As Nashville continues to grow, it is adopting an impressive urban culture, one important aspect of which is a rich and talented arts community. Music City’s visual artists exhibit works that range from fine art to street art, and today, we’re focusing on the latter — and three women who shine in that genre. The street art movement’s popularity can largely be credited to Nashville Walls Project, an initiative that has increased the appearance of street art in Music City by supporting both local artists and those from around the world. Éva Boros and Brian Greif are behind Nashville Walls Project, and their efforts have inspired others to join in the movement — three of whom we are introducing you to today. Tara Aversa, Tess Erlenborn and Emily Miller showcase their talents and brighten Nashville’s walls with their amazing works. These women are changing the local aesthetic, and we welcome them today as our FACES of Nashville!

Tara Aversa

Although Tara Aversa never studied art, her natural talent has taken her far. Her first mural was completed in three days at Sinking Creek Farm in Murfreesboro. Since her first mural, Tara has added many more to her résumé, including floral artwork inside and outside of Walden, an East Nashville bar, and the inaugural Manchester community mural. Tara is a Murfreesboro native and, in addition to being an artist, uses her creative energy as a stylist at Local Honey. Her talent, coupled with her passion for art and improving small communities, is the reason you need to learn more about this FACE of Nashville.

Tara hard at work on the mural that lives on the building which houses Walden. Image: Marisa McKay

What is your art background?

I never had the privilege of going to an art school or studying it after high school, but thankfully you don’t have to, to become an artist. Paint by numbers and Bob Ross had a big part in it, as well as my mother who paints sometimes.

What excites you about painting murals?

Painting is therapy to me, so I get excited just knowing that I can concentrate on something I don’t have to think too much on. I have a habit of getting in my head too much, and when I’m painting a mural everything goes quiet.

What is your latest project or an upcoming project you are excited about?

Right now, I’m painting about five murals and the bathrooms of what I believe is going to be one of the best restaurants downtown. I’m so excited for the grand opening! Keep a look out!

How does street art contribute to/showcase the creative culture of Nashville?

Street art — and all of these murals popping up all over Nashville — is a really creative way to be a part of a culture and a movement that allows artists to put their personal stamp on a city. I’m happy I get to be a part of that.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, and from whom?

I was doing hair for a shoot years ago for the opening of The Standard, and the makeup artist told me to fake it ’til I make it and to just say ‘yes’ to things and learn along the way. It gave me the courage to put myself out there and to not be afraid of failure.

What are three things you cannot live without, excluding faith, family and friends?

Cheese and good wine and a sense of purpose

Here, Tara is working on the inaugural Manchester community mural! Image: Michael Behar

Look for more of Tara’s work across Nashville!

Tess Erlenborn

A visual artist and Nashville native, Tess Erlenborn made her foray into murals with an indoor mural for a private client’s nursery a few years ago. Last year, she took her work outdoors by contributing to the Nations’ collaborative mural on the side of the Music City Tents & Events building (she did the two Ns). Tess has always been a painter and drawer and confirmed her passion for the arts as a student at Harpeth Hall. She continued pursuing this passion by obtaining a B.F.A. at Sewanee in 2014 and became a full-time artist in 2016. In the studio, Tess paints with acrylic and oil “with a focus on natural textures, layered spaces and dualities.” Murals move her art to a larger scale and give her an opportunity to contribute to the street art community.

Tess is also a member of Nashville Artist Collective and works a few days a week at Tinney Contemporary.

Tess takes her talents to a larger scale by painting murals across the city. Image: Cedrick Jones

What excites you about painting murals?

It’s an adrenaline rush — using spray paint, wearing the mask, getting to operate lifts, working on a huge scale on surfaces that can’t be controlled like canvas, and knowing that my work is going to be permanently (or at least semi-permanently) on display outside in my hometown is really exciting. It’s also interactive which is fun; critics and supporters yell things … it’s the closest thing I do to performance art, and it’s definitely more social than painting alone in my studio. I’ve always really wanted to be a street artist, ever since learning about Basquiat, Banksy, Diego Rivera and Keith Herring in school, but I wanted to paint walls in a unique way that doesn’t resemble the way guys have done it. I’m doing it legally and getting commissioned, so the same adrenaline rush and street cred that comes with vandalism isn’t there, but it’s really exciting to feel like a member of the street art community. I have so much respect for graffiti artists.

What is your latest project or an upcoming project you are excited about?

I am currently working on a wall on the side of Galerie Tangerine on South Street that is the tallest wall I’ve ever painted. I’m operating a boom lift and having so much fun with it. I got commissioned for this project through the Nashville Artist Collective, and we will be having an art show at the gallery there on October 25th and hope people will come join us and check out my mural!

