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VOL. 119 | NO. 90 | Wednesday, May 25, 2005

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Durden Gallery along with four other galleries on Huling Street are beginning to market themselves as The Galleries of Huling

Durden Sees Evolution of Gallery, South Main District


The Daily News

After 25 years as a homemaker, Brenda Durden decided she wanted to open an art gallery.

She and her husband, Liston, moved from Mississippi to a Downtown residence in July 2000, and the gallery was opened in November of that year.

I just always felt an emotional response to art, Durden said. In feeling the need and desire to do something different with my life, I had the idea of opening an art gallery.

Durden Gallery is located in the Paperworks building on 408 South Front St., with an entrance on Huling Avenue. The gallery is one of five on Huling that have joined together to market themselves as The Galleries of Huling Row.

Opening the gallery was not an easy task Durden had no prior experience or educational background in art. At first she did everything on her own, enlisting help from friends to hang the artwork. Later, she brought in Aaron Frye, who has a masters in fine art from Memphis College of Art, as associate director. Liston, senior vice president of marketing for Viking Range, also brings his artistic expertise to the gallery.

Durden Gallery exhibits contemporary and traditional paintings, photography and glass art. Together, Brenda and Frye decide on the artists to exhibit, looking for works that fit their personal tastes and the gallerys style. Its also important to find artists who are compatible with the gallery staff.

I started out with artwork from artists that I knew; artists from the Mid-South, South and Midwest, Durden said.

Durden Gallery features a broad range of artists. The gallery recently showcased works by husband and wife artists Greg and Christine Long from Dublin, Ireland, in honor of Memphis in Mays featured country. Unfortunately, the artists work was delayed in New York before the shows opening, but the shipment arrived in Memphis before the Longs returned to Ireland.

One of Durdens main artists, David Hinske, has been exhibiting in the gallery for several years. Hinske and Santa Fe artist Chuck Zimmer are featured in organon, the gallerys most recent show.

Hinske said he appreciates that Durden encourages artistic expression without pressuring artists to produce more commercially acceptable work.

As an artist, thats a particularly unusual relationship to have with a gallerist, Hinske said. She has allowed me the freedom to experiment that has resulted in a deeper resonance as my work has progressed.

Durden Gallery has evolved since it first opened, Hinske said. Durden allows each artist complete freedom in his work, so the gallery has taken on a similar atmosphere.

Ultimately, a gallery is skewed toward art the owner likes, and its been interesting to watch as her space has become increasingly more intriguing and sophisticated, without losing an occasional nod towards whimsy, Hinske said.

The South Main Arts District hosts its trolley tour on the last Friday of each month, allowing art lovers and curious newcomers to experience the offerings of numerous galleries in the area. Durden Gallery usually times its monthly art openings to coincide with the tour. Though visitors may not buy anything at the time, something could catch their eye and bring them back at a later date.

We are grateful for the trolley tour, Durden said. Our challenge now is to get them to think not only South Main, but Huling and G.E. Patterson as well.

To that end, the South Main Association recently began another monthly event, Sunday in South Main. On the second Sunday of each month, the district hosts a self-described mini-festival. Galleries remain open, restaurants serve brunch and musicians entertain visitors.

Durden said she sees the Sunday event as a family-friendly alternative to the trolley tour, one that could bring in a completely different crowd.

After five years of living and working in the South Main Arts District, Durden has witnessed a lot of growth in the area. She said she believes there is a need for more amenities in the district, such as restaurants, book stores, coffee shops and markets. She also sees a need for more financial aid for the areas small businesses, similar to the funding given to big business developers. If incentives were given to small businesses, she said, perhaps the types of businesses missing from the district would begin to appear.

It would be great to have the Center City Commission do some visible things like creating a more welcoming cityscape in the arts district, or helping with costs of advertising or promoting the area, Durden said. Because of my love and appreciation for art, I am committed to staying open.


Durden Gallery

Owner: Brenda Durden

Founded: 2000

Basics: The South Main gallery features paintings, photography and glass art by a broad range of artists. 543-0340, www.durdengallery.com


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