The Memphis Art Scene: More Than Meets the Eye

Posted on April 1, 2014


By Rose Spencer


A little over a year ago, I attended an event called a “Munch and Learn” at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens in East Memphis, where a panel of local artists gave a talk on working and living in Memphis and how that affected their success. The highlight of that afternoon was when one man stood up during a point when there was a fervent dialogue developing between the panel and the audience about the type of city Memphis is today, what it could become, and how it is viewed by the rest of the country.

The artist asserted that while many people hold onto the belief that somehow Memphis “lags behind” other large cities, or harp on how far Memphis has yet to grow into a full-fledged, respected metropolis, the people in the art community here appreciate Memphis for the truly distinctive place it is, and would not change a thing about it. Our unique location and lack of a “concrete jungle” feel, revered or endured in places such as New York City or D.C., provides artists and people in every type of profession here to thrive in ways that are not possible in other large cities. He spoke about how he loves being able to afford proper housing with a backyard in a nice neighborhood instead of in a cramped, overpriced apartment surrounded by noise pollution. He loves making personal connections with people within the Memphis Art Community, without those relationships being driven by desire for personal or commercial gain.

These are just a couple of reasons why Memphis as a whole is so special, but specifically why the artists, galleries, gallery-goers, curators, critics, and more that we foster here are so singular. Bottom line, Memphis has a certain character that exists nowhere else, and the art community here wouldn’t have it any other way.

Art is evidence that we are alive. It is the uniquely human expression of how we experience the world around us, whether it is produced through dance, studio art, photography, etc. What would we be without it? Through art we are able to redeem our flawed selves and reveal our appreciation of life. Memphis artists garner inspiration from the diverse communities around town to produce some truly incredible art ranging from the most conservative of styles to approaches that push some serious limits. Memphis’s evocative history and remarkable culture make it a hub for such creative innovation and individuality.

Try to aim to expose yourself to the art world here in Memphis at least once a month, if not more than that. I find that after leaving places such as the L Ross Gallery, the Metal Museum, a performance by New Ballet Ensemble, or Crosstown Arts, I feel as if I have left an entirely different world where I was lost in beauty, positivity, enlightenment, and a general calm. Plus, the local art scene is a lot of fun to get involved in. Events such as “Art After Dark” at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens and Trolley Night downtown are especially fun for young people 21 and up. Experiencing Memphis’s artistic culture is a therapeutic breath of fresh air, educational, and if anything, a break from your daily routine.

Posted in: Arts