By Erik Bacharach
September 12, 2020
The finished augmented reality mural is massive —135-feet wide, 26-feet tall — and awe-inspiring. An artistic tour de force in the heart of downtown Nashville. It features an unidentified Titans player with his arms stretched wide, a representation of all 95 counties in Tennessee, and inspiring quotes from prominent Tennesseans that promote unity and perseverance.
But it’s not just a mural, it’s an experience — the augmented reality ensures that.
The Titans partnered with Nashville-based artist MOBE, whose real name is Eric Bass, to create the mural located on Korean Vets Boulevard near the intersection of 6th Avenue South (across the street from Music City Center). The finishing touches went on Friday after months of planning and weeks of painting.
When viewed through a phone, a web-based augmented reality experience brings the mural to life. In order to launch the augmented reality, viewers will need to visit titansmural.com, which will prompt their phone’s camera to open.
The project’s title: “Tennessee Tough,” which is written across the length of the mural. The Titans are running with that slogan in 2020, a nod to both the team’s legacy dating back to its Eddie George and Steve McNair days, and the history of the state itself.
Titans Mural Nashville muralist Erick MOBE Bass creates the Tennessee Tough mural commissioned by the Tennessee Titans. NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN.
The overarching message, Titans chief marketing and revenue officer Gil Beverly said, is about optimism, perseverance and toughness, especially in the face of what’s been a challenging year for Tennesseans.
“It takes toughness to recover from a tornado,” Beverly said. “It takes toughness to deal with this pandemic, to deal with the economic challenges that we’re all facing right now, to deal with all the social justice issues and the polarity that’s going on right now and the lack of consensus. It’s just like, ‘Hey, this has been a rough year, but we’re Tennessee tough and we’re going to get through it all together.”
A new addition to a mural town
Beverly first joined the Titans in March 2019. Nashville’s mural-rich landscape prompted one of his first ideas for a project: a Titans-inspired mural.
“Part of our strategy is to really be as endemic to Nashville as possible,” Beverly said. “We’re really looking to figure out where the intersections are between the Titans and culture. Nashville is a mural town, so it became a no-brainer.”
But in the same way the Titans represent more than just Nashville, the mural had to represent the entire state.
All 95 counties in Tennessee are written at the bottom of the mural.
“Look, the mural’s central figure is a Tennessee Titan with ‘Nashville’ and the area code ‘615’ on (the back of his jersey), because at the end of the day, Nashville is the epicenter of where we are and who we are,” Beverly said. “But we are the Tennessee Titans. We represent the state. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the whole state, and it’s important for us to reflect that as well in the team’s identity and to celebrate that.”
Gallons and gallons of paint
It’s the biggest solo project Bass has ever tackled.
The 31-year-old artist rented a 26-foot rough terrain scissor lift. He used about 10 gallons of primer and 15 gallons of latex paint. He went through nearly 40 spray paint cans.
Bass, who had worked on some smaller projects with the Titans previously, had his first call with their creative team toward the beginning of June. He began working on the mural in late August before finishing this week.
Along the way, there were challenges.
On Aug. 25, the day Bass planned to start work on the wall, a car was parked directly in front of it. Painting would have to wait.
On Aug. 28, it rained, delaying his work.
And throughout the project, Bass’s 3-month-old son was in and out of the hospital with a rare congenital heart defect, which forced him to miss a few days.
“My life right now is like this epic roller coaster,” the painter explained. “Really high highs and really low lows. But I’m super grateful. The Titans, everyone I’ve worked with there, they’re just awesome. They’re always super caring and understanding.”
For a native Nashvillian and lifelong Titans fans, “It means so much,” Bass aid. “This is a goal that I’ve been working towards for a long time — over 10 years. I’ve made a vision board about manifesting these large murals. And I always thought it would be so awesome to work with the Titans. This is the team that I’ve watched my whole life, since I was a young kid growing up. So it just means so much.”
Beverly said finding a local artist was imperative, and Bass’ previous work stood out.
“His work just felt very organic and representative of what we think Nashville is about,” Beverly said. “We wanted it to be very accessible and universal, to have universal appeal, and based on some of his other work, we just thought he checked a lot of boxes.”
Augmented reality experience
In line with creating something accessible and universal, Bass and the Titans both envisioned something interactive.
So the Titans roped in MVP Interactive, a Philadelphia-based consumer engagement technology company that creates immersive experiences for brands leveraging a wide range of experiential technology.
Its goal: Bring Bass’s creation to life.
James Giglio, CEO of MVP Interactive, said his team put a digital fingerprint on the mural itself that triggers the augmented reality experience when a viewer pulls up titansmural.com on their phone. Signage around the mural that has a scannable code to launch the website is in the works.
Once a viewer has the mural in focus on their camera and taps play, “it’s almost as if the mural is being built in front of your eyes digitally,” Giglio explained. As music begins to play, “there’s strokes of paint and there’s different flashes of light and speckles of light. And then while this is all going on, a 3D version of the Titans player will be rendering in real view that will start animating and pointing to the different quotes on the wall.”
The unidentified player then dramatically spikes the football before the experience fades to black. The 95 Tennessee county names then will come toward the viewer in “almost a Star Wars opening crawl effect,” Giglio said, before “Tennessee Tough” emerges to conclude the experience.
Among the several quotes included on the mural is one from Titans general manager Jon Robinson. It reads: “We’re ready to go to work for you, because you’re our family.”
Unity among Tennesseans, after all, is at the heart of the project.
Beverly points to the player on the mural — the unidentified Titan with his arms stretched wide — who is painted between the words “Tennessee Tough.”
“That player is all of us,” Beverly said. “That player is all of the fan base, all of the team, the staff. It’s Nashvillians. It’s Tennesseans. All of us.”
Reach Erik Bacharach at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ErikBacharach.