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VOL. 125 | NO. 42 | Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New Mural To Brighten Cooper-Young Entrance

JONATHAN DEVIN | Special to The Daily News

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Carl E. Moore created these images, which will be displayed on the trestle mural.

An artistic Midtown neighborhood has designs on creating a second “landmark” gateway.

The Cooper-Young Historic District, which several years ago unveiled the permanent installation of artwork atop a trestle over Cooper Street, has launched an effort to create a second piece of railroad art, this time a mural on the expansive underpass on South McLean Boulevard near Central Avenue.

The mural would turn the gray cement underpass into a second gateway entrance into the neighborhood, something members of the Cooper-Young Community Association (CYCA) said has been a long time coming.

Group effort

Neighbors Andy Ashby and Brad Gilmer serve as project managers for the mural project, which Gilmer said was born out of an effort to stop graffiti tagging in the area.

“Most graffiti experts agree that if you have public art, then the taggers won’t tag on top of it,” Gilmer said.

CYCA came up with the idea in July 2008 and began the planning process in August 2009 after approaching John Weeden, executive director of the UrbanArt Commission, which managed the Cooper Street trestle installation.

“These underpasses often become areas of urban blight,” Weeden said. “But they tend to be effective gateway emblems with neighborhood identification pieces. They give a neighborhood a distinct character – they become community landmarks.”

CYCA intends to manage the project this time, but Weeden advised the group on how to approach the city and referred several professional artists including concept artist Carl E. Moore, who was eventually selected.

“It’s really about economic development of an area,” Weeden said. “When we take the appearance of our built environment and fix it up in a good design with a vibrant color palette, then we project to the rest of the city that we want people to come into our neighborhood and do business.”

Moore, a senior graphic designer for WREG Channel 3 and a painter represented by L. Ross Gallery on Sanderlin Avenue, is a native of Canton, Miss., and a 1987 graduate of the Memphis College of Art.

“Before actually meeting, I went to the location and took a look at it,” he said. “This being my first mural, and I’m a very detailed person, I said, ‘I feel good about it.’ It’s an underpass, but unlike most there’s a very large opening that floods in quite a bit of light.”

The mural will be applied only to the walls and archways supporting the two working trestles above. The project is modeled after a similar project on a railroad underpass along Bellevue Boulevard near Soulsville.

Moore plans to start with a solid white base coat and then add individual panels representing themes such as business, food and restaurants, love of pets, music and entertainment, nature and beauty, neighborhood and community, and the performing arts.

“We really liked his concept and his art,” Gilmer said. “It will adapt well to a large public space – his colors, big lines, big spaces.”

Eventually, Gilmer said he would like to change the lamps in the underpass from yellow to white light to make it more vibrant at night.

Working out details

The project’s budget will be between $10,000 and $15,000, paid by corporate sponsorships and neighborhood fundraisers. Gilmer said the actual painting will take about a week, most likely in late August when rain is at a minimum and in time for an unveiling at the Cooper-Young Festival in mid-September.

Gilmer will meet with the city engineer’s office in early March to seek approval for the plan. He does not expect to have to go before the Memphis City Council.

The neighborhood has already gotten a preliminary nod of cooperation from Union Pacific, which owns the railroad.

Cooper-Young also has the backing of the two other neighborhoods next to McLean Boulevard – the Annesdale-Snowden Historic District to the south and the Rozelle neighborhood to the west.

Weeden said the neighborhood’s chances of being approved are strong.

“I’ve had various conversations with a number of divisions and offices since I came into this role (at UrbanArt), and the reception (from the city) is very positive. They would love to see more projects like this,” he said.

“One thing that makes this easier is that Cooper-Young projects are privately funded. When the neighbors themselves put up the money and go to the effort to find an artist and brainstorm ideas and volunteer to do the maintenance, it takes a tremendous load off the city. The city likes to see neighbors taking care of their own patch of ground.”

If the project goes well, CYCA hopes to eventually do the same for the last remaining trestle in the neighborhood at Barksdale Street and Central.

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