Nature and public art: Rivive! Nashville celebrates one year

Nicholle GerdeBlog

rivive-nashville-beau-stanton-mural

Our water, as well as our public art projects, reflect our values.

As we approach our one-year anniversary of the launch of the Rivive! Nashville movement, I am reminded of the many events and projects we put together over the past 365 days to increase awareness for the importance of the rivers and streams in the Nashville area. Perhaps, none of these were so grand as the one that kicked it all off.

First, if you haven’t seen Beau Stanton’s mural for Rivive! Nashville on 5th and Commerce in downtown Nashville, you’ve got homework. Standing five stories tall, above Blush boutique, it can be seen from buildings all over the city. It truly holds its own as one of the city’s most iconic murals.

Nashville’s Murals

Nashville’s mural scene has become nationally recognized, showing up in blogs, ‘zines and travel guides in the ‘what to do in Nashville’ section. While murals may draw people to our city, what's more important is what these murals do for us residents.

Our murals have changed the way we might think of and interact with our community.

Our mural inspiration

In 2017 when we were in the process of determining how we would share our message about water with the city, we were captivated by a mural, then being created in the Nations district on an old grain silo by artist Guido Van Helten. The artwork depicted longtime resident, 91-year-old Lee Estes, gazing toward the development and ever-changing landscape of the neighborhood he had lived in for nearly a century.

I was in awe by how, through a single image, Van Helten seemed to tell a much larger story that went beyond the history of the Nations, and reflected the way the entire city is evolving, and amplifying the need for spaces for the community to come together and grow—in the case of the Nations, the St. Luke’s Community house.

Like Mr. Estes and many others have witnessed—and Van Helton so eloquently depicted in his mural—the entire landscape of Nashville has changed dramatically and relatively quickly. Our goal for Rivive! was to show how these same changes affect our waterways.

Nashville Walls Project mural of Mr. Estes on grain silo

Nashville Walls Project's mural in the Nations by artist Guido Van Helton.
Photo courtesy of Nashville Walls Project.

The importance of our message

The Nashville Waterways Consortium was formed as a collaborative effort by the Cumberland River Compact, Harpeth Conservancy, Nature Conservancy of Tennessee, Richland Creek Watershed Alliance and Tennessee Environmental Council to create an awareness of the state of our waterways, and what residents can do about it as Nashville continues to grow at a rapid pace.

At present, 51% of the waterways in Davidson County are designated impaired by the state of Tennessee. This means that more than half of our streams are not suitable for drinking, fishing, or swimming.

Enter Rivive! Nashville

Rivive! Is a movement designed to bring awareness to our water. Nashville’s water. Our message to the city is that there are things we can do to improve and protect our waterways (like taking the Rivive! One Degree Pledge) but only if Nashville residents and businesses pitch in and do their part. With the city estimated to grow by 1,000,000 people by 2035, it is critical for all of us to turn our attention to our water resources if we want clean water for drinking, recreating and to provide a habitat for our rich wildlife.

Why Art?

Like with public art, the way people interact with nature, including our waterways varies greatly. Some seek it out, and can’t imagine life without it. Others appreciate only when they are exposed to it. And some may not notice it at all, or may feel they don’t have access to it. In any case, public art and nature help make up the fabric of a community. Both reflect our identity, pride, and values.

When thinking of public art and nature in this way, it made perfect sense to partner with the Nashville Walls Project to use the power of art to tell our story and showcase the value of our water.

The Rivive! Mural on 5th and Commerce

NWP found us a wall and a world-renowned, New York artist, Beau Stanton. With his use of vibrant colors and nautical elements, we instantly connected with Beau’s work. Likewise, Beau was excited to take part in the project, as someone for whom water is a focus of many of his works.

(Left to right) Artist Beau Stanton, assistant painter Andy Phipps and Rivive! cofounder Monette Rebecca pose in front of a partially completed mural on Nashville's 5th Avenue and Commerce Street in 2017.

When not working on his piece, Beau spent time exploring the city, the architecture of the Ryman, local churches and historic buildings. He talked with residents about the history and geography of the area. To further inspire his water theme he paddled the Cumberland River.

I won't tell you how to interpret the mural. Like with any work of art the message you get comes from your own experience and reaction to it. What I will say is that the elements of the work are inspired by our fair city: Historic architecture, our nickname “Athens of the South,” and most importantly, our water.

It’s been a year since we launched with Beau Stanton’s mural. Since then we commissioned a second mural —check out Mobe Oner’s beautiful 12 South mural—and held numerous events and art installations, including one for the ears, WADE: Music for River and People.

Many of you have joined our movement by signing up to receive news and to attend our events, and we thank you. Others have taken our One Degree Shift pledge to create change for our waterways in your own backyards. We thank you for your pledge. To the artists who worked tirelessly to create their art to help Rivive!: we are grateful.

Nashvillians admire Rivive! Nashville's second commissioned mural located in 12 South. Artist Mobe Oner.

Nashvillians admire Rivive! Nashville's second commissioned mural located in 12 South. Artist Mobe Oner.

Sound artist and composer Aaron Doenges stands on Nashville's Seigenthaler pedestrian bridge for the launch of his project with Rivive! Nashville, Wade: Water for River and Music

Sound artist and composer Aaron Doenges stands on Nashville's Seigenthaler pedestrian bridge for the launch of his project with Rivive! Nashville, Wade: Water for River and Music

We hope to continue our journey with you into 2019 and beyond, and to inspire others to join in helping to bring positive change to the future of Nashville’s waterways.

Thank you for your interest and support.

About the author

Nicholle serves as the Project Manager for Rivive! Nashville. She enjoys the challenge of working to communicate complex environmental issues to the public and has had the great pleasure of working with the artist community in Nashville to advance the message of Rivive! in a new and unique way. When not at work, she will take any chance to get out paddling on Nashville's beautiful waters.