The firm redeveloping Overton Square considers its task at hand to be playing to its Midtown audience – not only in building construction, but also in incorporating art.
Artists Anthony D. Lee and Kiersten Williams work on a large mural on the side of Bari Ristorante near Overton Square. It’s one of several pieces of art being incorporated into the neighborhood.
(Photos: Lance Murphey)
Loeb Properties Inc. is investing more than $20 million to revive the once-booming arts and entertainment district of the 1970s and 1980s. That includes adding new tenants to expand Overton Square’s footprint, redesigning existing structures and building new ones, and implementing a dozen or so multimedia art projects throughout.
“We’re trying to get a little bit of everything – sculpture, mosaics, 3D interactive pieces,” said Louis Loeb, executive vice president asset management for Loeb Properties. “It’s really been sort of difficult because we haven’t had a budget for it. We want to do a number of things, and it’s just developed a life of itself.”
Loeb’s first dabble into the art scene was in the early 1990s when the firm placed Roy Tamboli’s steel Pangean Disk sculpture at the Poplar Viaduct. That was followed by the mural at South Cooper Street and Madison Avenue on the north-facing wall that now houses YoLo Frozen Yogurt, and then the mural at Central Avenue and East Parkway where Kwik Shop Grill is housed.
“Those murals to me became part of that landscape of those parts of town,” said Tom Hayes, Loeb vice president construction. “They’re kind of civic offerings as much as they are just artwork. They’re just betterment to that part of the city.”
Loeb said there wasn’t a “designed, 10-point plan” on when and where to install such projects, but the community’s positive feedback has spurred additional artwork executions over the years.
“If you’re stopped at the stoplight at Central and Parkway, rather than looking at the side of a building, you can look at a park scene, which was supposed to reflect the part that’s across the street from it,” Loeb said. “It just feels better.”
Next came Guillame Alby’s “This is Me, This is You, This is We,” mural at Loeb’s warehouse at 2542 Broad Ave. The French artist painted that piece freehand with a spray can in two weeks.
“He was so impressive that we invited him to come back and do another piece for Overton Square,” Loeb said. “We don’t know if it’s going to be a mural, sculpture or both. We’re saving a couple of spots for him.”
Artists Anthony D. Lee and Kiersten Williams help put the finishing touches on a large mural on the side of Bari Ristorante near Overton Square.
Also in Midtown in recent times, Loeb collaborated with the Memphis College of Art students to paint the convenience store at 1923 Poplar Ave. with the slogan, “Midtown is our Memphis.” Hayes, that project’s liaison, holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Memphis College of Art and a Master of Arts in teaching from the University of Memphis.
“I have one foot in construction and one in art. I’m a good guy to make that stuff happen,” Hayes said, noting that he’d like to see a sculptural component added to that Poplar/Tucker intersection in the future. “A lot of preparation happens on those things.”
For instance, on David Lynch’s mural going up on the north exterior wall of Bari Ristorante at 22 S. Cooper St., a jagged-shaped rooftop was added that coordinates with what’s depicted below. The painting includes Overton Square and/or nearby tenants such as Theatre Works, Blue Monkey, Bar Louie, Memphis Pizza Café, Bayou Bar & Grille and Turner Dairy.
“That’s something most of the public hasn’t figured out,” Hayes said. “There’s little signs on there and iconic architecture looks, different people’s doors, bits of their logos and bits of their building colors.”
The finishing touches are being put on Lynch’s Bari mural, as well as Loeb’s lighting and the mounting of a retro “Overton Square” logo that’s been reconditioned from one of the square’s middle buildings near what’s now Golden India.
“It’s going to add a little bit of glitz to the mural,” Loeb said. “The lights are going to chase around it.”
Other art projects Loeb has committed to in the square include Yvonne Bobo’s 25-foot-sculpture at the corner of Madison and Cooper, Sean Murphy’s interactive lighted wind chimes for the Trimble Courtyard Clock Tower, Lea Holland’s mosaic op-art in the Griffin Garden, Suzy Hendrix’s backlit stained glass for the upstairs windows above the former TGI Friday’s, Mary Norman’s three-dimensional mural on the south security office, Thorne Edwards’ mosaic on the garage, as well as another mural by Lynch that spans three walls.
There are even talks with Loeb’s art consultant, Carol DeForest, on figuring out a way to make a planetarium out of the breezeway in the square’s west building.
“We actually have more ideas now than we know how to really fit into Overton Square,” Loeb said. “What we’re going to do after we get the square wrapped up is continue to collaborate with (DeForest) to do more public art around our portfolio.”
Immediate ideas include revamping the retaining wall along Loeb’s Belvedere Collection strip center at Union Avenue and Belvedere Boulevard, as well as the two-story area of Park Place Centre at Poplar and Ridgeway in East Memphis.