Disco Makeover 

Public art projects are planned for the Sears Crosstown building this summer.

Midtown's iconic Sears Crosstown building is about to get funkified.

In the next few months, the 1.4 million-square-foot abandoned building will be adorned with colored solar lights and a disco ball made from used bike wheels.

The public art installations came out of Crosstown Arts' MemFEAST 2.0 dinner, which was held last month on the roof of the Sears garage. Artists presented seven public art proposals, and at the end of the meal, attendees voted for their favorite. Crosstown Arts is dedicated to revitalizing the Sears Building and the surrounding neighborhood.

Robin Salant's Lights, Timers, Solar!, in which she proposed using solar lights to illuminate the Sears building's water tower and exterior, won the popular vote. Salant was awarded $5,000 to fund the project.

"[This project] literally shines a positive light on the building, enlivens it," Salant said. "Hopefully, it will help people change their minds about its potential and presence in the neighborhood."

Although Salant won the official vote, an anonymous donor came forward with $3,000 at the end of the evening to support one of the other projects: Colin Kidder and Eli Gold's Diamond in the Rough. The two proposed installing a colossal disco ball made of donated bike wheels on the side of the Sears building.

After the event, Crosstown Arts launched "MemFEAST/Continues," a fund-raising campaign aimed at raising money for Kidder and Gold's proposal, as well as Sean Murphy's "Crosstown Re-Sound," in which Murphy plans to create a soundtrack for the building using handmade and exotic instruments played inside its vast, empty warehouse floors.

That fund-raising campaign ended last week, and though neither Murphy's or Kidder and Gold's project met its $5,000 goal, the artists have plans to move forward with their projects. At press time, Kidder and Gold have raised approximately 60 percent of the $5,000.

"We chose to design a sculpture to go on the Sears building because we believe that a concrete change to the building itself is visible evidence to Memphians that something is being done with this building," Kidder said.

They're asking Memphians to donate old bicycle wheels to the project, which they are set to begin work on in July.

"Community involvement is important to us," Kidder said. "Collecting the wheels from diverse citizens of this city will symbolize a community effort, the same kind of effort it's going to take to make the Sears building renovation happen."

Murphy has raised 15 percent of his $5,000 goal, which, he said, is enough to cover the audio side of his project. Originally, he'd also planned to have the recording session videotaped for a documentary. He hopes to begin audio recording inside the building in August.

"The real costs concerns are related to filming the project and the production of a product," Murphy said. "With $5,000, I can afford to bring a filmmaker on board to document the process through video, which will be made available for free through a service like YouTube."

Salant was also included in the "MemFEAST: Continues" campaign, and she managed to raise a little more money for her lighting project.

"The bulk of the expense will likely be the bulbs, so the continuous donations mean more bulbs to work with, which is wonderful," Salant said.

Since the banquet, Salant said she's been consulting with lighting professionals about recommended bulbs and equipment and pursuing project support from local solar-lighting plant Sharp Electronics Corporation and Philips Lighting Company. With the help of volunteers, she plans to begin installing lights on the building in August.

Although the official fund-raiser ended last week, donations are still needed for each project. Donations can be made through Crosstown Arts until July 31st. The artists' proposals are posted on the MemFEAST website (memfeast.tumblr.com/).

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