Arrow Creative is its own "arts district" with plans to fill gaps left by Memphis College of Art

Arrow Creative is a nonprofit concept shop founded by two accomplished creatives, Dorothy Collier and Abby Elzemeyer Phillips. It's billed as as creative district serving both makers and art enthusiasts under a single roof. 

“We wanted to have a forward-facing presence that is customer-focused and will bring retail, studio artists, and other creatives all under one roof," said Collier.

Arrow's ample retail space includes unique works from 55 local makers. Memphis-centric items range from doormats to jewelry to prints.

Previously located on Flicker Street, their new home at 2535 Broad Avenue opened just three months ago, but it already has the feel of a well-established and artfully decorated business.

Arrow is a collaborative space for creatives of various crafts and skills to visualize, create, and sell their work to the public. Its six semi-private studios are currently occupied by a jewelry designer, illustrator, blogger, painter, talent agent, and graphic and fashion designer.

It also offers memberships for coworking space, which includes access to shared equipment, a gallery, and community and conference spaces. Arrow has over 100 current members.

The public is encouraged to come in to shop, cowork, get creative juices flowing, or just watch other creative makers bring their works to life.

"We are all creatives. So we invite you to come and get the space messy. You are more than welcome to spread out to paint, doodle, cut fabric pieces, or whatever,” said Collier.

Arrow also offers workshops including candle making, how to sell products on Instagram, painting, embroidery, floral arrangements, and chunky chain making. The workshop are popular and fill up rapidly.

“We are still tweaking our calendar of events to see what the community wants and what sells quickly," said Collier. 

“Spaces like this are being and have been built for decades, all around the country, and it works really successfully," said Collier. "Tourists love it, the artists love it, and the community loves it. We offer a relaxed, cozy, accessible, and growing space where artists can just come and be." 

Arrow's next big plans? To fill gaps in Memphis' creative landscape that will soon be left by the closing of the region's only dedicated art college, Memphis College of Art. 

The Perks of Creative Collaboration  

Arrow's membership has a tiered structure to serve artists at a wider range of economic levels.

Free memberships offer collaborative experiences and access to exclusive members-only events. Paid options range from $420 to $500 annually, based on the creative’s needs. 

Membership benefits include social media support and discounts on events and workshops. Arrow also offers members a drop-off service, which allows makers to leave their sold works at Arrow so that the buyers can pick them up. It's a convenient, center-city location for customers and offers security for the creative.

Camilla Curran is a ballerina with the Tennessee Ballet Theater and a talent agent. She runs the Memphis branch of the Amax Talent Agency from one of Arrow's six studio spaces. Curran's been with Arrow nearly two years and made the move with them from Flicker Street.

Curran loves her new studio and loves being able to see what's happening throughout the retail and working spaces. She said it's much less isolating than a traditional office setting. 

“I like being surrounded by other creatives because it helps me think outside of the box and gets my creative juices flowing," said Curran. “The main thing for me is the camaraderie. It keeps my brain in the right sphere, being able to come out of the office and bounce ideas off of someone else."

Curran said that being a member of Arrow has also been positive for her clients.

“I have drummed up work for my talent. The jewelry maker and the fashion designer have hired some of my talent before. I have been able to have model calls and have the space for a runway,” said Curran.

Brochures at Arrow Creative emphasize that all types of creators and makers are welcome to play, shop, or work at Arrow. (Ziggy Mack)

SAVING Community Ed

In 2017, Memphis College of Art announced their plans to disband. Their final classes will graduate this year.

Phillips and Collier partnered with MCA to continue providing some of the instruction and programming currently covered by the college. Arrow will soon house MCA's fashion design certificate program.

“The fashion design certificate classes are finishing out their year at Memphis College of Art, and Arrow will take it on for the fall semester of 2020,” says Collier.

“We didn’t want to leave that hole in the community because the college was closing,” Collier said.

They initially considered buying some or all of the space at MCA's Rust Hall, but it did not prove to be a viable opportunity.

Instead, they purchased MCA's equipment for three creative arts—bookmaking, printmaking, and paper making. When they move to their forever space, they will be able to offer classes and workshops that will put that equipment to good use.

[Update March 2, 2020: Collier told High Ground News that Arrow has now acquired all of MCA's departmental equipment with the exception of the metals department. This includes printmaking, paper making, letterpress, painting, photography, woodworking, ceramics, sound lab, illustration and animation, and fashion design.] 

Arrow is also keeping MCA's youth summer camp alive. Collier said they'll be hosting 550 students from ages five to 17 this summer at a satellite location. 

"Lots of students and their parents had their kids involved in the program for years through MCA, and we didn’t want to leave that void for them because the college is closing,” said Collier.

Location and community growth were very intentional factors they considered in moving to Broad Avenue.

“We are surrounded by some great communities that need our love and support. We are one more cool thing in Memphis that all of the community can enjoy,” said Collier.

Phillips and Collier feel they came to the arts district at an opportune time.

“Our Broad Avenue neighbors have already built such a great environment. Tourists are coming and shopping. There’s a lot of travel write-ups on what to do when you come to Memphis, and Broad Avenue has been mentioned a lot in the past couple of years,” said Collier.

Dorothy wants to see even more growth for Broad Avenue and the community that it serves.

“I hope that it becomes bigger but still feels like a small arts scene. Like a hidden gem,” said Collier.

Arrow also hopes to get bigger. 

“Within the next year or two, we’ll be moving into a warehouse or much larger space than this. With that, we foresee forty individual art studios. We currently have about sixty artists on our waiting list. This community is dying for a home base,” said Collier.
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Read more articles by Deborah Gaddy-Robertson.

Deborah Gaddy-Robertson is a recent graduate of Strayer University, where she earned an MBA in Leadership. She is a Certified Life Coach and author of a fictional novel, "Cor 'poor' ate America." She is currently working on her second literary project, "Little Epiphanies from God."