Isabelle Campbell reports on MCA students and UrbanArt's Siphne Sylve
working on the Cooper-Young Recycling Center Beautification Murals
Environmentally friendly fun was had on Friday, August 16th in the Cooper-Young District. Fifteen newly-enrolled students (and one senior) from the Memphis College of Art, together with Siphne Sylve of the UrbanArt Commission spent a sunny afternoon painting two recycling murals at the corner of 1000 South Cooper Street and Walker Avenue. The “volunteer day” introduced participating MCA students from various states to the thriving nature of art in Memphis. Having just arrived to the bluff city with fresh artistic ambitions, the students were eager to get their hands (and their “painting clothes”) dirty. As the first real-world application of the arts these students have come here to pursue, painting two commissioned murals became so much more than an orientation week activity – it was an off-campus adventure into the culture and developmental goals of the city of Memphis.
The recycling center containers upon which the mural designs of Jay Crum and Kong Wee Pang are being produced have been a part of the Cooper-Young community for several decades. Until commissioned by Project Green Fork’s Kickstarter program the receptacles rested dingily in the background of the lively surrounding neighborhood. Today they are drawing not only the attention of aspiring young artists but that of their environmentally conscientious community. As Memphian Paul Gray remarked, they “make the neighborhood pop!”
Not only does the project pop, it inspires interest in its goal. While Friday’s MCA volunteers postulated the theme of each mural, bypassing members of the Memphis community slowed their cars to nod approvingly. One mural, described by the students as an “urban city scape” prompted much conversation about the offerings of their diverse and illustrious new home town. Meanwhile, the other mural inspired laughter and discussions of Dr. Seuss. Despite the two murals’ differences in design, their goal of inspiring a cleaner Memphis is the same- and Memphis is taking note.
While students of the Stax Soulsville Academy stopped by to recycle for their environmental science class, lifelong Memphian Harold Richardson took a moment from his personal recycling to share that “as an ardent supporter of the arts [he is] encouraged” by the efforts of Project Green Fork, the Urban Art Commission, and the project’s numerous volunteers. Even the student volunteers were abuzz with talk of recycling promotion. Crystal Foss, Memphis College of Art senior discussed MCA classes which specifically require the use of recycled materials, and one intended visual arts major commented that the green, “abstract” mural is a great reminder of the greener Memphis that this project promotes. If careless discarding of waste is the norm, these murals certainly do embody an abstraction – a positive and intentional focus around which Memphis can unite.The Urban Art Commission would like to recognize and thank its hardworking volunteers: Joshua Adams-Leavitt, Kaleob Elkins, Kaelen Felix, Crystal Foss, Adrienne Fuller, Sharday Hawkins, Joseth Martinez, Nicole Miller, Savannah Mitchell, Jeremy Patten, Cecilia Reed, Ginger Riley, Derikah Scott, Bianca Vaughn, Katie Whitlock, and Quantavious Worship, as well as summer interns, Jacob Gambill, MCA, and Yidan Zeng from Rhode Island College of Art and Design.