Privately-backed public art fund will beautify the Memphis Medical District

Public artists and muralists will get the chance to beautify the Memphis Medical District thanks to a new public art fund offered by the Memphis Medical District Collaborative,

Artists can receive up to $2,500 to complete projects inside the medical district, and the MMDC will also provide participants with technical assistance including acquiring permits and approvals.

“As a medical district collaborative, we were getting requests from artists living in the neighborhood, mainly in Victorian Village and the EDGE District, with ideas for relatively modest projects, but they just weren’t getting the support like contacting a property owner or some funding for materials or supplies or questions about permitting,” said Abby Miller, MMDC director of programs and data.

MMDC had been developing a public art program in a more traditional sense, including scoping out a site and putting out an RFP for artists to respond to. One of the early proposals came from Melanie Pyron, a business owner in Victorian Village who completed an installation involving weaving designs of colored fabric into a chain link fence at the Urban Child Institute.

Miller said that Pyron's piece was an inspiration for a resident-driven art fund.

This first year we wanted to really test the fund and see how many projects people were interested in,” said Miller.

Public art from Melanie Pyron was the inspiration for MMDC's Public Art Fund.

“One of the interesting things we learned as we were going through it, we had some business owners approach us who were not artists but wanted to be matched up with an artist, so we added a section where they could be linked up with an artist or a muralist through the public art fund.”

MMDC received seven proposals for the first round of funding, and grant recipients will be finalized in the coming weeks by a five-member panel including MMDC staff and other art professionals.

Applications may be submitted until December 1, and grantees will be selected every two months.

Proposed projects must be within the boundaries of the medical district, and proposals can come from professional artists or the general community for temporary or permanent art projects, which should be free to experience and accessible to the public.

“We’re really excited to give this opportunity to some artists in the neighborhood,’ said Miller. “We really want to see artists that maybe haven’t participated in a more formal RFP process. This could be a gateway for them.”

Earlier this year, a public art display from Cat Peña was unveiled in The Edge District, with funding coming from the Downtown Memphis Commission.

The art installation, which consists of a wave of blue streamers across the intersection at Monroe and Marshall Avenues, is complemented with new streetscape enhancements. The projects help to reshape the Memphis Medical District and Edge neighborhood by making streets and intersections more walkable and pedestrian-friendly.

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.
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