"We love Nashville and we've grown with Nashville, we've seen it go from this nothing downtown to — "
"We saw the Batman Building go up!"
Longtime local graffiti writers Audie Adams and Bryan Deese, two of the painters behind the Johnny Cash mural at the corner of Fourth Avenue South and Molloy Street downtown, seem a little shocked at the changes they've seen the city undergo. The pair are in Deese's Inglewood studio preparing to revisit that mural, now almost 10 years old and succumbing to a decade's worth of weather and wear, repainting a piece of their past that has somehow become an iconic part of the city's landscape. They've seen the city grow around them while their chosen artform — created with spray cans and stencils — exploded on a global scale. They've been witness to a scene and a city evolving in tandem.
"We've seen professional sports come and all the downtown high-rises — all of that — and we love it," says Deese. "We have a lot of pride in Nashville and the fact that we're from Nashville. I think there's a lot to be said for the fact that we haven't tried to dip out to another city where getting notoriety and maybe commercial success from art is easier — you know, like a New York or Los Angeles. We've stayed here and always just put on for Nashville — put our sweat into representing for Nashville."
That civic pride has paid off — both artists have seen their work become an essential piece of Middle Tennessee's visual landscape. Whether it's the Cash mural (which was originally part of a four-wall tribute to the Highwaymen, with only Willie and Johnny remaining), or the walls of Bonnaroo (their 2011 contribution to the festival spanned thousands of feet and integrated images from the festival's 10-year history), Adams and Deese are all over the place.