University of Memphis art student Alex Smythe, who grew up in the Vollintine-Evergreen neighborhood, is extending an invitation to all Memphians to celebrate the revitalization of one of the city’s most diverse communities with the first annual V&E Greenline Artwalk.
Elton Hall rides along the Vollintine-Evergreen Greenline near Sears Crosstown. The Vollintine-Evergreen neighborhood will be hosting an art walk this weekend.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
Smythe is organizing the family-friendly event – showcasing work by nearly four dozen local artists – that will take place Saturday, April 21, from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at The Station House, 620 N. Avalon St.
“I have a strong arts background and my mom is an artist,” Smythe said. “Being a Memphian and growing up seeing festivals like Cooper-Young’s, I saw potential for something like that in Vollintine-Evergreen. There are so many great little organizations in this area, like VECA (Vollintine-Evergreen Community Association), Crosstown Arts and Clean Memphis, and they all support the arts. I felt like this was a cool way to tie everyone in together to create a solid event.”
The Artwalk will also feature crafts, live art demonstrations, participatory art activities, children’s activities, local fare from Fuel Café, YoLo and Café Eclectic, and live music from Jeff Hulett, Paul Taylor and the Rhodes Jazz Band.
Smythe said numerous organizations are participating, including Memphis Inc., Clean Memphis, Crosstown Arts, Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, Memphis Heritage Inc., Rhodes College, Memphis Arts Collective and several neighborhood churches.
In addition to showcasing local artists, the goal of the event is to showcase the V&E Greenline, the grassy 1.7-mile rails-to-trails park that runs from Springdale to Watkins streets, with intersections at Stonewall and Evergreen streets, McLean Boulevard and Jackson Avenue.
“I feel like this is underappreciated space,” Smythe said. “It’s a great inner-city, rails-to-trails park. I feel like it’s kind of neglected to be seen by the community at large. People who live in the community use this great public space, but outside of the neighborhood, a lot of people seem to be oblivious to it.”
The V&E Greenline stands on the site of a former railway that once served the massive Sears distribution tower at Cleveland Street, which has now become a hub for uniquely Memphis arts-oriented events.
When the railway line was abandoned, it became an overgrown dumping ground and a haven for crime, until 1996, when it was then purchased and revitalized by the Vollintine-Evergreen community, through funds from the Pew Charitable Trusts, and renamed the V&E Greenline.
Michael Castellarin, a Plough Community Development fellow at Rhodes College who works closely with VECA, helped Smythe organize Saturday’s Artwalk.
“What’s really good about this event is that it has the potential, in the future, to be a real staple for the neighborhood,” Castellarin said. “And not only will it bring attention to the Greenline – which deserves attention with it being kind of the first rails-to-trails system in the city of Memphis – but it will also bring attention to the neighborhood. VECA is a historic, diverse neighborhood, one of the great neighborhoods of Midtown, I would say. But it doesn’t have a real staple event like Cooper-Young or other areas do, so I hope this will develop into something bigger a few years down the road.”