When "I Love Memphis" blogger Kerry Crawford posted a photo of herself holding a hand-written sign with her blog's namesake nearly two years ago, she had no idea she was inspiring a future city-branding project.
Last Thursday, the first of 10 "I Love Memphis" murals, painted by Brandon Marshall and Siphne Silve, was unveiled on a concrete wall on Cooper between Central and Young.
Inspired by Crawford's campaign by the same name, the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, the UrbanArts Commission, and the city of Memphis have commissioned 10 murals by local artists to be painted in various locations across the city. All will incorporate the "I Love Memphis" slogan in an effort to create instant photo-ops for locals and tourists.
"Let me tell you why this fazes me," said Mayor A C Wharton to those gathered around the brilliant-red mural last Thursday. "[When I see the mural,] I can say I'm home again. I want to see this all over town so that wherever you live, there's something that lets you know, here's my welcome mat."
The "I Love Memphis" slogan was born nearly two years ago when the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau approached Crawford with the idea of creating a social media campaign for Memphians and visitors. The result was the popular "I Love Memphis" blog (ilovememphisblog.com), which serves as an outlet for Crawford to share the city's hidden gems.
In an effort to highlight her Memphis love, Crawford created an "I Love Memphis" paper sign.
"I made [the sign] so somebody could take my picture with it when I first started the blog, and then other people started asking me to take their pictures with it," Crawford said.
She estimates that since creating the now well-worn sign, several hundred people have taken their pictures with it.
"[With the murals,] we wanted to do something that would give more people access to that," Crawford said.
"The sign is getting all decrepit and it's falling apart," Marshall said. "The idea is to put these murals all around town to continue that momentum from her sign."
Out of the 10 artists commissioned to create the "I Love Memphis" murals, seven, including Marshall, are participating in the UrbanArts Commission's mural project. Each artist is free to present the "I Love Memphis" slogan in a theme of their choosing.
In a contest on Crawford's blog, the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau is calling for proposals for three murals to be designed by artists who are not involved in the project.
Artists may submit proposals through May 27th. Then the public will be given the opportunity to select the winning designs from a group of finalists.
While some of the mural locations are still up in the air, Crawford remains optimistic that they will be finished within the next couple of months.