Thursday, November 13, 2014

Urban LIFT Uptown Mural at Brian's Grocery

By Alex Clementi 

As a native Memphian, artist Charlie Forrester was more than excited to bring something “a little more unique” to the public art scene in Memphis. With the help of UrbanArt, Forrester has recently completed his mural installation at Brian’s Grocery Store, located at 533 Noth 5th Street in the Uptown Neighborhood. The self-taught artist hoped to use his background in illustration to add a “unique type of light and dynamic quality” to the mural, which spans the side wall of the grocery store. Forrester observed that there has recently been renaissance, or a “heightened awareness and a stronger desire” for public art among Memphians, and he expressed how excited he is to be a part of it, even if it is “something small”. He also noted how Memphis, a city he says is “rich in culture, expression, and diversity,” deserves artwork that “will be celebrated—it should evoke feelings of pride and ownership of the communities we are a part of.” Forrester’s hope for the mural is that it will do just this—that people will walk away from the mural instilled with a sense of community pride, appreciation for the city they live in, and for the people who make up the neighborhoods around them. The mural should ultimately instill a sense of hopefulness of things to come.

Forrester also urges viewers to pay close attention to the themes represented in the mural that provide insight into the history of the Uptown neighborhood. For example, the artist explained that the trees are a large part of the mural because they are a large part of the community: “the trees were originally planted in 1920s, which symbolize Uptown’s history of being one of the first suburbs in Memphis.” He also explained that the red swing, the featureless figures, the multicolored homes, and the city skyline speak to a larger message about the Uptown neighborhood and Memphis at large. Want to know what they are? Travel over to Brian’s Grocery to see for yourself! 

This project was made possible by the Habitat for Humanity, Wells Fargo, and UrbanArt Commission.

Urban LIFT Uptown Mural at Roxie's

By Alex Clementi

A new addition has arrived in the Uptown neighborhood. With the help of the UrbanArt Commission, artist Carl Scott has recently completed a mural installation on the side of Roxie’s Grocery, a prominent landmark of the Uptown area located on North 3rd Street. The mural, as Scott explains, depicts the Uptown community in the springtime. According to Scott, it also represents not only Uptown, but all of Memphis. He noted how “people come from all over to see Memphis and visit Miss Roxie’s—they love the food here.” Scott also chose to feature buildings that commonly symbolize the Uptown neighborhood; a few of these places include Cozy Corner, Brian’s Grocery, and the recent Habitat for Humanity housing installations. The mural spans the side of the building, and from afar, it appears as if the mural is designed very simply. Take a few steps closer, and one will notice the incredible amount of detail on the buildings, trees, and even the streetcar in the bottom right hand corner of the wall.  When asked about the production of the mural, Scott reported that the detail is a result of the process he used to paint the buildings. He began the process by going out into the community and taking photographs of the buildings he was planning to paint. He then compiled these images into a collage type of layout in his studio. Once he had the proper arrangement, he used the photographs as guides to paint the images of the buildings onto large pieces of canvas. Scott explained that he would work between painting the buildings in his studio and painting the backdrop at Roxie’s. When the paintings of the buildings and the backdrop were complete, Scott then used an extremely strong adhesive to glue the canvas paintings to the wall, and he worked to blend them into the background. The resulting mural is an incredible depiction of the Uptown neighborhood.

Scott also commented on how the Uptown community has greatly supported him through the process of installing the mural. He noted that people had watched him paint the mural and commented on how it “makes the whole area look better.” The mural is a valuable source of conversation—he also noted that he had witnessed people gather around the mural and discuss their favorite memories from the locations on the mural. When asked to reflect on the mural, Scott explained “when I look at it, it makes me feel good, and that's what I want people to take away from it too.” It appears as if Scott’s hopes are becoming a reality. 

 This project was made possible by the Habitat for Humanity, Wells Fargo, and UrbanArt Commission.

Friday, October 24, 2014

"Gaisman Mural" Dedication Ceremony

By Alexandra Clementi
Less than 24 hours from now, UrbanArt will be hosting a dedication ceremony for the newly completed mural at the Gaisman Community Center, located at 4221 Macon. The mural, to put it simply, is a sight to see. The large-scale painting is a colorful myriad of giant figures ranging in age and performing various activities. 

Artist Jason Miller explained that this mural is so much more than simply paint on a wall—it represents a community endeavor, a testament to the people of the Gaisman Community, and a platform for civic awareness. Miller explains that the primary step in constructing this iconic mural began with familiarizing himself with the people and happenings within the Gaisman Community center. Miller first captured nearly 30,000 photographic images of the people who frequent the center and their various activities in order to provide a source for his conceptualization of the mural. He then used these images to translate his ideas into painted forms, and with the assistance of community artists, he created a piece that, as he explains, “externalizes the energy within [the community center] into a perpetual reminder of the vitality of Gaisman Community Center's role within the community that it serves.” 

The subjects within the mural feature the real people who frequent and utilize the center on a daily, weekly, and annual basis. Miller explains that portraying the actual people onto the mural was necessary to “capture the essence of the life that occurs within this wonderful structure, which testifies to the noblest characteristics of our humanity.” The goal of the mural, as the artist explains, is to serve as a perpetual reminder of the role of the extrodinary individuals that make up the Gaisman community family inside the walls of the building. As Miller said, “just as a church is an empty frame without its parishioners and also as a home is where the heart is, so too is this true here at Gaisman. It's about the people.” The goal of the mural project also aims to bring a greater awareness from Memphis to the important life that happens every single day at the Gaisman Community Center. 

Interested in the mural? Come out to the Gaisman Community Center tomorrow, October 24th, at 12 PM for the mural dedication ceremony. Artist Jason Miller and Director of UrbanArt, Siphne Sylve, will be speaking along with musical performances from the Gaisman Big Band, the Jim Mahannah Band. We hope to see you there!