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VOL. 131 | NO. 116 | Friday, June 10, 2016

MCA Students Design Overton Square Art Map

By Madeline Faber

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Loeb Properties has kicked Overton Square’s status as an entertainment destination up a notch with a newly released art map that highlights public art alongside restaurants and retail.

Made up of thousands of colored sequins, “Dove Nest” by Jay Crum and Kong Wee Pang is one of the latest pieces of public art in Overton Square. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Loeb Properties commissioned Memphis College of Art students to design the map as part of a semester-long Design Lab course where students learned how to fulfill a project for a client.

“If the students are going in the direction of design, then that process is valuable because they need to learn to think strategically and develop design ideas, and not just produce as artists,” said Cat Normoyle, assistant professor at MCA and adviser for the Design Lab.

In addition to the art map, which recently was distributed among Overton Square’s 27 tenants, the students designed a coloring book, postcard set and stamps that tout the area’s murals and sculptures. Loeb Properties also has hung banners on the Overton Square parking garage that feature the students’ design.

In 2011, Loeb Properties purchased the struggling commercial area for $7 million and has worked to turn it into one of the most vibrant areas in Midtown. The art map illustrates 13 elements of public art. Some predate Loeb Property’s involvement and some are recent commissions from local and international artists.

Tom Hayes, vice president of construction with Loeb Properties, said that public art has helped cement the square’s transformation.

The Overton Park art guide, designed by MCA students, maps the location of 13 public art pieces in relation to local businesses. (Loeb Properties)

View/download artmap (pdf 1.4 MB)

“First of all, I think it makes it fit in Midtown better because Midtown is a groovy, fun, lively place. I think it’s different than what happens in a lot of other parts of town and for-profit areas,” he said.

Hayes is the main point person from Loeb Properties working with the class. As an MCA graduate, he said it’s important to teach future professional artists the business side of their craft.

“That’s a big step in going from the theoretical art student role to the job and selling a product,” he said. “We talk about things like proposals, contracts, formatting, how to present something, how many things to present, what does an invoice look like, what to say, what not to say, how not to be difficult.”

Students in the course were viewed as employees at a design firm, with Hayes scheduling regular appointments to review their work. The Design Lab received a stipend, which will be fed back into equipment or materials for the next course.

A previous Design Lab cohort collaborated with Loeb Properties on a mural on the side of a gas station at the corner of Poplar Avenue and Tucker Street, across from the MCA administrative offices and the entrance to Overton Park.

As part of this year’s Design Lab, students also got to speak with Ciara Neill, director of marketing for Loeb Properties, and Aaron Petree, the company’s vice president of brokerage and development, about how public art is an integral part of Overton Square. Tenants want to be near public art because it draws in visitors, Neill said.

Olivia Lomax opened Delta Groove Yoga in Overton Square in 2013, so her business has grown step by step with Overton Square’s art renaissance. Her favorite mural, titled “You Are the Universe” and completed by French artist Guillaume Alby, can be seen from her studio’s glass-plated facade.

“It’s not cookie-cutter,” Lomax said. “In Loeb’s initial vision, when they chose to develop Overton Square, they took into account what was in the vicinity – the theater and art district was there. The idea was already there, and they built upon it.”

Lomax added that visitors to her studio have responded well to the art map.

Recently, she handed a map to a group of out-of-towners who were drawn to the square’s colorful art.

“I was able to hand them an art map because that’s what they were interested in,” she said. "I felt like it was a cool tie-in of the Memphis culture. Rather than going to Graceland, they could check out the small businesses.”

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