Friday, January 8, 2021

Former Memphian Adds Ambassador Hotel/SOB Mural to South Main Art Scene

Posted By on Fri, Jan 8, 2021 at 2:58 PM

click to enlarge Erin Miller Wray working on her mural on the side of the Ambassador Hotel, which is the future home of South of Beale gastropub. - WHITNEY WILLIAMS
  • Whitney Williams
  • Erin Miller Wray working on her mural on the side of the Ambassador Hotel, which is the future home of South of Beale gastropub.


The south side of 345 South Main is coming to life.

Erin Miller Wray, a former Memphian now living in Los Angeles, created an 85-foot-long-by-10-foot-high mural on the side of the old Ambassador Hotel, which is the future home of South of Beale gastropub.

“We’re still working on it and we will be out here probably through the weekend,” Wray says. “We have pretty much the first layer done. We’ll go in today and do details and touch up. And, also, we’re painting the stairwell. We’ve got another two days ahead of us.”

Ed Cabigao, who owns SOB with his wife, Brittany, brought her to Memphis to do the mural, Wray says. “They wanted to bring some color and energy. Something to beautify the street. I had talked to Ed. We kind of brainstormed. I wanted to do something really special for him.”

Wray wanted the mural to feel like Memphis, but “not in the literal sense. We wanted it to feel authentic to Memphis, but we didn’t want it to be a literal interpretation of Memphis in the sense of we didn’t want to do a skyline or the bridge or a picture of Elvis. So, I kind of took that idea and did a spin on it.”

She was inspired by some “retro postcards” of Memphis. “There was one of the Levitt Shell, the Memphis bridge, the Lorraine Motel, an old Holiday Inn sign that was here. And in those I loved the Mid-Century modern feel of the shapes, the lines paired with these soft rounded edges.

“I took that design element and then I mapped it out to somewhat feel like a city skyline. So, all of the shapes are placed next to each other to sort of mimic this feel as if you’re looking at a skyline, but in a very interpretive sense. Very geometric. Soft edges. I played with negative space within the design. So, it feels like the art work is sitting off of the building, to mimic that skyline. Like it’s in front of it.”

She is working with a team on the mural. Wray is head of all the design and production. Also working on the mural are her assistants Christina Bagladi – who Wray flew in from Los Angeles – and Whitney Williams, and local artist Stacy Kiehl.

click to enlarge Erin Miller Wray in front of her Memphis mural. - WHITNEY WILLIAMS
  • Whitney Williams
  • Erin Miller Wray in front of her Memphis mural.

Wray, who grew up in Germantown, studied interior design with a minor in theater at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She moved away from Memphis 12 years ago. “I moved out to Los Angeles to pursue acting. I did comedy six years, which brought me into the production side. Ultimately, art was pulling me more than acting was. I cut acting cold turkey and I started creating custom artwork and I opened my own design company, which specializes in murals for branded artwork design.”

Wray is a fan of her recent canvas — a building that dates to 1915. “The Ambassador Hotel has so much history and so many people love this building. So, I wanted to give Memphis and SOB something that was timeless. Something approachable to everyone. And that would just leave a mark down here, but maybe feel like this piece has always been here.”

“I instantly knew the design and the kind of art she does was exactly what I wanted for this building,” says Ed Cabigao. “You don’t see a lot of this kind of mural in Memphis. So, that’s why I really wanted someone to do something different and kind of have that help the South Main art scene.”

And, he says, “I’m excited for people to experience it, walk by it. It makes the building pop. And it just gives it a different element instead of just a dark, gray building.”

SOB is slated to open in late February or early March in the Ambassador Hotel, Ed says.

click to enlarge Erin Miller Wray works on her Memphis mural on the side of the old Ambassador Hotel, which is the future home of South of Beale gastropub. - NLA PROJECTS
  • NLA Projects
  • Erin Miller Wray works on her Memphis mural on the side of the old Ambassador Hotel, which is the future home of South of Beale gastropub.

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