ArtsMemphis and The Collective partner to raise profile for local artists of color

In an effort to support local artists, ArtMemphis is drawing inspiration from the concept of community supported agriculture.

But instead of shares of whatever’s in season, stakeholders will get a share of local artists’ work.

“The ArtsMemphis CSA draws from the same model that’s used in agriculture CSAs where you might get a share of cauliflower, kale, or beef from a local farm at a certain rate from your share.

In this case, instead of getting food you get a share of locally-produced works of art,” explained Will Murray, director of development & communications for ArtsMemphis.

ArtsMemphis hosted the first art CSA in 2016. In addition to raising funds for artists and connecting them with collectors and patrons, it also pays the artists who participate.

“We were trying to come up with new ideas to not only raise support for artists but to embrace our role as a connector between artists, collectors and members of the community,” said Elizabeth Rouse, ArtsMemphis president and CEO.

This year, ArtsMemphis partnered with The Collective. The new arts organization highlights the work of Memphis’ African American artists. Currently, artists Lawrence Matthews III, Matthew Thomas, and Felicia Wheeler have been commissioned to create editioned work for this year’s CSA.

Related: "Orange Mound Gallery models equitable development through arts"

Their works will be presented to collectors through the CSA and exhibition at Orange Mound Gallery.

“We were excited for the chance to partner with ArtsMemphis and play our part in diversifying both the artists and audience served by the awesome work they're doing, so we jumped at the opportunity,” said Victoria Jones, executive director of The Collective.

“Each artist involved in this year's CSA worked incredibly hard to provide thought-provoking, intentional works for the collectors. We are so excited to share their work with people who may not have had access to them previously.”

Twenty-five shares were made available for a set of three works. Shares ran $500. Artists contributed one work each. They included a painting print, photographic print and sculptural piece.

“It’s all two-dimensional so it’s very accessible to anyone who wants to buy art to hang up on their wall,” said Tracy Lauritzen Wright, ArtsMemphis director of grants & initiatives.

The two groups also put together a slate of CSA programs. The “Maintaining Place/Making Space” exhibit honors pre-existing communities as Memphis’ revitalization continues.

“We have been working hand in hand with ArtsMemphis to create a platform for Black artists through this partnership, and are excited to find ways to continue bridging that gap towards equity,” said Jones.

The exhibition opened Friday, Oct. 6 with an opening reception was held at the Orange Mound Gallery. Works from the 2017 CSA artists are featured, and it will run through November 4.

The gallery will also host “The Artists Talk” on Sunday, October 15 from 2 to 3 p.m. It will feature the three CSA artists, as well as art council member, Grace Stewart. Later, a closing exhibition and CSA pick-up party will be held on Friday, Nov. 3 from 6 to 9 p.m.

“As for OMG, in thinking about how to honor communities as Memphis addresses revitalization efforts, we could think of no gallery that was living that mission any truer than our friends at Orange Mound Gallery.

We have been so thankful for their staff (made up community members and artists) and their dedication to sharing this exhibition. They have been such an instrumental part of this partnership,” said Jones.

Through the exhibitions, the hope is conversations about topics like gentrification and equity within the arts will take place – in addition to identifying solutions or strategies.

“We have quite the journey ahead of us, and these can't be steps taken alone or in a vacuum. This is but a building block in the grand scheme of things. We are hoping to use as this moment as a strategic push for change, representation, and equity, but it cannot be the only one,” said Jones.

Part of the revenue from CSA sales goes toward the ArtsMemphis Arts Accelerator program, which provides grants to local artists. 

“ArtsMemphis is a grant-making organization. It's been around for 54 years to support Memphis by supporting the arts community. We do that primarily by raising dollars to support arts organizations,” said Rouse.

ArtsMemphis started the art accelerator program around five years ago. It provides grants to visual artists. Grants of $5,000 each go to five Memphis artists.

So far, ArtsMemphis has awarded over 150 grants to more than 80 artists and organizations this year.

Two of the five grants awarded next year will go to an artist of color.

“So, this partnership with The Collective has informed decisions for us with related programs as we go through our services that we provide to the local arts community,” said Wright.

Read more articles by Kim and Jim Coleman.

Kim Coleman is a journalist with over 20 years of experience in newsrooms as a reporter, editor and graphic designer, including ten years with The Commercial Appeal as Design Director/Senior Editor and Print Planning Editor. 


Jim Coleman is a freelance writer, covering a variety of topics from high school sports, community news and small business. He has written for different news organizations over the past 20 years, including The Commercial Appeal, Community Weeklies, Lexington Herald-Leader and The Albuquerque Journal.