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Do You Hate Nashville's Wings Mural?

An article on the website VICE claims that Nashville locals ~hate~ one of the city's most Instagrammable spots.

The 'What Lifts You' mural, painted by famed muralist Kelsey Montague, went up about five years ago and has taken on a life of it's own as a destination photo op for tourists since then.

The mural gained even more fame when Taylor Swift used a Montague-painted mural to celebrate the release of her single "ME!" in 2019.

The VICE article claims that locals are annoyed by the popularity of the mural and the inconvenience the crowds and lines around it cause.

The topic of the #WhatLiftsYou mural picked up steam again a few days ago when TikTok user @danielpatoja39 posted a video of the line of people wrapped around the Gulch waiting to take a picture in front of the wings.


“You have no idea how many people in Nashville want to scream about that,” longtime Nashville resident Sara Martin said. “That line [in the TikTok] was not long compared to a lot of what I’ve seen. Sometimes you think that Beyoncé was there, and then you remember ‘Oh yeah, it’s that whole wings thing.’ It’s a little bit of an eye roll, because it’s kind of like they’re missing the point of this town.” 

Later in the article, the author posits

The Gulch wings also continue the debate of who public art is for: the locals who might want these works to reflect some kind of meaning or connection to their city, or for visitors who take their pictures and post them when they’re in an Uber back to the airport.

My question back would be this: why does it matter? The art is there to be enjoyed by anyone, no matter where they're from, and designed to inspire them in ways that are unique, not universal. This whole article just points to another case of people being bitter about the way the city is growing.

I get it. The Bachelorette parties are annoying. The Pedal Taverns, the long lines at trendy restaurants, the woo girls and the mural photoshoots...but it's all part of being a growing city. I'm not native to Nashville, but I'm pretty close. I grew up about 90 minutes south in Huntsville, Alabama, and came to Nashville all the time. I rode the Wabash Cannonball at Opryland and ate at Rotier's and went to concerts at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. It seems that lots of locals clamor for "the good old days" before Nashville became such a popular tourist destination. But so many tend to look past all the good that's come from the growth. The Preds are a top-tier NHL franchise. We have an MLS team now, and there's a better-than-good of Major League Baseball expanding to Music City. We get every major concert tour. The NFL Draft was here. The food scene has blossomed into one of the finest in the country. The economy is surprisingly stable despite other cities floundering right now. Do you know why?

Because people like coming to Nashville. And they like taking pictures in front of murals. And who cares if they're just going to post it while they're in an Uber back to the airport? Let them have their Instagram moment, their bachelorette party, their fun escape. It's because of them that Nashville continues to get more and more awesome.

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