Frayser Local Arts Festival is where to be this weekend

The Arkwings Foundation’s first ever Frayser Local Arts Festival will take place Saturday, October 5, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the foundation’s headquarters at 2034 James Road.

Organizers say artist participation has doubled in the 24 hours prior to publication of this article, and festival goers can now expect to see 20 to 25 performances and demonstrations and artistic works from roughly 100 local creatives.

The festival's four core organizers hope the event inspires creativity in every attendee and inspires pride and new connections for Frayser residents.

“My hopes are that Frayser will have something positive, enlightening, and entertaining to do. [I hope] it will open up some opportunities for people who are local to Memphis to offer their services and events to Frayser as well,” said organizer Jeanelle Jones, who will also be performing at the event.

Jones is a lifelong actor, dancer, singer and poet who has been performing under the name 'Toothbrush Jesus' since 2014. She said she got the name "because I speak clean truth."

Like Jones' mix of creative endeavors, the Frayser Local Arts Festival will showcase a myriad of artistic expressions on the grounds of Arkwings' 17.5-acre property.

Attendees can expect to see traditional 2-D art, sculpture, singing, poetry, dance, hooping, makeup tutorials and even a discussion on the creative aspects of tarot card readings.

According to the festival's organizers, it's all art and every artist is a critical part of the fabric of Memphis' neighborhoods.

"That's what we're really trying to drive home," said Jana Wilson, Arkwings' director. "We're around artists all day, every day, and we don't even think about it."

Three of the four Frayser Local Arts Festival organizers. (L to R) Devin Kirkland, Jeanelle 'Toothbrush Jesus' Jones and Jana Wilson. (Arkwings Foundation)

Two- and 3-D art by local artists and students from every corner of Memphis will be on exhibit. Artist and other local makers will be on hand to sell art and other products. 

Outdoor performances will be held on the property's labyrinth circle lawn where attendees can lounge in camp chairs and enjoy picnic baskets they bring from home. Food trucks will also available for those who don't want to pack their snacks.

Festival organizer Devin Kirkland will work on a live visual art installation throughout the day, and festival goers will have the opportunity to contribute to the painting.

The 100+ creatives aren't exclusively from Frayser, but Wilson said the majority are from neighborhoods like Frayser that are underserved by the Memphis' established arts scene. The participating artists represent Frayser, Raleigh, Klondike-Smokey City, Vollintine, South Memphis and several other Memphis communities. 

Wilson is enthusiastic about Arkwings stepping up to meet Frayser's needs where it can and hopes to see the foundation grow into an incubator for a network of local artists. 

Arkwings is a nonprofit focused on improving well-being for inner city youth and families and has served Frayser for 26 years. Most of their work to-date has focused on youth-centered outdoor exploration, urban gardening and other experiential education programs, but their programming focus as expanded this year to include creative self-expression through visual arts, music and healthy food choices. 

“This is not going to be a one time festival, but momentum [will carry] over to a network of artists and collaboration," said Wilson.

Art by Frayser residents decorates a local store front. (Arkwings Foundation)

The festival will also feature a Friday night opening reception and preview event from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. with drinks, hors d'oeuvres, a silent auction, a meet-and-greet with artists and live performances including fire dancers. 

Saturday's festival is free but the opening reception is a ticketed event. For tickets and information click here

Wilson said that because the majority of the festival's creatives aren't a part of the mainstream art scene, many never participated in a festival or exhibit before. The reception is one way to expose them to new networking opportunities and the VIP treatment every artist deserves.

"We want them to have the full experience of participating in an exhibit or festival, including an opening reception where they can meet and greet the public," she said.

Festival organizer Lurlynn Franklin said Wilson came up with the idea for the festival by listening to Frayser residents. Wilson joined Arkwings in spring 2018 and spent the last year and a half looking and listening for niches that weren't being filled. 

“How [Arkwings is] coming up with stuff and [Wilson's] weaving her programming around a need or a desire, to me that’s amazing. People don’t do that. Normal arts organizations don’t do that,” said Franklin, who was also an educator at a Frayser elementary school prior to transferring this school year.

“[Wilson and I] have a real down to earth, probably very unconventional, not a hierarchal view of art; that anybody can create and if you create something then you’re an artist," Franklin added.

Creatives interested in performing or exhibit their work can still contact Jana Wilson at 901-240-4668 or [email protected]
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Read more articles by Baris Gursakal.

Baris Gursakal is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is an Istanbul native who grew up in Memphis, and has an interest in public policy and social justice issues.