Friday, November 16, 2012

Nadim Karam, International Visiting Artist in Memphis

by Dixy Yong
               Nadim Karam. Archaic Procession, 20 monumental steel sculptures, Beirut, Lebanon, 1997-2000.

Nadim Karam is an architect, artist, academic and author who has created large-scale projects internationally, including in Melbourne, Australia; Prague; London; Tokyo; Kwangju, Korea; and in his home city of Beirut, Lebanon. Following an invitation by the UrbanArt Commission and Memphis College of Art, Karam visited Memphis from October 25 to 27, 2012. On his itinerary were major cultural venues, such as Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum, meetings with cultural and urban leaders in the City, and presentations of his philosophy and public art projects to MCA and UAC audiences.

During his stay, Karam lectured at Memphis College of Art and spoke at the dedication of the new Legacies sculpture by Vinnie Bagwell in Chickasaw Heritage Park, a City of Memphis Percent-for-Art project. Nadim Karam’s visit was sponsored in part by the UrbanArt Commission in celebration of its 15-year anniversary. Nadim Karam spoke at Memphis College of Art as part of the college’s ongoing Visiting Artist Lecture Series. A major part of Karam’s work is focused on exploring moments and dreams: he sees moments as an accumulation of vignettes from different periods of our lives, both of good times and of horror or war. For him, the temporality of these moments turns into projects.

Early public art projects followed on the heels of the long civil war in Lebanon and contributed to the rejuvenation of the city during the 1990s. Stressing the difficulty to counteract the setbacks of war, he noted that creating and rebuilding takes much more effort than to kill and destruct. Karam’s Urban Toys are a series of public sculptures placed in cities to tell stories and make people dream. His question is a basic one, expanding the concept of dreaming from the individual to a civic construct: “Can cities dream?” Thus, he provides glimpses of fantasy in urban networks and around the world.

Nadim Karam. Kagami Lake installation, Nara, Japan, 2004.
From 1982 to 1992, after receiving a scholarship, Karam pursued temple architecture studies at University of Tokyo, where he graduated with his Ph.D. in Architecture. In 2004, his deep connection with country, culture and people led to the realization of a large-scale public art project in Kagami Lake in the sacred temple city of Nara, accompanied by a ritual performance in Todaiji temple. Seven hundred anchored, unique steel sculptures and large flowers floated above the lake, doubled by their reflection on the water’s surface. Noting the 20-year timeline for this temporary installation and Karam’s knowledge of Buddhism, a glimpse of understanding the artist’s concepts of temporality and moments emerges.

Presently, together with his Atelier Hapsitus, Nadim Karam is working on his new Wheels of Chicago project that envisions the revival of Olive Park on the Lakeshore. The installation of seven, large-scale revolving wheels would introduce a site-specific narrative, with different wheels representing diversity, leisure, business, art, and nature.

Through February 3, 2013, Nadim Karam’s work can be seen in the exhibition 25 ANS DE CRÉATIVITÉ ARABE at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, France. 

Further reading
Christina Lanzl. Nadim Karam: The Phoenix of Beirut, August 2012. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


By Dixy Yong

Memphis community gathered at the intersection of Chelsea and Hollywood on September 6 at a once neglected street corner to celebrate the installation of the District 7 Dogwood Gateway, a steel sculpture designed and fabricated by the Metal Museum, the only museum and work shop of this type in the U.S. The vibrantly painted sculpture signifies positive change and serves as a portal that symbolizes regeneration and resurrection for this District 7 neighborhood. The dedication brought together community members of the Midtown North Community Association and neighbors, as well as representatives of the organizations involved in realizing the Dogwood Gateway: the UrbanArt Commission and the City of Memphis, represented by District 7 Councilman Lee Harris. Rhodes College, under the leadership of Dorothy Cox, Community Liaison of the Office of External Programs, co-sponsored the event, which culminated in a performance by its jazz band, while students and volunteered to help prepare and clean up the area.

The Dogwood Gateway has a context: for each of the City’s districts, well-respected artists from the area are designing unique entry points to the neighborhoods. They are enriching Memphis with new landmarks and cultural assets that create places for people. This dedication is the first during the UrbanArt Commission’s fifteen-year-anniversary celebration, also marking the tenth anniversary of the City of Memphis Percent-for-Art Program.

Monday, October 1, 2012



Memphis artist Mark Nowell’s latest public art installation is a monumental landmark at the Tobey Park Skate Park, 1627 Avery Avenue in Memphis, that honors the culture of skateboarding in a dynamic and interactive way.  The UrbanArt Commission will host a dedication ceremony and celebration for the sculpture on Friday, October 12 from 3 to 5 PM.  The public is invited to attend and enjoy refreshments, live music, and a speaker program.

The Wave acts as a permanent landmark and monument for the Skate Park, while also acting as an integral and functional component of the skateboarding area.  Nowell describes the sculpture as “symbol of the culture and history of skateboarding.”  Previous commissions with the organization include Aspire at Brewster Elementary School and A Center in the Universe at Katie Sexton Community Center.  Throughout his career, Nowell has completed numerous commissions around the city, including Shazam, 2005, on the corner on Monroe and Madison.

