There is a sign at the corner of Madison and Third that reads, "Create, design, make a mark that will last forever." It marks the future location of the UrbanArt Commission, and Carissa Hussong, executive director of the UAC, hopes that they will be moving in the next few weeks. This will be the UAC's third home since its inception in 1997, having first shared space with the Greater Memphis Arts Council and then with Storage U.S.A. This time, the UAC will be sharing space with the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects. It is a pairing that Hussong says makes perfect sense since many of the UAC's public-art projects depend on the close collaboration of artist and architect.
"We are creating a space that is a laboratory for art and design," Hussong says, "and we'll see what comes of it."
Hussong believes that the new facility will help to demystify the process of creating public art. She points to brown-bag lunches as one avenue to bring art and architects together.
"There is so much new technology, and so many new building materials out there. [There have been brown-bag lunches for] suppliers trying to reach architects. Well, why not artists too? It's a great opportunity for architects to realize that, with a small artist's fee, we can make something really nice. And it's a chance for artists to see these new technologies and say, 'Wow, I don't have to cut tile.'"
Last season, Voices of the South, a local troupe dedicated to staging works based on the visions of Southern authors, presented its first full season. Though it had existed in some form or another since the mid-Nineties and had attracted the attention of regional theater groups and arts educators, VOS' public performances had been a bit sporadic. Now, with the appointment of U of M alum Jerry Dye to the position of artistic director, the group hopes to take another leap forward. While Dye, the younger brother of John Dye of Touched by an Angel fame, has been a frequent contributor to Memphis theater, he has spent the past five years splitting his time among Memphis, San Francisco, and New York.
"After eight years you start to get a clear idea about what you really do, not what you should do or what you think you want to do," says Dye.
Beginning September 5th at TheatreWorks, Voices of the South presents Homegrown, a sampler of regionally flavored performances, which they hope to develop as an annual event. In addition to the collection of short plays and performances, Homegrown will have music by the Gypsy Blues Caravan with Charlotte Taylor on Friday, September 5th, O'Landa Draper's Associates on Saturday, September 6th, and the Dempseys on Sunday, September 7th.
"There has to be a way to become a profitable nonprofit, so to speak," says Steve McManus of First Tennessee Bank, who has recently taken over as president of the board of Germantown Community Theatre. McManus, noting that GCT, like most Memphis theaters, has seen a significant drop in attendance since the economy went south, wants to initiate a more businesslike environment.
"We have to sell more tickets and build better relationships with sponsors," he says. One of the ways he hopes to achieve his goal is by sharpening GCT's telemarketing skills.
"I can tell you from my background in brokerage that during a bear market you have to pick up the phone and call clients. If you are just sending out printed materials without making follow-up calls, you'll be lucky to see a one half of 1 percent response."
McManus also realizes that GCT is a bit isolated on Forest Hill-Irene Road. And he knows that this is a serious challenge. "We have to do a better job of attracting talent," McManus says. "We need to make sure that actors and directors feel appreciated from the minute they walk in the door."
Representatives from Artspace, the Minneapolis-based organization that helps to create and manage affordable living and working spaces for artists, return to Memphis on September 9th. Artspace has been working with a local group called Art Brew, which hopes to turn the old Tennessee Brewery on Tennessee Street into an artists' incubator with living space, work space, performance space, etc. For more information, you can find them on the Web at ArtspaceProjects.org.
Lynne Silverstein, the education director of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, will be the featured guest at Arts on the Move: The Governor's Regional Arts Conference for West Tennessee, which will be held in Pickwick Dam, Tennessee, on September 9th. The conference features a number of workshops covering a broad range of disciplines for arts professionals and arts educators. The cost is $20 for those who register in advance, $30 the day of the event. For more details, contact Flint Clouse, (615) 741-2093.