South Memphis

Arts Café calls for Riverview-Kansas residents to share their pandemic stories through art, poetry

The Arts Café is looking for residents of Memphis' Riverview-Kansas area who enjoy making art or poetry to share how COVID-19 has affected their community. The finished works will be featured in a public exhibition held in-person and virtually in spring of this year.

Anyone living in the Riverview-Kansas neighborhood is encouraged to apply, including children with parental consent.

"My goal is to give them the opportunity to express how their community is being affected [by the pandemic] using an arts platform," said Veverly Edwards, Art Café's executive director and founder.

All art supplies will be provided. Edwards said the artistic mediums are limited to painting, drawing, and poetry, both spoken word and written. However, if someone has a sculpture, digital art, or other medium they'd like to enter in the spring gallery show, they're welcome to submit it.

Professional artists Darlene Newman and Amy-Beth Rice have signed onto the "What's Your COVID-19 Story?" project to facilitate art sessions and help those selected refine their work, as has award-winning spoken word poet Carin Malone, who performs as Writeous Soul. 

Related: "Artist Writeous Soul and the National Civil Rights Museum want to revive Memphis' slam poetry scene"

Those interested in telling their stories can click here to apply. The deadline to apply has been extended to January 29. Up to 30 people will be selected.

The aim of the project is twofold.

Arts Café hopes to give residents in this often overlooked community a chance to voice their experiences. Riverview-Kansas is located in the southwestern part of South Memphis abutting the sprawling Martin Luther King, Jr. Riverside Park.

They also want to help combat some of the isolation and anxiety of stay-at-home orders and social distancing with this community-based group project.  

Edwards said the project is a chance to highlight the devastating effects the virus is having on people and communities of color. 

"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 dye that highlights the gross injustice. According to Dr. King, 'Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.'"

She said the art project and gallery show are an opportunity to hear directly from the people in these communities. 

"A traumatic medical event doesn't just affect the patient's health, it affects every aspect of that person's life—their families and their communities. We survive, but usually our voices aren't heard or our stories are appropriated and edited to fit a prescribed context," said Edwards.

"Also, I personally know how it feels to be silenced. I almost lost my daughter to an adverse medical event," she continued. 

"What's Your COVID-19 Story?" is grant-funded by the State of Tennessee,Tennessee Arts Commission, Arts Memphis, and Community Lift Foundation.

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. 
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Cole Bradley.

Cole Bradley is a native Memphian and graduate of the University of Memphis. Cole's worked locally as a researcher and community engagement strategist and began contributing to High Ground in Jan 2017.