Monday, December 22, 2014


Crosstown Arts, the UrbanArt Commission and ArtsMemphis are partnering to present a multi-venue exhibition and programming series throughout 2015 to acknowledge public art makers in Memphis.

Public/Art/ists will collectively recognize and share the work of artists who have participated in Memphis’ public art projects and initiatives, including the studio work (non-public art projects) of these artists, as well as insight into their processes and involvement in creating public art projects from conception to completion.  The exhibition and ongoing events of Public/Art/ists not only act as a connection point to these artists, but also reveal the multiple facets of these artists’ practices in the community.

Crosstown Arts will host the first exhibition of Public/Art/ists, sharing the studio work of artists who have made contributions to Memphis’ urban landscape.  Additional information about future exhibitions and programs of Public/Art/ists happening at other venues is forthcoming.

Artists who have created or contributed in any way to a public art project within the Memphis metro area are invited to submit up to 3 original studio works (non-public art works) for this exhibition.

For information on "How to Submit"please visit:

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!

Monday, July 21, 2014

25 SQ South Memphis Lead Artist Darlene Newman: A Portrait

25 SQ Mural by Darlene Newman, team artists and volunteers at Knowledge Quest in South Memphis, one of several projects in the neighborhood
By Alexis Becton

Memphis native Darlene Newman has been painting since 1998 and launched her own art studio in 2001. She was invited to be the lead artist for the 25 SQ Public Art Initiative in South Memphis in fall 2012, because of her past achievements and the required neighborhood residence for the project. Darlene received her Master of Arts in Illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design and graduated from Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana with a degree in Business Management. Prior to receiving the invitation to be the South Memphis lead artist for 25 SQ, she painted her first mural for the local AME Church and completed a series of architectural paintings based on Orange Mound neighborhood. Her work has been published in numerous magazines.
Darlene Newman leads the community discussion of vision and narratives for the 25 SQ Public Art Initiative murals at the third South Memphis charrette held at LeMoyne-Owen College's Walker House on March 9, 2013
Darlene Newman shares the same vision as the originators of the 25 SQ Public Art Initiative, which is to uplift the community through positive art: “I strive to bring a mixture of positive messages and spiritual concepts to life in my paintings.” says Darlene. The purpose of the mural is to target neighborhoods that have been suffering from economic disinvestment, something Newman hopes will decrease over time.
Darlene Newman and a fellow artist plan sequencing of plywood mural vignettes for empty buildings during the Paint Day held at the Stax to the Max festival on April 28, 2013
Newman invited other artists to join her in her efforts. Team artists are Henry Ford, Meredith Olinger, Artiek Smith, Nelson Smith, III and Amie Vanderford. Further, Cat Normoyle and her Memphis College of Art students also painted mural vignettes for a Knowledge Quest building. The artists have been assisted by volunteers of all ages on wall-size murals and mural vignettes for the Soulsville neighborhood. Public paint sessions took place at The Hub on August 3 – see the Facebook photo album, at the Stax Museum's Stax to the Max Festival on April 28, 2013 and on other dates. Children active with the non-profit Knowledge Quest and its community programs volunteered to assist with the painting of a mural. The Knowledge Quest mural at Jeannette Place has been completed as of October 18. It promotes unity and family with expressive colors and houses that represent the community.

Darlene Newman, 25 SQ lead artist for South Memphis, and Frank D. Robinson, 25 SQ lead artist for Binghampton, at their jointly organized Paint Day at Caritas Village on July 12, 2014
Darlene Newman reveals the philosophy behind her work: “Through my art I would like to educate people about the area, instead of seeing teddy bears hanging and ribbons as a memorial; people would like to learn more about the neighborhood from the art they see and see that this neighborhood still has hope.” Newman took great pleasure in working within her own neighborhood and is appreciative of the opportunity provided by the 25 SQ Public Art Initiative.


Interim Report, May 2013
Project Summary, Fall 2012
Soulsville Call for Participants, Spring 2013
Hart, Joe. "The New City-Makers." Public Art Review, Winter 2013. 50-55.
Focht, Karen Pulfer. "A Thousand Words." Commercial Appeal, Apr. 21, 2013. 5V
Phillips, Bianca. "Make Memphis." Memphis Flyer, Mar. 21, 2013

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Dorian Spears and the 25 SQ Public Art Initiative: A Portrait

Dorian Spears (center) with artist Cat Normoyle and her husband
at the 25 SQ Crosstown festival in fall 2012.

