Monday, December 5, 2016

Local Artists Enhance St. Jude Marathon Route

Memphis, Tenn., November 29, 2016 The UrbanArt Commission (UAC) and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital® commissioned temporary art installations by four local artists to beautify the St. Jude Memphis Marathon route. 

The largest single-day fundraising event for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the St. Jude Memphis Marathon annually expects more than 22,000 participants and nearly 40,000 spectators to come out to support the kids of St. Jude - and view some incredible artwork.

On Saturday, December 3rd, art projects ranging from wheat pasted posters and recycled banners to a yarn bombing were found throughout the race, inspiring runners to go the distance. Local artists include graphic designer EG Balton, Memphis Knit Mafia founder Christiana Leibovich, and visual artists Carl Scott and Yancy Villa-Calvo.

EG Balton is a Memphian currently working as a sixth generation contributor to local sign manufacturing company, Frank Balton Sign Co., as a designer. She also maintains a studio practice as painter and illustrator, featuring emotive animals and organic life forms in her work. As for the St. Jude Marathon artwork— Balton combines her sign design experience with an appreciation for plant life and its symbolism for positive, life-giving growth. Her posters are simple reminders that we, like plants and all life forms on this planet, have the capacity to overcome great odds with persistence. Her posters seek to acknowledge the efforts and hard work that all St. Jude Marathon participants have put forth, and to motivate all individuals on their unique paths ahead with optimism.

Christiana Leibovich has worked as a painter, illustrator and makeup artist since high school. After receiving a crocheted blanket from her Uncle as a wedding gift in 2004, she took up knitting and a devotion to learning the crafts and traditions of her Grandmother, her great aunts and her husband’s family. She formed the Memphis Knit Mafia in 2007, and in 2009 began exploring public installations. She now joyfully combines fine art and craft from her home in Germantown, though she, her husband, and their daughter still consider themselves lifelong Memphians.

Carl Scott is a local Memphis artist who graduated in 1985 from Memphis College of Art with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Since that time, he has done enumerable projects, showings, murals, paintings and classes. Carl continually challenged himself by working with different mediums. The viewer is drawn into his work by constantly discovering new details and aspects with every glance. Almost simultaneously, his work evokes feelings of familiarity and emotional connection. Much of his work can be found throughout the Mid-South in various galleries, churches, banks, convention centers, hotels and businesses, and in private collections.

Yancy Villa-Calvo was born in Mexico City and has lived and traveled in Latin America, Europe and Africa. She received her formal art education at Christian Brothers University, Memphis College of Art and has been mentored by national and international artists. Holding a B.A., a B.F.A and an M.B.A., Yancy frequently exhibits in group and solo shows. Her work is displayed in private collections in the United States, Mexico, Netherlands, Brazil, and Israel. She has been in Memphis for over 20 years, where she lives with her husband Mauricio Calvo and their children Anna, Carolina and Santiago. Her St. Jude banners represent both the inner strength needed to overcome the obstacles of the race and the diverse colors of our Memphis community, all united in this race.

Anthony Lee is a local Memphis artist. His design for the North Parkway Underpass is created to travel with the driver's eye as they traverse the underpass at 40 mph. Contextually, the image conveys transference, as in electricity pushing electrons or waves carrying information. It's a shape pattern to allude to directional current and flow. As an off-center and concentric design, the shape of the wide swathes of washed concrete were drawn and scrubbed in by hand, for the whole vertical height of each form, and then pressure-washed to complete the fill. 

For 15 years and running the St. Jude Memphis Marathon has raised almost $50 million for the kids of St. Jude. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food – because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. And because the majority of funding comes from individual contributors, St. Jude has the freedom to focus on what matters most – saving kids regardless of their financial situation.

UAC extends many thanks to Theatre Memphis and FASTSIGNS for generously donating recycled banners to provide a canvas to local artists and make these projects possible.

UAC was founded in 1997 with the mission of enhancing the cultural vibrancy of Memphis communities through the development of public art. UAC works with a number of different partners, including the City of Memphis, various arts and community organizations, and neighborhood associations to commission artists of all media to consider shared spaces and experiences. For more information, visit

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Artist Spotlight: Tad Lauritzen Wright

Tad Lauritzen Wright is a Memphis-based artist whose work will be featured at the upcoming MEMFix event at Film Row on Saturday, September 24th from 11-5. Ride your bike to the event and test out his movie camera bike rack!

About Tad:
Movie Camera Bike Rack on Butler Ave
Tad Lauritzen Wright was born in 1972 in San Angelo, Texas. He now lives and works in Memphis,Tennessee. Lauritzen Wright is best known for his collage paintings, single line drawings, and word puzzle paintings. However, he works in a wide range of styles – using a variety of painting techniques, including collage, spray painting, traditional brushwork, and experimental applications of paint. Lauritzen Wright’s work has been shown extensively throughout the United States including venues like the Katonah Museum of Art in New York, the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, the Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, Scope Miami, Art LA, Bridge Chicago, and Pulse NYC. He has had recent exhibitions with the Cheryl Hazan Gallery in New York, David Lusk Gallery in Memphis, and at ACME Gallery in Los Angeles.

