Thursday, May 29, 2014

New Themed Window Murals Spruce up Empty Building

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,
Photo Credit: Shawna Engel
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

Monday, May 19, 2014

Billboards of the Sky

The sky is the limit, as the saying goes! Our friend Glenn Weiss, public art leader of Delray Beach, Florida, blogged a series of billboard installations devoted to the sky on May 10, 2014. Memphis artist Greely Myatt's Cloudy Thoughts is among them, created as part of the UrbanArt Commission's series of ten temporary public art projects in celebration of our 10th anniversary. Cloudy Thoughts won a Public Art Year in Review award from the Americans for the Arts Public Art Network. 

Other featured sky billboard sightings are:
Yoko Ono's Imagine Peace in Times Square, New York in 2012
Kerry Tribe, Los Angeles in 2010
Felix Gonzalez-Torres in 2012
Lead Pencil Studio, Portland, Oregon in 2013 
Young & Rubicam Advertising, New Zealand in 2014

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pine Hill Mural Inspires

By Katie Whitfield

The dedication celebration of the Pinehill Community Center mural is scheduled on Friday, June 20, 12-2pm. Free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Along the side of Pine Hill Community Center, a bright and inspiring painted message is delivered on Alice Avenue. The mural is part of the recent inaugural District Mural Program, facilitated by the UrbanArt Commission for the City of Memphis Public Art Program. Titled, "This is My Song,” the artwork was brought to life by artists Chad Irwin and Kyle Taylor who explained: "The title is intended to capture the sentiments of the neighborhood surrounding the Community Center and is meant to represent what the center aspires to be." Utilizing both the pursuit of education and the struggles faced obtaining it; the artwork displays a story of life balance and determination. It offers a blend of youth and the elderly, signaling hope for the future.

The Pine Hill Community Center was chosen after a review of potential sites. After the location was confirmed, meetings were held to determine the vision for the mural. Working together with the community and the center directors the artists focused on education and "a life well-lived" were to be central focus of the mural. Rory Campbell, Director of Pine Hill, wanted to “see the community coming together as a whole.” The mural displays just that message: it depicts the cycle of ages within a seamless unity.  The central figure is a young man who peacefully holds music to his ears. Surrounded by diplomas, books and ribbons on one side, he is balanced by a newborn, a young woman and a serene elderly woman on the other side. Rory Campbell states the importance of the elderly in the community. "They help the kids stay away from gangs and other troubles." He understands how the elderly in the neighborhood can influence these children and direct them down a positive path. The community center and its directors are constantly raising awareness against violence. For example, in spring 2014, Pine Hill was visited by the Heal the Hood Foundation. The non-profit organization is designed to heal broken communities through the power of unity.

The Pine Hill mural has been well received by the community center users and its neighborhood. Campbell shared his delight at the compliments from children visiting the center, from neighbors and other onlookers. The mural is revered as a positive stamp on the community center, physically and emotionally. Its message is best summarized by Campbell's motivation for his job: "My job is about showing the youth that people care, it's about taking time to listen to what the young are saying, and to show them love. This is why the community center directors do what they do…to show the kids compassion." The Pine Hill mural shares this benevolent message.

Read more about the "This Is My Song" mural by Chad Irwin and Kyle Taylor at Pine Hill Community Center.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Playback Theatre Collects Stories for District 6 Gateway Sculpture

by Alex Clementi

As the local improv performance group Playback Memphis showed this past Thursday, there is no better way to spark ideas for artwork than by making art. Sculptor Yvonne Bobo has been commissioned to create the District 6 Gateway sculpture for Southside Park at 612 South Parkway East, one of seven new landmarks commissioned in each of the City’s seven council districts. The artist, together with Playback Memphis and the UrbanArt Commission, invited community members to share their ideas, narratives, and histories of living in the South Memphis neighborhood during a participatory performance at the St Andrew Fellowteria.
Bobo’s innovative approach to collecting feedback from the community led to the engagement of Playback Memphis. Virginia Murphy, Artistic and Managing Director, defines playback theatre as a medium that “creates space for people to experience a high level of connectivity, communication, and empathy through the act of storytelling.” Master percussionist Ekpe Abioto set the beat for the seven Playback performers. The evening’s MC was Curtis Thomas, Deputy Executive Director of The Works, a South Memphis community development corporation.
Just as a piece of public artwork depends on the intellectual and sensory participation of its viewers, the Playback Memphis theatrical performances relied on audience engagement and contributions. One member of the improve acting troupe would begin by asking a volunteer from the audience to tell a little bit about their relation to South Memphis and share their experiences living in the neighborhood. The group of seven performers then turned an individual narrative into an interactive piece of art by animating the story through intricate movements, repetitive dialogue, and music. The series of captivating performances reflected the individual narratives that spoke of the continuing strength of the neighborhood, the welcoming atmosphere, the richness in musical history, and the inescapable attraction the area has on all who pass through. The performances, in short, transformed storytelling into performance art.
Artist Yvonne Bobo (left) will be using the narratives gathered from the audience to shape her ideas about her design for the new sculpture in Southside Park. The sculptor’s concept for a large-scale, abstract sculpture consists of multiple spheres positioned on archways like a string of pearls. The spheres will be etched with highlights from the storytelling workshop.
Southside Park is currently being renovated by the Memphis Division of Park and Neighborhood Services. The basketball court, an important part of the work, will be resurfaced to feature the Grizzlies colors, blue and yellow. Yvonne Bobo’s sculpture will serve as a landmark and District 6 identifier for the public.
Read more about the workshop or view the photo album of the event on Facebook.