How does street art contribute to/showcase the creative culture of Nashville?

It absolutely energizes and revives our city, especially with all the new construction and new walls popping up all of the time, and it’s great that we live in a city that has the funds to support street artists because it wasn’t always like this. Even MTA is in on the action! Our city is changing constantly, but these works are public monuments to a specific time in Nashville and highlight various aspects of different communities we have here. We are lucky to have so many really talented artists here and get to see their work on display for free — and that I get to learn from them. The Nashville Walls Project really helped jumpstart the movement here by bringing in internationally renowned artists and supporting our local artist community, as well. Off The Wall Nashville also curated a collection of murals by different local artists, which I was lucky enough to contribute to in August. There are even street art tours now. It’s cool how supportive everyone is of each other and of these artists.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, and from whom?

A little obvious I suppose but, “No one accomplishes anything alone.” It’s one of those things that I’ve heard so many times by so many different people in this business, but my dad initially said something like this to me when I was just starting to pursue my art career after leaving my full-time job a couple of years ago. I am constantly asking questions, seeking advice and help from fellow artists and creatives, my patient financial advisor dad, my friends and family who have helped me hang up and take down tons of shows at this point, the lovely ladies at Tinney Contemporary, The Nashville Artist Collective … and the list goes on. I am beyond grateful to the amazing community here, but it goes both ways. I want to be a helpful, team player and find ways to donate my time and energy to support other artists or organizations and creatives in this city, too. It’s easy as an introverted artist to let my social anxiety get the best of me and be afraid to ask for help or for opportunities, but being nice and admitting that I definitely don’t always know what I’m doing goes a long way!

What are three things you cannot live without, excluding faith, family and friends?

Strong coffee, condiments, and clean paintbrushes and spray paint caps.

Find this mural, curated by Off the Wall, on Charlotte Avenue at 28th Avenue North. Image: Cedrick Jones

You can usually find Tess in her studio or painting walls around town! Image: Cedrick Jones

Emily Miller

Emily Miller studied illustration at the Memphis College of Art and honed her craft before bringing her talents to Nashville. Emily brings new life to old buildings with murals and street art. The first mural she painted was on the side of Two Boots Nashville. After finishing this labor of love, she continued to make her work available to those strolling the streets of Nashville. You can find her work around Nashville, including Downtown, East Nashville, Midtown and North Nashville. Her background in illustrations come to light through her murals and street art, and her unique artistic styles help her stand out. You never know where you might see a piece of Emily’s art!

Emily Miller painted her first mural at Two Boots Nashville. Image: EmilyElizabethMiller.com

What excites you about painting murals?

I love being outside. Being in a studio all day gets stuffy, so I feel free getting to take my art outdoors. A lot of my art is on old or abandoned buildings, and it’s so exciting bringing new life to them.

What is your latest project or an upcoming project you are excited about?

I have the opportunity to go overseas in a few weeks, and I’ll be putting up art around Europe.

How does street art contribute to/showcase the creative culture of Nashville?

Street art really made me feel a part of the community. I was putting up pieces people would see every day on their commute or getting coffee. I like when my art becomes a part of people’s neighborhood and a part of their everyday.

Where do you look for inspiration when you are creatively blocked?

I go outside and walk my dog. Walking is a great way to clear your head and slow down to pay attention. Sometimes just moving my physical body shifts things around in my head.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, and from whom?

Julia Cameron who wrote, The Artist’s Way, which is this amazing book on the creative process. She has these basic principles for staying creative and in tune with yourself and your practice, and one of them is to write three pages every morning. This is one of the greatest things I can do for myself, and I really feel it when I don’t do it.

What are three things you cannot live without, excluding faith, family and friends?

Coffee, pencils and paper

Hard at work, Emily brings her illustrations to life on walls across Nashville. Image: EmilyElizabethMiller.com

This East Nashville mural is a personal favorite. Image: EmilyElizabethMiller.com

The Farmer’s Florist got a fresh coat of paint and a lovely bunch of carrots, thanks to Emily! Image: EmilyElizabethMiller.com

Thank you to these women for making Nashville more beautiful! 

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With 23 years of nursing experience and 16 years as a lactation consultant (not to mention her firsthand experience as a mother and now grandmother), Noreen Webb is not only passionate about working at TriStar StoneCrest, she’s also well-versed in the benefits, challenges and myths associated with breastfeeding. CLICK HERE to meet our newest FACE of TriStar!