About his Film Row icons:
One of Tad's Icons found @ Makeda's Cookies on 2nd St.

For the Film Row MemFix event I created film reel icons and antique camera icons to create identification markers for the area. Originally, a sculpture of a large camera was planned as a temporary element of the MemFix event. That sculpture was reconsidered and redesigned into a permanent installation of a movie camera that is also a bike rack.

Details about the event are available on Facebook
Read more about Tad's work on his website.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Artist Spotlight: Lawrence Matthews III

Lawrence Matthews III is a Memphis-based artist whose work will be featured at the upcoming MEMFix event at Film Row on Saturday, September 24th from 11-5. See his murals in person at the event!

About Lawrence:
The murals are found along Butler Ave, behind Central BBQ/the Civil Rights Museum.
Born in Memphis, TN in 1991, Lawrence Matthews III came from a family who encouraged him to be an artist from a young age. Being raised in a racially tense environment, his experiences and interests manifested themselves in his visual art. Matthews graduated from Germantown High School in 2009. After experimenting with different styles and influences, Matthews came into his own creating art combining Post Modernist, Pop Art, and contemporary influences to tell the story of the African Descendant living in America. His work ranges from oil paintings, to collage, photography, and ready-made sculpture, to music and film. A recent recipient of a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Memphis, he has shown work in multiple group exhibitions around the mid-south. He was awarded “Best of Show” in the University’s 31st Annual Juried Student Exhibition in 2014. He also was awarded the Deans Creative Achievement Award and Department of Art Creative Achievement Award in 2015. In 2016 he was awarded the Arts Accelerator Grant from Arts Memphis. Matthews has also had many solo exhibitions spanning painting, photography, and installation.

About his Film Row Murals:
The murals are layered, reflecting the layered history of Memphis film.
"All of my visual art deals with history, more specifically black and southern history. When asked to create art for Film Row, I knew a little but not enough I felt to create something special. I began to ask my more informed friends about the film history here and I was directed toward King Vidor’s film Hallelujah. What drew me to use material from the film in my work was the fact it was the first film to have an all black cast without the use of Blackface. It was also the second “talkie” ever, the first being Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer. I was also drawn to the fact it was actually shot here in Memphis. Hallelujah is one of the only films of the time period to not portray African Americans in racist, stereotypical fashion. I felt like it was a crime that in all my time in Memphis I had never heard anything about the existence of this film. I strove to make something that not only honored this film and its historical significance to history but its creation in black communities in Memphis. I collaged book pages containing images and information from the Memphis Massacre in 1866 and as well as Memphis’s film and theatre history creating layers of history for the paintings to sit on. Ultimately I wanted to create something positive and beautiful that also told multiple layers of Memphis Film history in a way that reflects the communities surrounding Film Row."

Details about the event are available on Facebook
Read more about Lawrence's work on his website.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Artist Spotlight: Khara Woods

Khara Woods is a Memphis-based graphic designer whose work will be featured at the upcoming MEMFix event at Film Row on Saturday, September 24th from 11-5. Attend the event to take a stroll down Khara's crosswalks!

About Khara:
"I work as a freelance graphic designer designing logos and developing brands for a variety of clients. This year, for the first time ever, I rented a studio in the historic Edge district in downtown Memphis. I’m experimenting with paint and lettering. I have a keen interest in public art and I’d like to apply what I’m learning to projects that transform and reactivate spaces around my city to make living here, a little cooler."

Khara's Design:
"Inspired by the history of Film Row, I searched for iconic symbols and images associated with the film industry. I collected a bank of images like SMPTE color bars, clapperboards, film reel tins, which I felt would be easiest to translate into a design for a crosswalk. I was drawn to the simple geometric shapes found in these images. I chose bright shades of blue, orange and pink as my main colors. The recognizable shapes, patterns and bright colors should make the set of 5 crosswalks I've designed, the most fun and 'walkable' crosswalks in Film Row."

Khara's crosswalks in process--you'll be able to walk down the finished product at MEMFix this Saturday.
Details about the event are available on FacebookRead more about Khara's work on her website.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Blight Out Summer Party: A Party With a Purpose

The Memphis UrbanArt Commission recently partnered with Advance Memphis and Innovate Memphis (also known as the Innovation Delivery Team) for a Blight Out Summer Party to celebrate recent efforts to address blight (neglected or rundown areas) in the Vance Avenue corridor in Memphis, Tenn.

Community residents and potential project donors were on hand for the celebration, which included music, face painting, arts and crafts and the unveiling of three artist proposals for addressing blight in the area. The proposals resulted from neighborhood meetings and design charrettes (intense design or planning activities) to identify the needs and desires of the community, as well as ways to transform or activate blighted areas through public art.

“We met with three age groups—school-age children, working adults and retired senior citizens,” said Kate Lareau, director of communications for Advance Memphis. “With each, we discussed how public art can work in a neighborhood and the different forms that it can take.”