The Tobey Park Skate Park, Memphis’ first public skateboarding park, was dedicated and opened to the public in November 2011.  The Skate Park was brought to Memphis largely through the efforts of Skatelife Memphis, an organization that is focused on increasing public awareness of the benefits of skateboarding related to public health and community building among youth.  Founder of Skatelife Memphis, Aaron Shaffer, wrote of the Skate Park, “Growing up as a surfer and skateboarder, I know how these activities positively impact the development of our youth.  So advocating for a public skate park meant showing our youth that Memphis values them and wants to let them know that we think they and their activities matter.”  Skatelife Memphis is a non-profit organization that seeks to promote Memphis and the health of Memphians by serving as an advocate for public skate parks.  They continue to act as advocates for skateboarding in the Memphis community and in surrounding communities.    

The UrbanArt Commission, the independent non-profit organization that administers the City of Memphis Percent-for-Art Program, commissioned the project through an open competition. Celebrating 15 years of service to the community and the ten-year anniversary of the City of Memphis Percent-for-Art Program, UrbanArt’s mission is to enhance the cultural vibrancy of the community through public art.

UrbanArt at PARK(ing) Day: celebrating 15 years of service to the community

by Dixy Yong
PARK(ing) Day is an international event and annual collaboration to transform metered parking spaces into temporary public places. Launched in 2005, the initiative has blossomed into a worldwide grassroots movement with over 975 “PARKS” in 162 cities across six continents. The mission of this open-source project is to call for more public urban space and to demonstrate and debate how this space is created and allocated. The event has been adapted to confront a variety of social issues in different communities. On Friday, September 21, the PARK(ing) Day event in Memphis boasted public spaces filled not only with sod, trees, and flowers, but also other variations of the project such as a shelter complete with seating and a swing, green screen photography inside a camper trailer, and super-sized games of tennis and Jenga.

The UrbanArt Commission team, comprised of Siphne Sylve, Whitney Ranson and Christina Lanzl, along with interns Emily Balton and Dixy Yong, painted three benches on location. In a comment box, visitors were able to recommend locations for placement of the benches in a public place that would benefit from this amenity. The outdoor benches are intended for public places ranging from plazas to streetscape improvements. Adopt-A-Bench is a community service project to celebrate the organization’s 15 years of service to the community, as well as the 10-year anniversary of the City of Memphis Percent-for-Art Program.

Memphis City Beautiful showed the contrast of polluted and beautified public spaces, while Garner Picture Framing called for both people and dogs to assume the plank position in their “Planking Park”. Aside from being an absurd and innovative demonstration of urban transformation and public good will, this event challenged people to rethink the way that streets are used. In the modest urban area of the metered parking space, PARK(ing) Day reinforces the need for broad-based changes to urban infrastructure.

Friday, August 17, 2012



Unique collaboration between UrbanArt Commission, Metal Museum and
Midtown North Community Association results in new landmark.

What was once a neglected street corner now serves as showcase for a large-scale steel sculpture that symbolizes resurrection and regeneration at the southwest corner of Hollywood Street and Chelsea Avenue. The vibrantly painted work of art, inspired by the Tennessee State Tree – the Dogwood – was designed, forged and fabricated by the Metal Museum, the only such museum in North America.

The dedication and celebration for the sculpture will be hosted by the Midtown North Community Association and Rhodes College on Thursday, September 6th from 3:30 to 5:30pm. The public is invited to attend and enjoy refreshments, music, and a speaker program featuring District 7 Councilman Lee Harris and other local leaders.

The Metal Museum’s team of professional sculptors and metal smiths includes shop foreman Jim Masterson, blacksmithing apprentices Abraham Pardee and Michael Chmielewski, and Project Coordinator Holly Fisher. The Dogwood Gateway stands 12 feet tall and spans 10 feet across. Its blossoms glisten in the sun and invite passersby to stand in the shade it creates, while serving as a new landmark for motorists and the neighborhood. Parking is available.

The UrbanArt Commission, the independent non-profit organization that administers the City of Memphis Percent-for-Art Program, commissioned the project through an open, local competition. Seven Gateway projects – one for each of the City Districts – are under way, with the District 7 dedication to take place as the first. The mission of the organization is to enhance the cultural vibrancy of the community through public art.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Artist Opportunity in Memphis

Anthony Murrell is currently interviewing Memphis artist for his 13 Isolation project. For more information, you may contact Anthony at

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Don't forget about the mosaic making workshop this Saturday, June 30, from 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM at Charjean Park.  Abby Silver from Boulder, Colorado will be leading participants in making mosaics that will be incorporated into a final work of public art in Charjean Park.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

ArtsMemphis Arts Pop Up Event: Hollywood-Springdale

Saturday's Arts Pop Up Event at the Hollywood Community Center was a huge success!  The day was full of great performances, live music, good food, and lot's of art making.  To top it all off, though, Saturday was full of community members uniting through the arts.  Thanks to all those who helped make this event such a success!  We are already looking forward to the next Pop Up Event in April!


