Orange Mound

My Cup of Tea issues call for Black artists with ties to Orange Mound for package design contest

Memphis nonprofit My Cup of Tea is partnering with the Orange Mound Arts Council to hire a local artist to design a new Memphis-themed tea package.

MCOT is accepting proposals from professional, Black artists with a connection to Orange Mound. Mike Carpenter is director of marketing and development at My Cup of Tea and said their selection criteria are important but open to interpretation.

“We've kept it pretty loose in terms of how we define professional,” he said. “We are asking for folks who make some portion of their income from their artistic work. Not just folks who are full time professional artists but maybe an art teacher, for example.”

They’re also keeping the artist’s connection to Orange Mound relatively loose. In a press release, MCOT said “a connection could be that they grew up in Orange Mound, attended school, visited grandparents in the summer, have worked in Orange Mound–any relationship that demonstrates an understanding of the history and people of the community. “

Carpenter said they’re looking for a Black artist so they can honor the history of the neighborhood.

“Orange Mound is, depending on who you talk to, the oldest or one of the oldest African American communities in the country,” he said.

“It was built by African Americans, for African Americans, and it was a thriving community in its beginning here. And then over time, as a result of neglect and crime and declining property values, the community has lost some of its opportunity for the residents who live there. So we just thought it was really important to promote Black artists and create some opportunities that might not otherwise be available," he added.

Orange Mound Arts Council helped MCOT draft a request for proposals that promises a fee of $1,000 to commission and license an original artwork from the selected artist. The agreement will allow the organization to print one run of 500 limited-edition tea boxes, while the artist retains full ownership of their work. The box design will include a photo and short bio of the artist.

Interested artists should submit a digital portfolio here (PDF preferred) and a concept statement of up to 250 words before 11:59 p.m. on September 1, 2021.

The panel who will review and select the artist has not been convened yet but will include members of both My Cup of Tea and OMAC leadership.

MCOT currently produces 70+ varieties of tea, including a line of Memphis-branded teas like blueberry-flavored “Blue Suede Shoes,” chocolate-mint “Memphis After Dark,” and the “Bluff City” chai tea.

The tea flavor that will accompany the contest's winning box design has not been chosen.
My Cup of Tea is located in Orange Mound and employs women from the neighborhood to sort, package, and ship its tea. They also sell the tea as experts on the quality, sourcing, and more. (Submitted)
MCOT is a nonprofit ministry that operates from a restored Victorian-style home at 3028 Carnes Avenue in Orange Mound. It employs neighborhood women to sort, package, ship, and sell its teas. Team member Deborah recently launched a line of hand-sewn tea pot cozies that are available for purchase. The women are also tea experts who share recipes, advice, and their personal stories on My Cup of Tea's Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Customers can order tea by phone (901) 614-9769 or through the website at The teas are also available at several Memphis-area shops and coffee houses. Find locations here.

Orange Mound Arts Council consists of alumni of the ArtUp fellows program who are living or working in Orange Mound and are dedicated to improving the livability of the community through arts-based community and economic development. 
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Read more articles by Sarah Rushakoff.

Sarah Rushakoff was raised in Memphis and is a graduate of White Station High School and the University of Memphis. She is a longtime member of Our Own Voice Theatre Troupe and works professionally as a graphic designer, writer, and photographer.