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VOL. 123 | NO. 60 | Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Project to Bring Art to Madison Ave.

By Andy Meek

Print | Front Page | Email this story | Email reporter | Comments ()
BLANK CANVAS: Under the auspices of Rhodes College, an artist is being chosen to add some design to the vacant building next to AutoZone Park. -- Photo Courtesy Of Rhodes College's Coda Department

The vacant, six-story office building at 195 Madison
Ave. ought to have a "Your masterpiece here" sign hanging on one side.

The eastern and southern faces of that building, which stands next to leftfield of AutoZone Park, soon will be decorated with murals several stories tall that depict an artist's interpretation of life in Memphis, the city's history and its culture.

The Rhodes College Center for Outreach in the Development of the Arts (CODA), which has spearheaded other Downtown public art projects including a storefront beautification, already has begun soliciting ideas
from the public for subjects and images with which to adorn that vacant building.

'Timelessness, provocative, imaginative'

The college will use the ideas it receives to develop a framework that will be given to the artist who ultimately is chosen. The school hopes to finish collecting ideas, which can be sent to coda@rhodes.edu, by April 7.

After that, a request for proposals package will be developed that outlines the scope of the project and will be sent out locally and nationally. The task of adorning the nearly 100-year-old Downtown building could begin as early as July, and the school is expecting to receive as many as 200 responses to the RFP.

"We want this to represent the spirit of Memphis and a positive light," said John Weeden, CODA's assistant director. "Our watchwords for the project are timelessness, provocative and imaginative. We want it to be an inspiration for the entire community. We want the community to really fall in love with this piece."

The 195 Madison building is owned by Wilton Hill, a trustee of Rhodes College who also is collaborating in the development of the RFP. The idea for a mural was generated by a discussion between Hill and Rhodes president Bill Trout about the visible condition of the city and the ability of Rhodes students to pursue a variety of art-oriented beautification projects.

"So they started having that conversation and realized Wilton was in possession of this building," Weeden said. "And he and the college view this as a stepping off project for much more long-term activity - developing future murals in the city. So we're using this as a test case to learn our lessons toward doing this sort of work in the future."

Both walls of 195 Madison that will be painted are visible by the audience in the stands at AutoZone Park. Only one wall - the eastern side - is visible from Madison Avenue.

Adorning Downtown

The art project is a larger-scale version of a collaboration between local artists and Rhodes that the CODA department became involved in last year. The purpose is to adorn some of the vacant storefronts and empty windows Downtown.

"I think this (195 Madison) idea is a great idea," said Jeff Sanford, president of the Center City Commission. "I think it's an opportunity to showcase Downtown's creative bent. We've worked with Rhodes before and CODA on the vacant storefront enhancements and this sounds to me like it too will be lots of fun and very 'Downtown.'"

Weeden said the goal is to send out the RFP by the end of April or the beginning of May. The task of actually painting the artwork could then begin, once an artist is selected, shortly after that.

A variety of school officials and Downtown stakeholders will have a say in choosing who gets to paint the building.

"We'll get several dozen RFP proposals, and then a jury panel of representatives of Rhodes students as well as people from the Center City Commission and other Downtown stakeholders will form a review panel to sift through all those proposals and whittle that down to a short list of the top five to 10 artists that we'll then bring to campus for interviews," Weeden said. "We'll talk about their ideas, look at their past work, look at their experience level, their professionalism and their willingness to engage with the public."

MORTGAGES 0 79 1,199
BUILDING PERMITS 146 146 2,571