Friday, February 17, 2012

Grey Friday, Colorful Murals

Despite the grey weather today, the City of Memphis is still a vibrant, colorful city.  That's especially thanks to the work that local artist Jeff Unthank and his studio assistant Mollie Riggs are doing on a mural for the Raleigh-Frayser Area of Memphis.  Today we had the opportunity to do a studio visit with Jeff and Molly and were joined by local artist Anthony Lee, Philadephia Mural Arts Program muralist Eric Okdeh, Philadephia Mural Arts Program Arts Educator Noni Clemens, and the students of the Rhodes College Mural Painting Class.  [We are excited about the vibrancy that these students are going to bring to our City - find out more about their work here:]  Jeff's mural design delves into the rich history and culture of the Raleigh-Frayser area.  The final product will be a 100 panel mural that will be installed on James Road at Scenic Highway later in 2012.   Here's sneak peak of all the hard work that Jeff and Molly are doing!  Stayed tuned for updates on the progress of this exciting mural!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Memphis Artist, Anthony Lee, honored by Metropolitan Bank with Emmett O'Ryan Award for Artistic Inspiration

Metropolitan Bank Presents Emmett O’Ryan Award for Artistic Inspiration
Second annual award honors artist Anthony Lee

MEMPHIS (January 26, 2012):  Metropolitan Bank presented the second annual Emmett O’Ryan Award for Artistic Inspiration (the “Emmett”) to artist Anthony Lee during a reception at Metropolitan Bank on Jan. 25. The award, which honors Mr. O’Ryan, a founding board member of Metropolitan Bank, is given annually to an emerging artist recognized for his or her work and promise for future artistic significance. The selected artist receives a $2,000 cash award, and his or her nominating organization receives $500.

Anthony Lee is a sculptor and mixed media artist who has received two commissions from the UrbanArt Commission. In 2007 he was commissioned to paint a mural on South Main as a part of UrbanArt’s 10th Anniversary celebration.  Currently, Lee is in the process of completing his second commission with the organization, a sculptural work at Pierotti Park. His work brought national recognition when the Americans for the Arts Public Art Network identified his Modern Hieroglyphs mural as one of the top 40 public artworks created in 2009. Lee was nominated for the Emmett by the UrbanArt Commission.

Emmett O’Ryan was a founding board member of Metropolitan Bank and was an avid art collector as well as an artist. Upon his sudden passing, the bank wanted to create an award to honor O’Ryan and his contribution to the community. Because of his love of art, the bank decided to honor him with an award for an upcoming artist. The selection committee included Bill Carkeet, Oden CEO and ArtsMemphis board member; Jay Robinson, Emmett O’Ryan’s godson; and Metropolitan Bank associates Phillip May, Memphis market president; Joelle Rogin, senior managing director; Josh Huff, marketing director; and
Melissa Scott, group administrative officer.

“This award is a wonderful way to honor Emmett O’Ryan’s memory while supporting the work of an outstanding emerging artist in our community,” May said. “It was difficult to choose among the deserving nominees but, in the end, we thought the quality of Anthony’s work, combined with its direct impact on the Memphis community, was worthy of the award.”

ArtsMemphis-funded visual arts organizations are eligible to nominate an artist who is affiliated with them for the Emmett O’Ryan Award. Other artist nominees included Logan Hirsch, nominated by the Metal Museum; Eszter Augustine-Sziksz, nominated by Memphis College of Art; and Brian Pera, nominated by Indie Memphis.

“We are proud to help Metropolitan Bank spotlight and reward the talent of emerging artists working in Memphis,” says Susan Schadt, president & CEO of ArtsMemphis. “By bestowing this award, Metropolitan Bank nurtures Anthony Lee’s ability to develop as a professional artist.”

The award presentation took place at a reception at Metropolitan Bank’s East Memphis office. Bill Price, a metalsmith and lecturer at Memphis College of Art, designed and fabricated the award.

The Metropolitan Bank, the banking subsidiary of Metropolitan BancGroup, Inc., is a $560 million bank presently co-headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., and Ridgeland, Miss. After its successful acquisition of Bancsouth Financial Corporation and its subsidiary Bank of the South in 2008 and its acquisition of a Tennessee state bank charter, Metropolitan now operates six full-service banking offices in Mississippi and Tennessee. The Metropolitan Bank offers a full range of financial products and services, including private banking services, personal and business checking accounts, online banking and bill payment, mortgages, home equity lines of credit, custom construction loans, commercial and consumer loans, treasury management, remote deposit capture and merchant card services. For more information, visit

Photos below of Anthony Lee's nationally recognized Modern Hieroglyphs mural on South Main in Downtown Memphis.  This project was commissioned by UrbanArt Commission as a part of the organization's 10th Anniversary Project: interactions/interruptions.  In 2009 Lee's mural was recognized by the American's for the Arts Public Art Network as one of the top 40 public art projects of the year.  

Stay tuned for updates on Anthony Lee's next public art project at Pierotti Park in the Raleigh neighborhood that will be installed later this spring.  Sneak peak photo of the project below.