Alternative Spaces in the Memphis Community

Posted on April 1, 2014


By Ellen Skochdopole

Alternative_SpacesWhen I first moved to Memphis, I did not know what to expect. I had heard nothing about the city other than that it was in Tennessee and Elvis had lived here. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and was in no rush to figure it out. Almost three years and countless life experiences later, I’ve settled into an Art History major and a city that gives me so many opportunities to further myself as both a student and enthusiast of art.

There are some excellent traditional spaces to enjoy art here including the Kress Foundation paintings at the Brooks Museum and the Dixon Gallery. While I love spending time at these places and experiencing art in a classical sense, some of my favorite ways to view art are different and very unique to Memphis.

Alternative spaces are defined as places that don’t conform to the traditional idea of how art should be displayed. They are not rooms with four white walls where paintings are hung in neat, even rows. Instead, works are presented in ways that both challenge the traditional notion of how one should experience art while also exposing audiences to up and coming artists in the community. Memphis is rife with such places, one of the most formal of which is Tops Gallery on Front St. Nestled into a basement of a more established gallery, the small room is simply concrete walls and acrylic floors. While it may seem constricting at first (the room is hardly large enough to hold five people), it is the constriction that adds to the overall experience. It is rare for works to be so accessible and to have the opportunity to touch them and walk closely around them without breaking the rules.

Another amazing space is Glitch on Cowden Ave. The gallery takes over the entire house, blurring the lines between what defines fine art and everyday objects. Even the backyard has become an interactive sculpture that depicts the owner’s journey.

While these spaces introduce Memphians to new concepts of artistic interaction, it is not just that which makes them special. Young artists, some of who were born and raised in the city, others who were students who stayed after graduation, and still others who came to the city in search of a new artistic environment, run many of these galleries. Yes, the spaces introduce viewers to new ways to experience contemporary art. But they are more than that—they are a representation of the growing and unique arts community in Memphis, a community that truly contributes to the development and integrity of the city.

Elle Skochdopole is a junior Art History Major at Rhodes College.

Posted in: Lifestyle