Words by Julia Eskins
Photos by Aleyah Solomon
Nashville may be most famous for its music but when it comes to visual creativity, the city’s walls say it all. Sometimes, all you need are three colours, four simple words and one person with a vision to make an impact. These days, it’s impossible to go to Tennessee’s capital without taking note of Adrien Saporiti’s famous mural and the people snapping selfies in front of it. The design is minimal, featuring iconic stars and stripes, and the words “I BELIEVE IN NASHVILLE” in bold. Just like a catchy chorus, the phrase has struck a chord in the hearts of locals and visitors alike. For artist Saporiti, the mural was a creative experiment, a way to showcase his love for the city. Since painting the first wall in 2012 in the 12South neighbourhood, the Nashville native has watched street art transform city. In the process, his own design and apparel brand, DCXV Industries, has flourished.
“I think everyone would love for every creative or business endeavor to have a romantic ‘aha’ moment, but in reality it sort of comes together without you realizing it. Only after the fact have I been like, ‘Yup, that was a good decision,’” says Saporiti.
Launching DCXV with the goal of showing that the Nashville lifestyle encompasses more than country music and whiskey, Saporiti has become known for his murals and locally designed and printed clothing. His company, right down to the name (Roman numerals for 615, Nashville’s area code), is practically a love letter to the place he calls home.
“I was designing just to create and I realized there wasn’t anyone making non-touristy apparel for people who lived in Nashville,” he says. “So I made a shirt for myself. It just so happens a lot of other people felt the same way.”
Months before putting up his first mural, Saporiti was in the middle of a design spree. At the time, political coverage for the 2012 Presidential election was ramping up. He began to play around with different Americana and propagandist elements and after a few iterations, was left with a design he describes as immediately familiar yet entirely unique. Today, he’s often asked about the meaning behind the mural’s phrase.
“I often say, ‘If you’ve thought about it, you’ve gone too far,’” says Saporiti. “My Nashville experience is going to be very different from someone who just moved here, or from someone visiting for the first time, but we can all connect through the phrase, ‘I BELIEVE IN NASHVILLE.’ It’s simple, positive, and allows every person a chance to personally connect their experiences to the greater whole.”
Born and raised in the city, Saporiti had a different childhood than most. His parents (hailing from Vietnam and Boston, respectively) came to Nashville for the music industry. His father is a musician with folk and rock and roll roots and is primarily known in town for his work with Warner Bros. in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
“I think it set me up to not really consider practicality or limitations when pursuing an idea. Practicality is the harbinger of creative death. That being said, no matter what you do, you have to put in the work. You see that every day in Nashville. You could be Picasso and John Lennon reincarnated as one person but if you don’t put in the work, it’ll never happen,” he says.
Today, Saporiti lives in East Nashville, a newly revitalized neighbourhood that’s often compared to Brooklyn. The once-dodgy area has evolved into an affordable hub for young people and creative talent. As a Nashville native, Saporiti has seen several parts of town change in recent years including 12South, where he put up his first mural.
“At the time, the area had gone from being a nefarious, junkie ridden part of town you’d actively attempt to avoid to a nice, walkable neighborhood with new businesses,” he says. “It really spoke to the momentum and growth the city was starting to feel.”
Even with new businesses opening up, Saporiti still favours Fido, the funky Hillsboro West End café he’s been going to since high school. Sometimes, he’ll catch a flick at the Belcourt, a nearby independent movie theatre.
“The reality is that Nashville is a cosmopolitan city with more in common with LA than Birmingham,” says Saporiti. “I don’t really play to the stereotype because everyone already knows those tropes, but they may not know how diverse the people of Nashville really are. All I can do is create what I know and see. For things related to Nashville, that pulls from all walks of life, styles and genres.”