find.
Stories are the fruit juices of my existence and I share them joyfully. And I guess for anyone. It’s always a question of, who is the man and the children in the painting? And who is the person behind this amazing painting?
The universe sent the answers my way. We had the fortunate chance to meet the man on the canvas. We couldn’t believe our luck. It seemed too good to be true. Which, of course, it was. But we wouldn’t have ever met him without trying.
Knocking at his door. He is readily available. Door opened quite slowly.
Meeting him, he just radiates that kind of charm and good humor that draws people to him. Embracing his human-ness. He is everything the painting has shown. He is a modest, humble man in many ways.
After moments of greetings and introduction. Like he answered the unspoken questions in us right away. He said, “I am blessed in so many ways.” He looked us in the eyes. Smiling. Saying, “Yes, the mural is getting a lot of attention.” To add more, “It is definitely nice regularly seeing people driving by and taking pictures of the mural.”
He lived nearly all his life within sight of the silo. It makes him smile every single day seeing the painting from his yard. I call it the monumental larger-than-life portrait of him.
He was telling stories about the good old days back then. That those things were different then. Not simpler or better, just different. And it keeps him smiling.
The incredible art is painted in an old concrete grain silo. 200 ft. tall. 15-story building. On the side of the silo are two children (of which we didn’t get to take pictures of). The two young boys reached toward the man. They represent the future. The artist’s representation of hope for the future.
The 51st Avenue Restaurant was his kind of restaurant. Corner of 51st Avenue and Centennial Boulevard. Surrounding “The Silo Mural” are coffee bars, restaurants, and other developments.
The artist is Australian Guido Van Helten. He is an internationally acclaimed muralist known for large-scale portraits. He made his works so realistic. Like giant photographs. Also, he is known for creative exquisite outdoor mural portraits in particular to locals nationwide. By further research, he likes to make a statement by painting local people. He has feelings for people. He has a gift for self expression of his own art. He immersed himself into the community. Take photographs. And create his designs out of those images.
Van Helten chose a then 91 year old Lee Estes. Also known by the name “LD”. He has lived here since the late 1920s. Mr. Estes had been recommended by the church as one of the oldest people who had been around the longest. He worked and raised his family. Volunteered at St. Luke’s Community Center. Helped and served meals especially to low income families for more than fifty years.
He is well known in the neighborhood. Now he spends his days walking and strolling around. Sometimes still doing some volunteer work at St. Lukes. He is indeed an exemplary citizen.
Mr. Estes represents the history of the neighborhood. This towering mural is a long-standing symbol of anchor inspiration around here. There were three emotions that I could recognize in the painting – contentment, peace and deep thinking.
𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘪𝘭𝘰 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘴 𝘢 𝘮𝘶𝘴𝘵-𝘴𝘦𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘕𝘢𝘴𝘩𝘷𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘦 𝘷𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘴𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘤𝘩 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘺’𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘮𝘶𝘳𝘢𝘭𝘴.
The thing that I have noticed. His choice of colors can speak without saying a word. But well, I wanted to say I am in awe. It is a unique touch. He uses the close to black and white paint elements. He used the base color of the building. The existing colors. His way of painting is to conserve the texture and adapt to the surface through the process of painting. Mr. Estes in buttoned short-sleeves and high-waist pants. Showing the much needed highlight of the image. The life-well-spent emotion to come through.
𝘈𝘳𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘮, 𝘵𝘰 𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘶𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘵𝘦, 𝘵𝘰 𝘦𝘥𝘶𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘦, 𝘪𝘯𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘰𝘵𝘪𝘷𝘢𝘵𝘦.
The details of this mural possess master craftsmanship. The subject’s facial expression, posture, and gently curled hand. Canvassing the realistic details that reveal life and humanity.
The artist, known for his photo realistic murals. For me, his creativity is just one big thing. His bravery was another thing. It is not easy to paint a picture with a giant tall building. Using a crane and spray paint. That very act of making and creating. Is a gift to the world. Working on images to come to life. Is deeply satisfying, life-affirming and rewarding.
“The Nations” was mostly an industrial area. The neighborhood is being rebuilt with new housing, trendy chic coffee shops and engaging restaurants. As one being considered to be removed. An abandoned concrete silo. But was instead made awesome. Now, a graced structure. Became the centerpiece of the community’s development. A historical part of “The Nations.”
As we drove around, it was not easy to imagine that – according to him – a lot had changed since then.
I wish I were here back in 2017. It would be really fun to watch the work in progress as the artist worked aboard a giant crane. I definitely would like to watch it all happen. A 15-story painting unfolds. From sketching an outline, then actually spray paint to bring Mr. Estes image to life.
This is highly recommended for anyone who is interested in neighborhoods. With all the up-and coming artists nowadays. As there will be more forms of arts coming in. The towering silo will always be the highlight inspiration here.
It is not only about giving honor to people who have lived here for a long time. And convey to new generations to respect the past. But it pretty much paved the way to becoming an asset for “The Nations” heritage-related tourism. It inspires. It informs. Most of all, murals truly matter.
Thanks for reading.