On a rainy Friday afternoon, Bailey Brocato, a sophomore at the Memphis College of Art, was using a hammer and chisel to remove a tile backsplash in the kitchen of a second-floor unit at The Venue Apartments on Central Avenue.
Brocato’s partner, Ethel Lyons, was busy working in the apartment’s bedroom before turning her attention toward designing a tile-and-glass mosaic crafted from recycled materials to replace the backsplash Brocato was dismantling.
Memphis College of Art students Bailey Brocato, left, and Ethel Lyons display their ideas for an overhaul of a unit at The Venue Apartments. Six MCA students are working with The Venue Apartments.
Brocato and Lyons are two of six MCA students split into three teams vying to win an apartment design challenge at The Venue Apartments, a contest that will lead to cash prizes and invaluable real-world experience and exposure.
“We have total freedom,” Brocato said. “We’re not allowed to touch the floors but we have free reign everywhere else, which is really intimidating.”
The MCA students are working in collaboration with The Venue Apartments and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis ReStore in the ReStore for More design contest.
“The Venue Apartments approached MCA in the fall with the idea of a design contest to showcase their one-bedroom apartments and the students’ work,” said Carrie Brooks, director of career services at MCA. “All of the components of the contest create a real-life scenario that most artists must learn to negotiate – budget management, client communication and satisfaction, working as a team to see a project through to its completion.”
The Venue Apartments provided the teams with a budget of $500 for materials and $50 for supplies, plus a $100 gift certificate and an extra discount at the Memphis ReStore to help purchase items needed for their designs. The ReStore takes donated goods – everything from clothing to appliances and building materials – and sells them to support Habitat’s mission to work with families in need of adequate shelter to build simple, decent homes.
Each team will be also provided with a “mystery item” they will use to create an art piece for their apartment design. Those art pieces will be auctioned to raise funds for Habitat of Greater Memphis.
The three design teams received the keys to their designated apartments on Jan. 2 and have until 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 21, to complete their design work.
The contest is a result of discussions between Habitat of Greater Memphis and MCA.
“We actually had been discussing ways to partner with Memphis College of Art for several months, including a design-on-a-budget contest, but we didn’t have a location,” said Jessica Hord, director of marketing and communications for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis. “When The Venue Apartments approached MCA about partnering on a contest, MCA reached out to us to get involved.”
Hord said the contest was a unique way to spread the word about the ReStore to college students and renters – two important ReStore audiences for shopping and donating – while getting involved in a professional development opportunity for the students.
“We are always looking for new ways to reach out to the community and educate them about the ReStore and what we do,” said Hord.
The contest could provide the MCA students with a broad audience to showcase their talents because the public will have an opportunity to vote for their favorite team in person and online. In-person voting will take place at The Venue Apartments, 1387 Central Ave., from Jan. 21 through Feb. 1. Apartments will be open for viewing from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. In-person votes count twice as much as online votes. Online votes can be cast on The Venue Apartments’ Facebook page, www.facebook.com/thevenuememphis, from Jan. 21 to Feb. 3.
The Venue Apartments will award $1,000 to the first-place team, $600 to the second-place team and $300 to the third-place team.
“No matter what, from this time on we win something,” said Brocato. “The exposure is a huge component for this. In a year or two when I go looking for internships, I’ll have this on my resume. That gives me and the others in this competition a huge leg up.”
Brocato and Lyons are the youngest team competing in the contest, but they say that hasn’t been an obstacle.
“We haven’t had the sculpture or design classes some of the others have had, but I guarantee you we have the heart,” Brocato said. “We want this so bad.”