A program of 'transformational, creative placemaking': Overton Park Shell rolls out its mobile stage

What’s happening: The Overton Park Shell rolled out the main attraction of its community outreach programming late last week – and quite literally. It’s called the Mobile Shell, and to paraphrase Natalie Wilson, executive director of Overton Park Shell, it’s a piece of transformational creative placemaking that will make music all the more accessible to Memphians by bringing it straight to the source: the people.

What it is: The Mobile Shell is a mobile, functional replica of the Overton Park Shell, scaled down to half the size of the historic bandshell first established in 1936. The organization is touting the mobile stage as the “the first totally hydraulic 1930’s style bandshell ‘on wheels’, with the sound, lighting and power integrated inside.” Designed by Memphian Tom Edwards and measuring approximately 50 ft. long and 20 ft. tall, the Mobile Shell is the centerpiece of the organization’s larger community outreach effort they’re calling Shell on Wheels.

Why it’s important: “Shell on Wheels (and its) potential for creative placemaking throughout our city and region is transformational,” Overton Park Shell Executive Director Natalie Wilson says in a statement. “We can’t wait to make accessibility to The Shell’s mission throughout Memphis and Shelby County with innovation and vision.”

[Related: Read ‘How this unique partnership is bringing American Sign Language interpreters to Overton Park Shell’ on High Ground News.]

“With the release of the Mobile Shell, I hope to create more opportunities to support local Memphis artists and nonprofit organizations while making performing arts more accessible to all of Memphis,” says Shell on Wheels Outreach Manager, Yolanda Kelly.

What it does: The Overton Park Shell organization hopes to utilize its Mobile Shell as a means of reaching those in Memphis and throughout Shelby County that might not otherwise possess the ability to travel to The Shell itself, addressing accessibility issues in the region. Mobile Shell is available for individuals and organizations to rent, and debuts with 14 Memphis-based musicians among its roster of featured artists.

How they did it: A patchwork of private and organizational donations raised the $200,000 needed to design and build the Mobile Shell, and the Maddox Family of Tri-State Truck Center donated a 2023 Mack MD truck for towing purposes.

Visit Overton Park Shell online to learn more about their Shell on Wheels programming and events, the Mobile Shell itself, and more.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.