NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nashville Artist Tammy Gentuso unveils her 3-year-long, mural project displaying thousands of buildings, including 1,300 identifiable Nashville parks and buildings.
The mural, "Nashville Clayscape," was installed on the side of The Clay Lady's Campus on Lebanon Pike in September.
"Each tile is a grid on a map," explained Gentuso. "Then, not quite... in West Nashville might have three hotels and a couple fast food places, then you go to downtown and one square mile is ridiculously populated. So, I ended up having to warp the map and increase the number of tiles that would handle places like downtown."
Many have asked how she decided to embark on such a detailed project? Gentuso said it started with a competition.
She explained the Nashville Airport was accepting submissions for an art installment and she applied but was not chosen.
"[I was] a little bit gutsy to to submit the application," admitted Gentuso. "But, the idea wouldn't go [away]. I could not get it out of my mind, so then I envisioned having something like that here on campus, and the original idea was for something, maybe smaller than what we ended up with."
The final mural is 25 x 8 foot and consists of 193 tiles that Gentuso handmade in her studio at The Clay Lady's Campus.
Although it was three years of work starting in 2017, Gentuso said the six months of research and studying the city maps may have been the most arduous part.
"Google Maps is my best friend. And I could do the Street View and pull up buildings that were of interest [and] create those, recreate those on the map tiles," she explained, "It was it was a lot of fun... It was a full six months of research."
She said she had to break some of that research up and get started with some tiles, so visitors may notice some buildings that are no longer standing or empty spaces where there are now buildings.
To help viewers decipher each building, Gentuso created corresponding online, interactive map that visitors can access through a QR code on the side of the building.
"I put little houses all over the place, you know, trying to go with the bungalows for certain parts of town or ranches in Donaldson; the tall skinnies on Charlotte Pike," explained Gentuso, "I mean you know you just, just had to try and get the flavor of each, each area."
Gentuso said she does not have a singular favorite part but said it was fun customizing each tile, adding some of her family's favorite restaurants, tandem bikes, Easter eggs and even her whole neighborhood block.
As she reflects on the completion of the multi-year project, Gentuso said, "It's like a childhood dream come true, because... my thought as a child was there's no way I can make a living like that."
Due to that thought, she had a career as a nurse, as well as a photo journalist, amid spending time as a missionary in Africa before she put her hands in the clay.
She took her son to a clay class at The Clay Lady's Studio in 2011 and soon had her own studio in the space.
"I love this community, it's been a place to grow and to learn. And it's a comfortable place to learn," explained Gentuso. "It's been very good for me at a perfect time in my life."
Gentuso said she hopes the Nashville community will embrace the mural and remember the beauty of a changing city.
"I hope that they recognize just what an amazing thing it is to be here in this city, at this time, I mean when I first started [this project], there was a lot of grumbling and complaining because Nashville was changing, you know? There were just arguments you know, 'We shouldn't let this happen! We should change the zoning so people can come in and knock down an old house and put in three!' Just the lots of tension," recalled Gentuso, "I just think it's okay. I love who we are. I love Nashville I love that we can change, and still maintain, who we are."
To see more of Gentuso's work, click here for her Instagram account.