MLGW Leadership Conference: Restoring Vacant Buildings

This summer I was asked to lead a presentation with Dorian Spears at the MLGW Leadership Conference. The request was to speak on behalf of the Knowledge Quest project that I led last spring in the context of 25 Square Public Art Initiative. This project reclaims a vacant 2-story apartment complex with public art in South Memphis.

About the Panel Session
Transforming Vacant Buildings – 25 SQ Public Art Initiative

25 SQ Public Art Initiative is a partnership created to engage community residents while working with artists to transform vacant building and lots. Learn how through 25 SQ, artist work with volunteers where small low-budget projects are yielding high-impact public art projects that are transforming and celebrating communities.  

We also invited more key players to speak on behalf of other restoration art projects throughout Memphis in conjunction with 25 Square Public Art Initiative.

Siphne Sylvie, Urban Art Commission
Frank D. Robinson, Artist
Darlene Newman, Artist
Shea Colburn, Artist

Conference Details

The conference will be held at the MLGW Joyce M. Blackmon Training and Development Center located at 4949 Raleigh-LaGrange at Covington Pike on August 1, 2014. For details and scheduling, review the conference brochure here: Neighborhood Leaders Conf Brochure v4

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Spatial Interventions

Community Members fight blight in South Memphis

Over a three-day work session, Memphis College of Art under the direction of Cat Normoyle, leads a community public art project in South Memphis. Students who participated in this project include Noah Miller, Taylor Touchstone, King Hobson, and Eugenia Mosley.

The project was forged from discussions between Cat Normoyle and Dorian Spears (Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team + 25 Square Initiative). Spears put Normoyle in touch with the organization Knowledge Quest who was looking to reclaim and beautify an abandoned apartment complex in their neighborhood through art and education. Funding for the project was provided by a grant from Autozone.

The Need

Knowledge Quest boarded up windows and doors of the abandoned site at 1042 S. Lauderdale Street earlier in the year. They hoped to add artwork to the boards of the apartment complex that was two-fold; Walls 1-4 would focus on healthy eating and their community garden and Walls 5-8 would focus on education and literacy.

1042 S. Lauderdale Vacant Apartment Complex (photo credit: Shawna Engel)
1042 S. Lauderdale Vacant Apartment Complex (photo credit: Shawna Engel)

The Vision

While creating the artwork for the mural, I wanted to stay true to the space we were working with so I thought of the boards as “windows” into a bigger picture. I also wanted the windows to be a sort of reflection of the community in which it resides.

With that in mind, I started to develop The Gardens which flow in and out of the lower-level windows of Walls 1-4. I wanted The Garden to look as green and fresh and fun as possible to reflect upon the vibrant and diverse community. The upper-level windows show children waving from their bedrooms and clouds floating in the bright sky.

As we rotate around the building to view The Library mural, the upper-level sky transitions into a romantic evening sky where children read under lamp light. The lower-level windows peer into the library where infinite book shelves of imaginative and magical worlds of reading are emphasized.

The Gardens (photo credit: Natalie Fleenor)
The Library (photo credit: Natalie Fleenor)

Related Press

New Themed Murals Spruce Up Empty Building

The Installation

Photo Gallery