Artists from Riverview-Kansas neighborhood will showcase their pandemic stories, April 24

The Arts Cafe hopes to inspire Memphians with a free, three-hour event showcasing local artists of all ages.

Everyone is invited to attend The Arts Cafe’s upcoming visual art and spoken word exhibition, “What’s Your COVID-19 Story?” The event will be held in the Wardell Johnson Youth Center at 1800 Kansas Street on Saturday, April 24, from 12:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m.

Veverly Edwards is the executive director and founder of the Arts Cafe. She said the project is a chance to highlight the devastating effects the virus is having on people and communities of color and help relieve some of the tension and anxiety of being quarantined.

“The participating artists created extraordinary pieces which depict struggle, loss, and perseverance. Hopefully, people will leave the exhibit inspired by something they saw or heard,” said Edwards.

Eighteen artists from the majority-Black Riverview-Kansas neighborhood will present art pieces inspired by their individual pandemic experiences. The multigenerational group of artists ranges from ages 10 to 65.

Artistic mediums in the exhibition include painting, drawing, and poetry, both spoken word and written.

Masks are required for all attendees and event leaders will facilitate appropriate distancing. Guests will also receive a free sack lunch with a ham or turkey sandwich, chips, fruit cup, and water while supplies last.

"COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting the Black and Brown communities," said Edwards. "While the disparity in healthcare has always existed, COVID-19 has cast a die that highlights the gross injustice. According to Dr. King, 'Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.'"

Edwards hopes the event will give residents in this often overlooked community a chance to voice their experiences. Riverview-Kansas is located in the southwestern part of South Memphis bordering Martin Luther King, Jr. Riverside Park. Edwards said she hopes attendees will be inspired by the artworks and performances.

Edwards launched Arts Café in June 2017 with a mission to bring cultural arts programs to the Riverview-Kansas Community, which the organization hopes will help in the revitalization of one of Memphis’ oldest African American communities.

This event is funded under a grant contract with the State of Tennessee, Tennessee Arts Commission, ArtsMemphis, and Community Lift Foundation. All art-making supplies were provided by the Arts Cafe for use by participating artists, and support from professional artists was provided during the creation process.

The Arts Cafe will also host a virtual exhibition on their YouTube channel, which can be viewed here:
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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.