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VOL. 128 | NO. 99 | Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hopping to It

New bus tour venture showcases city to tourists

By Andy Meek

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Its tagline is Hop On, Tune In and Rock Out. That’s a bite-sized description of what the new Memphis Hop bus service that launched earlier this month, with the goal of whisking Memphians and tourists to several local cultural attractions, is all about.

The new Memphis Hop bus waits at the Memphis Zoo stop. The bus is sponsored by ArtsMemphis and Blues City Tours, and takes people to places like Graceland, the Metal Museum and other major attractions.  

(Photos:  Lance Murphey)

The service features a colorful bus with hourly stops at iconic landmarks like Graceland, The Stax Museum of American Soul Music and the Memphis Zoo, among several others. And it’s sponsored by ArtsMemphis and Blues City Tours, which leads sightseeing excursions in Memphis.

Memphis Hop operates from Tuesday through Sunday. Its hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and riders can buy tickets on the bus itself, at the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, AutoZone Park, Graceland or at www.memphishop.com.

The idea for the service was hatched by Ray George, a former Coca-Cola executive in Memphis, and Blues City Tours president Melvin Bledsoe.

Bledsoe and George put their heads together and approached other organizations like Graceland as they crafted a plan for the service. That’s according to ArtsMemphis new media and marketing manager Lauren Boyer, who said her organization helped line up different venues and partner organizations for the venture.

That assistance is not unlike what ArtsMemphis is doing elsewhere as part of its broad audience development initiative the group launched in 2006, with the goal of expanding the audiences for arts and culture in the Memphis area. The group is not only making progress on that front but looking for new ways to carry out that mission, such as by helping the bus service get off the ground.

“We’re really excited about how this is connecting different attractions in Memphis to each other,” Boyer said of the new service.

ArtsMemphis CEO Susan Schadt said the new bus service’s strengths include affordability and convenience for riders. Other stops will include The Children’s Museum of Memphis, the Memphis Pink Palace Museum, The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, AutoZone Park, Beale Street, The Peabody hotel, the National Civil Rights Museum and the Metal Museum.

The bus service will stop at each venue once an hour. A nonstop loop takes two hours to complete.

Driver L.C. Harris waits at the Memphis Zoo on the new Memphis Hop bus. The bus is sponsored by ArtsMemphis and Blues City Tours, and takes people to places like Graceland, the Pink Palace Museum and other major attractions. 

“We’re still in our audience development initiative between all the arts and cultural groups in Memphis, and this really just felt like a natural fit and another way that arts and cultural groups can work together to grow their audiences and help each other and work together on marketing,” Boyer said. “So that’s really what’s so exciting about it to ArtsMemphis. It’s also really exciting to have a bus service that’s especially geared toward tourists.”

ArtsMemphis’ audience initiative was formally launched with support from the Assisi Foundation of Memphis. Recent highlights of that initiative include ArtsMemphis in 2012 using a $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to redesign and re-launch its website, with the revamp including more detailed information on grant programs and services, better visibility for videos and a new version of its service for finding cultural events.

Also last year the group hosted arts-focused “pop-up” events in Frayser, Orange Mound and Hickory Hill – events that included performances, workshops, art displays and more.

Schadt told The Daily News at the time that the organization is trying to capitalize on its strength as grant-makers, namely by doing the funding, oversight, mentoring and being a liaison for different groups.

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