Trash to Treasure 

The Junkyard finds a temporary home near the Metal Museum

It's a beautiful spring day, and artist Lisa Williamson surveys the abandoned Marine Hospital's maintenance building and large front yard with approval.

With an E. H. Crump Stadium sign, an old bathtub, and a large piece of limestone already dotting the funky old property, it's easy to imagine the area filled with recycled objects and architectural salvage.

"I'm thinking tree houses, rope bridges, all sorts of cool stuff." Williamson says.

It's an interesting endeavor for someone afraid of heights, but for more than four years, Williamson has been working on the Junkyard Youth Museum, an initiative inspired by St. Louis' City Museum.

"My daughter was three months old when I went to City Museum for the firs time. I came home and started working on the business plan immediately," Williamson says. "I had her on my lap, and I was typing at the same time."

City Museum, a combination playground/children's museum made out of found and reclaimed objects, was started by sculptor Bob Cassilly. Though one of its most popular exhibits, MonstroCity, is an outdoor "jungle gym" combining a fire engine, two aircraft, and who knows home many feet of monkey bars, the building also includes high-end residential lofts.

Through Williamson and the Junkyard board are still searching for a permanent home, they were recently offered space near the National Ornamental Museum as a temporary home.

"[Lauren Crews, managing partner of DeSoto Pointe Partners] had contacted me about some other ideas fir the location, and then I said "I really need a space to start working. Maybe we could get some attention for this location if we just started putting stuff out," Williamson says. "He thought the idea was great."

Williamson expects the museum to take up residence at the site in early summer. Though they will have use of the building, the Junkyard will be in the building's front yard.

"We're doing outdoor climbable structures, so it will be a really cool jungle gym for kids and adults," Williamson says.

In some ways, Williamson sees the Junkyard as an extension of the Children's Museum of Memphis since the Junkyard will cater to kids 12 years old and older.

And like City Museum, the Junkyard will use found and repurposed items, as well as architectural salvage. For several years, Williamson has been accepting donations of materials and storing them in a warehouse.

"We have a taxicab from Tijuana," she says, when asked about what sort of things might be incorporated in the structures.. "We have a lot of cool things. We can't identify everything. "We have a lot of conveyor-belt rollers."

Williamson, the artist who painted the mural at the corner of Peabody and Cooper in Midtown, says the project will get kids thinking about both recycling and art.

"In order to sustain current museums, we need to instill an appreciation of art when kinds are younger," Williamson says. "some kids might not be going to the [Memphis] Brooks [Museum of Art]. We're trying to introduce art on the sly."

But visitors to City Museum know it;s a lot of fun for children and adults alike. The doors are open until 1 a.m. on weekends (though the lights are dimmed at 11 p.m. for a fun, flashlight experience), and there are also adult beverages.

"One thing I'd like to see happen is for families to come after 5 o'clock. There's not a lot to do after 5 and my kids are still awake for several hours," Williamson says.

Now that the've got a home- however temporary- Williamson is looking for artists to help create the play pieces, as well as teenagers to serve on a teen board to give input on what they'd like to see in terms of climbing structures. And financial support never hurts, either.

"Once we get in, "Williamson says, "I don't think it will take any time to start building, even if only just a platform that kids can play on."

For more information, visit the Junkyard's website at http://thejunkyardmemphis.org/index.html or e-mail junkyardmemphis@earthlink.net

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