Memphis' longest mural headed for blighted neighborhood

Grassroots group Paint Memphis believes that graffiti can unite and transform communities. In a blighted area, a Wolf River floodwall in the New Chicago neighborhood will be the site of a day of change-making on July 18.

Paint Memphis, backed by the Urban Art Commission, is hosting a public art festival at the 0.3-mile-long stretch of concrete stretching westward from North Evergreen and Chelsea, making it the largest collaborative mural in Memphis. Graffiti writers and mural artists from Memphis and beyond will gather to spread color and draw attention to the overlooked area.
During the family-friendly festival, attendees can watch artists such as Birdcap, Nosey, Paser, Rakn, Kyle Taylor and 55 others illustrate the wall with art on the theme of revival.

"We hope to revive and breathe some life into this neighborhood that in some ways had the life sucked out of it," said Karen Golightly, Event Coordinator for Paint Memphis. "It doesn't have a community development corporation or a community association. It's really in between a couple of different neighborhoods that are developed, like Rhodes and Uptown." 

"We intend for the art to honor some of the people who have been very successful who have grown up in that neighborhood," she added, pointing to rap artists Yo Gotti and Three 6 Mafia.

The south side of the wall will face the Chelsea Greenline, a section of the Greater Memphis Greenline slated for completion in 2017 that will connect the city from Downtown to Shelby Farms. It is Paint Memphis' hope that the city will grant permission to turn the north side into a permission wall, a sanctioned publicly owned space where artists can display their talents.

Such permission walls already exist at the parking lot at Tanglewood and Walker and in the alley behind Sam Phillips' studio, but these spaces are owned by individuals or businesses. "Having a safe place in which they can paint during the day lends itself to more quality work," Golightly explained. "It will be great for the community to have something interesting that no other place in the city has."

Guidelines for the permission wall would be decided by the New Chicago and North Midtown neighborhoods. Paint Memphis would serve as monitor, and anything offensive would be have to be brought to attention and discussed--therefore forming a dearly needed community organization. Golightly hopes that the Chelsea Greenline wall will be a test site for several other permission walls under proposal to the City.

To get involved with the event, check out the project's ioby page. Visit the Paint Memphis website for further details about reserving an artist spot or to volunteer for priming the wall.

Read more articles by Madeline Faber.

Madeline Faber is an editor and award-winning reporter. Her experience as a development reporter complements High Ground's mission to write about what's next for Memphis.
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