Mural subject reflects on changes in Nashville neighborhood - WSMV Channel 4

Mural subject reflects on changes in Nashville neighborhood

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Lee Estes, L, and Rudy Kalis near the mural in The Nations. (WSMV) Lee Estes, L, and Rudy Kalis near the mural in The Nations. (WSMV)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Those who have traveled west on I-40 past The Nations have probably seen the abandoned grain silo with a mural of a man, looking up.

But who is that man?

“When I was a kid, the biggest outlet was the St. Luke’s Community Center,” Lee Estes said.

“The neighborhood is a whole lot different now, isn’t it?” said Rudy Kalis with Channel 4.

“Well, it’s a different atmosphere all together,” Estes said. “Back then you knew your neighbor.”

Estes has lived in The Nations since the 1920s. Recently, the area has exploded with urban development.

“Eventually I’m sure we’ll get together and know each other a little better,” Estes said.

A 175-foot mural of Estes is now magnificently portrayed on an abandoned grain silo by noted Australian artist Guido van Helten. He wanted to represent the history of The Nations, which was once an old Indian trading ground.

“The day before he came and wanted to take pictures, but I had been working in the garden and wasn’t presentable,” Estes said. “And so he came back the next day and I sort of perked up a little, put some wearable clothing on. He took several pictures and went from there.”

“You watched him paint it. Were you amazed how he was able to do it?” Kalis asked.

“I sure was from the very beginning. The first part of the painting was the eyes, and you could tell where the picture was going from there,” Estes said.

“Any feature you look at, face, hands, arms, ring on my hand, anything – it’s perfect,” he added.

But van Helten wasn’t done. On the other side of the silo he painted the portrait of two St. Luke’s preschoolers.

“What’s interesting is it shows the change of The Nations, doesn’t it?” Kalis said.

“It sure does, the older generation welcoming the newer generation in,” Estes said.

“It bears more and more each day that I look at it and think such a beautiful painting could be done of a character like me,” Estes added.

Estes spends his time volunteering at St. Luke’s Community Center. He also stays busy in his garden.

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