During the party, attendees had the opportunity to vote on three proposals, which also will be posted on Advance Memphis’ website for viewing. Voting will continue throughout the week. Advance Memphis also plans to share the proposals with the Senior Living Center at Cleaborn Pointe to involve those residents in the selection process.

“By inviting them to give input about art and location, participants begin to feel a sense of ownership and see the potential for art to affect their space,” said Lareau.

Once the winning proposal is selected, UAC will work with the artist to develop and install the project. UAC also will share the process with interested residents and community organizations throughout Memphis, as well as develop a toolkit as a best-practice model that other local and national communities can use to engage their communities and effectively combat blight in their neighborhoods.

“People are learning that they can change what they see around them—that it's not a mystical process, but something they can make happen,” said Lareau.

For more information, please contact Allison Hennie at or visit

Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Experience at the Americans for the Arts Conference by Lauren Kennedy

I recently attended my second annual Americans for the Arts conference, which is preceded by a smaller conference focused on public art. Last year, I had only been at the UrbanArt Commission for five months and was very much still learning my role as Executive Director while also trying to absorb all of the conversations and information at the conference. (Reading between the lines, I was pretty overwhelmed and very awkward.) I was particularly looking forward to this year’s conference in Boston with a better grasp of my role, the organization and the vision we are working towards. Also, people watching at an art conference is always fascinating.

A growing focus for me and the UAC team has been how can the work we do overlap with other disciplines and industries in a way that creates more buy-in and support for the arts. Feel free to read a previous blog post or view a presentation where I go on a bit more about this… I was heartened to see so many sessions and conversations popping up at the conference that focused on the intersection of the arts and engaged citizenship, innovative communities and equity. Keynote and plenary session speakers all touched on the recent (hate-fueled) tragedy in Orlando and the contentious upcoming election, grappling with how art can interact with and react to these very real and heavy situations playing out around us. One session leader demanded that more and different people need to be responsible for how our cities and experiences are shaped. That artists and art organizers should be part of that process. Donna Brazile, Vice Chairwoman of the Democratic National Convention, counseled that in demanding a seat at the table, you may have to bring your own folding chair.

And in the midst of all of this energy and call to action, Memphis earned some main stage spotlight. The ArtsMemphis’ Community Engagement Fellows Program, led by the fearless Linda Steele, won the first ever Robert E. Gard Award for the intersection of arts and community life. I had the great privilege of participating in this program while working for Ballet Memphis and was invited to help accept the award with a number of other current and past fellows in attendance. What a beautiful and proud moment for a room of 1,500 some odd people to hear about and applaud a program here in Memphis.

You may be able to tell at this point that I came home from this experience fully charged and eager to keep Memphis in the mix of this broader, national conversation. We are working hard to inject these ideas into the work we do and are looking forward to continue sharing that with all of you.

Learn more about the Memphis UrbanArt Commission by visiting our website or following us on Facebook or Instagram

Thursday, June 23, 2016

How to Create a Winning RFP or RFQ Entry

The UrbanArt Commission commissions (hires or pays for) the creation of artwork on behalf of other entities, such as corporations, nonprofits or government agencies. The Memphis UAC often commissions artwork (murals or sculptures) on behalf of the City of Memphis or local businesses or organizations. These projects often are commissioned through a request for qualifications and/or a request for proposal.

A request for qualifications simply prequalifies an artist or group of artists to complete the proposed project. It does not mean the artist or artists are hired to create the work—just that they are qualified to do the work or create the project. So an RFQ usually requires artists to submit a resume or CV, samples of previous works of art and ideas (not designs) for the current project. This process helps generate a strong pool for consideration. So RFQs are preliminary to RFPs, and RFQs are always followed by an RFP.

The RFP is the actual call to artists for their ideas and designs for the commissioned artwork. The RFP may be open to all artists or artists selected through the RFQ process and requires artists to submit background information along with their creative ideas, designs, budget and deadline. A selection committee made up of UAC staff, the commissioning organization, members of the local art community and people living and working around a project site reviews and selects the winning proposal. Winning proposals best meet the criteria, budget and creative needs identified in the RFP. Artists may or may not be paid an honorarium for completing the proposal, but the winning artist will be paid to complete the project. The RFP will indicate the budget for the creative design and fabrication of the artwork.

The first key to winning an RFQ or RFP is providing all the designated information in the format requested. Failure to do this often disqualifies an artist from the process, especially if all other entries provide this information. Additionally, it is important that the artist understands the artistic needs of the commissioning organization and the creative preferences of the community, as well as provides a creative solution to those needs.

Artists should expect to maintain communication with the commissioning organization and the public to ensure the project continues to meet the organization’s and public’s needs and adheres to proposal guidelines. So while the artist provides the creative ideas, he or she must work within the guidelines provided through the RFP. Often, there are approval processes along the way to ensure the project stays on task, budget and deadline. Payment is often tied to this schedule.

Working in this way may be a challenge for some artists but the commissioned art process can be a satisfying and enriching experience, especially when artists get to share their artistic vision with the community. We hope we answered your questions about the commission process and how to submit a winning RFQ or RFP. And we hope to see your qualifications or proposals soon!