|Healthy eating and education mural vignettes by Cat Normoyle and MCA |
students. Vacant building at 1042 S. Lauderdale in Memphis
by Alexis Becton
Whether a place is unremembered, abandoned or deserted, it still has potential to come back to life through the eyes of another. This is artist Cat Normoyle’s insight. Normoyle, a Boston native, moved to Memphis from Atlanta in 2012 to join the faculty of Memphis College of Art (MCA), where she teaches drawing, typography, printmaking, advertising and industrial design. In pursuing hands-on artistic endeavors with some of her classes and students, she has worked towards improving communities in the City of Memphis. A joint effort with MCA students is a suite of themed window and door murals for the currently vacant building at 1042 South Lauderdale Street.
Normoyle finds it very rewarding to make a meaningful impact in the community: “I’m very interested in social design and art. It’s imperative that we take action to sustain our communities. If not us, then who?” Soon after her arrival in Memphis she learned about the 25 SQ Public Art Initiative, a partnership of the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team with the UrbanArt Commission.
For 25 SQ, neighborhood artists, Darlene Newman, Shea Colburn and Frank D. Robinson, are creating a series of art installations in three 25-block areas of South Memphis, Crosstown and Binghampton aimed at revitalizing those communities. In South Memphis Cat Normoyle, together with lead artist Darlene Newman, makes a greater impact by improving additional sites. For Normoyle, 25 SQ has been a vehicle to realize her vision of diminishing eyesores at vacant sites and spreading positive messages.
“One thing I hope my work does, is inspire people in the community to come together. I am interested in placemaking and I hope this piece not only restores ownership of this abandoned site but also brings joy to the neighborhood and facilitates conversations between neighbors.” says Cat Normoyle.
The purpose of the 25 SQ project is to use murals as a means to improve the visual appearance of the neighborhood. Working together with Knowledge Quest, a non-profit that serves the children of South Memphis, the artist and her student assistants developed the theme in support of the organization's initiative to promote healthy eating, education and literacy. The newly adorned doors and windows now display fruits, vegetables and educational resources, such as books and words to inspire the mind. Vibrant colors dominate the compositions of simple, strong shapes in each section.
With the help of an ArtsZone Scholar Scholarship grant to the MCA,
Normoyle was able to hire student assistants, King
Hobson, Noah Miller, Eugenia Mosley and Taylor Touchstone. Materials were
provided through the 25 SQ Public Art Initiative and Knowledge Quest. The students contributed 18-24 service hours
each to paint the murals on plywood boards, which were then mounted. Moving
forward, additional students from Soulsville High School are volunteering time
to finish unpainted areas