Public Art in Clarksville: 4 Amazing Murals 

By Meghan E. Gattignolo 

There is something about seeing colorful swathes of paint swirling on the side of a building that can excite people about the place where they live and work. Over the years, Nashville in particular has become awash with elaborate murals that people will drive miles to see. Clarksville, too, is now acquiring a growing number of beautiful murals, and downtown is becoming a hotspot for some iconic selfie shots. Per a recent count, Clarksville’s public artworks total more than 30. A mural isn’t just bright colors on a wall, though. Public wall art is an opportunity for a visionary artist to make a unique statement about a city and the people who make it great. 

Clarksville Starry Night 

Olasubomi Aka-Bashorun, better known as Ola, is an accomplished artist in a multitude of mediums. He came to Clarksville by way of Nashville a handful of years ago and has since made a name for himself in town not only as a talented artist, but also as a teacher and a treasured community figure. Earlier this month, Ola’s work was even featured in a Customs House Museum exhibit.  

Clarksville Starry Night is how most of us were introduced to Ola’s expressive talent. Created in 2018, this gorgeous mural features the Montgomery County Courthouse and the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center’s 1898 building as subjects, in the style of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. You can find it at 420 Madison Street, a five-minute walk from the Museum.  

APSU Wall Mural 

At 318 College Street, find another Ola mural masterwork. Finished in October of 2021, this piece pays homage to Clarksville’s university, Austin Peay. Ola, along with APSU art student Karley Davis, painted the mural in sections that focus on aspects of APSU such as their lauded nursing program and student diversity, and lends attention to the huge military population both on and off campus in Clarksville. The fun interactive elements also make this mural an especially Instagrammable spot.  

Bursting with Pride 

Artist Ricky Deel spent three months painting this magnificent piece during the summer of 2000. About a year and a half after the tornado that ripped through historic downtown, Deel wanted to help memorialize historical buildings damaged during the storm. Many iconic downtown buildings are featured, including the Customs House Museum’s 1898 building (which lost its finial – the twisted remains of which can be found inside the Museum today), the Courthouse (almost completely demolished by the tornado and had to be rebuilt), the Browning Building on APSU’s campus (its original bell tower is now part of a beautiful study area on campus grounds) and a few of Clarksville’s oldest churches that lost their steeples. After such a disaster, a beautiful piece of art can be healing for a community, and Bursting with Pride certainly did just that for Clarksville. Find this mural on Franklin Street near the Roxy Regional Theatre.  

Last Train to Clarksville 

Artist Ricky Cavaness might be better known for his tattoo work, but now he can add muralist to his portfolio. Finished last year, the newest downtown mural found just down the hill from the Museum on Commerce Street is a nod to one of Clarksville’s longest-running rumors, while also saluting a by-gone era of Clarksville history.   

Clarksville, Tennessee would have been the perfect setting for The Monkees’ 1966 debut hit, if only the songwriters had been aware of its existence. “Last Train to Clarksville” is a Vietnam-era war protest song, and Clarksville not only had passenger trains in operation during the 1960s, but soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division at nearby Fort Campbell began deploying to Vietnam in 1964. 

The mural also reminds us that Clarksville used to run on trains. Downtown catered to the train traffic, assisted by a trolley running from the 10th Street train station to bring newcomers to the heart of Clarksville down Franklin Street. Hotels competed to win the business of train passengers with steam heat and other cutting-edge amenities. As noted in the mural, the last passenger train came through Clarksville in August 1968.  

Murals are one way Clarksville’s beauty, charm and history are displayed in public art. Stay tuned to this blog for more stories about public art and its purpose in Clarksville. And if you want to check out all of Clarksville’s great public art for yourself, take a look at Visit Clarksville’s Public Art Trail

Photos courtesy of: Visit Clarksville + Brent Moore via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

Meghan E. Gattignolo is a freelance writer and longtime Clarksville, TN resident. She loves to obsess about historical subjects and annoy her family daily with unsolicited random facts. Meghan holds a History B.A. from Austin Peay State University and lives in town with her husband and two children. 

Back to Blog