By Alexis Becton
Since moving back to Memphis from Atlanta, GA, Dorian Spears has been known for her involvement around the city of Memphis. She has been active in a variety of organizations including Women of Achievement and Give 365. For the past two years she has been part of the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team (MIDT). The initiative is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable foundation. The $4.7M grant addresses both challenges of reducing handgun violence among young black males and increasing neighborhood economic vitality. 
The Innovation Delivery Team is comprised of eight members including Spears. The team initially researched and then focused on three areas in Memphis: South Memphis, Binghampton and Madison/Cleveland/Crosstown. Under the 25 SQ programs the Mayor’s team began to partner with neighborhoods that suffered from economic disinvestment for an extended period. Each area is comprised of 25-square blocks, hence the title of the program. The Division of Public Works – Office of Neighborhood Improvement stepped in to discard trash and other unwanted items in the neighborhoods. The next phase entailed working with local artists. For this purpose, the MIDT partnered with the UrbanArt Commission, which led the artist selection and public art process. The 25 SQ Public Art Initiative was launched and neighborhood artists were selected following a curatorial review by the team.
Dorian Spears at one of three 25 SQ neighborhood charrettes held at the
J.E. Walker House of LeMoyne-Owen College in winter 2012/13.
Public art for the three 25 SQ neighborhoods began with neighborhood meetings and charrettes in South Memphis. In Crosstown, a public call for ideas and artist recruitment process was held at a 25 SQ street festival on Cleveland Street in fall 2012. In Binghampton, partner meetings took place at Caritas Village and a 25 SQ festival was organized on Broad Avenue in spring 2013. For the 25 SQ Public Art Initiative, a series of high-impact, low-budget public art projects has been commissioned in 2013 and 2014.
Community-based artists Darlene Newman of South Memphis / Soulsville, Frank D. Robinson of Binghampton and Shea Colburn Midtown along with other artists have been creating public art at a number of sites. Murals on plywood boards were painted at the Stax to the Max Festival in April 2013, destined for abandoned buildings, as well as at Caritas Village and at the Carpenter Art Garden in Binghampton, where the mural vignettes will be installed along fences at Binghampton Park, Howze Park and at Caritas. Darlene Newman and Shea Colburn led the painting of several wall-size murals located at Knowledge Quest, at the Hub and at 989 Looney Avenue. More works are in progress.
Dorian Spears, a South Memphis native, and Darlene Newman, who also lives there, share the same vision by uplifting the community with positive art. Newman shared her goals: “I strive to bring a mixture of positive messages and spiritual concepts to life in my paintings. Through my art I would like to educate people about the area, instead of seeing teddy bears hanging and ribbons as a memorial. People would like to learn more about the neighborhood from the art they see and see that this neighborhood still has hope.”
Spears also connected with Cat Normoyle, an artist who teaches at Memphis College of Art, to help with the South Memphis project. Students and neighborhood residents volunteered to help paint murals. The murals were created in partnership with Knowledge Quest, where they fill the windows of a currently vacant building at 1042 South Lauderdale Street. The pictograms there promote healthy eating, education, ambition and literacy. These messages are identical with the goals of the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team, says Spears: I employ current knowledge and acumen, while making a meaningful impact on the 25 SQ organizational mission, vision, and values.” Spears and her team continue to make meaningful impacts in Memphis, although the grant funds will be depleted in October 2014.

Friday, June 20, 2014

25 SQ at the Carpenter Art Garden: Paint Session in Binghampton with Erin Harris

By Alexis Becton

Artist Erin Harris hosted a paint session at the Carpenter Art Garden, located at 301 Carpenter Street in Binghampton, on Tuesday, June 17 from 4 to 6 pm. She and a group of neigbhorhood volunteers painted plywood murals for the 25 SQ Public Art Initiative, a project spearheaded by the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team in partnership with the UrbanArt Commission.
As a warm-up, the hula hoop group “Co-Motion” performed and invited everyone to participate. Then, it was time to get those paintbrushes to work. Two dozen volunteers of all ages began painting plywood murals for the neighborhood as part of the 25 SQ Public Art Initiative. They also created potted plant arrangements for a woodland fairy garden. The completed portable murals will be installed on both ends of Carpenter Street and at other locations in Binghampton.
The Carpenter Art Garden will celebrate two years of being open and active in the community this August. “Each mural celebrates the community. The opportunities to work with the neighborhood kids and volunteers motivates me because we grow things and do something positive in our community,” says Erin Harris. 

The art garden is an urban oasis for the neighborhood’s children and adults, as well as for local artists who have turned the formerly empty lot into a place of beauty. The volunteers have an opportunity to show their creativity with different projects over time. Participants are always elated to start on new projects they enjoy, while having a positive impact both in their lives and in the neighborhood.

The Carpenter Art Garden is open for participatory activities every Tuesday from 4-6 pm during the summer, unless it rains. 

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.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Greenlaw Community Center Mural Serves as Inspiration

Reported by Alex Clementi in April 2014

Almost a full year after artist Brandon Marshall completed the District 7 Mural at the Greenlaw Community Center, the artwork is continuing to amaze the public. But as Greenlaw Community Center director April Golden mentioned in a recent interview, the mural is serving as much more than that: It is an inspiration to the community. As April explained, “we’re in the middle of an area that is basically being renovated. You have the old side and the new side…and we’re smack dab in the middle.” The mural, as she explained, inspires a sense of identity in the neighborhood. “It shows a positive side in what we’re trying to do for our community…and the neighborhood absolutely adores the mural,” notes April. She also emphasized the mural’s impact on the children in the neighborhood. “They comment the most, they love the mural,” says April, “They try and figure out if it is one of them up there.” In noting the positive effect and responses to the new mural, April Golden is keen to see more public art in the neighborhood.

Read more about the background, figures and symbols shown in the mural in the UrbanArt Commission's online Gallery.