Unleaded Art 

Memphis College of Art students design mural for Discount Gas.

One Midtown gas station is getting an artistic overhaul.

After a handful of failed attempts at beautifying Discount Gas on the corner of Poplar and Tucker, Loeb Properties, owner of the gas station and a number of other Midtown properties, turned to students at Memphis College of Art (MCA) to help spruce up the property.

Over the last few months, the design department at MCA dedicated one of their upper-level design classes, led by Hyuna Park, to head the project.

"Loeb is studying Midtown Memphis where we have a lot of our properties," said Tom Hayes, vice president of construction for Loeb Properties. "We've done some murals in the past that have been well received, so we wanted to do more."

Loeb left the vision for the project almost entirely up to the students, and at the end of the semester, they had drawn up plans for a mural and a completely new image for the exterior of the building.

For the students involved in the project, the mural and renovation of the property was an opportunity to work collaboratively with a business owner and the neighboring community on a real-world project, said John Pennington, one of the design students.

The theme was decided after students polled community members on what they'd like to see in the mural. The nearly completed mural on the east-facing wall, which represents the first step in renovating the property, boasts a dynamic, geometric, brilliantly colored design that reads "Midtown Is Our Memphis."

"We knew we wanted a mural, but MCA ended up designing all four sides of the building and helping us with the overall design," Hayes said. "They weren't really obligated to paint it, but there are a couple of students who have stepped up to paint the mural."

Loeb is footing the bill for all supplies, an anti-graffiti coating to protect the mural, and any outside labor costs, estimated at $12,000. They also paid for some recent landscaping.

"We wanted to get a working relationship set up with Memphis College of Art, and this is the first run with establishing that relationship," Hayes said. "We didn't know if they would just do the design and get out, but we've been delighted to see that they've done the design and they're actually painting the darn thing. It also lets us connect with young, creative, and able-bodied artist types who we can work with in the future."

Hayes said that Loeb is also interested in working with the sculpture department at MCA as they develop Overton Square and some of their other properties throughout Midtown.

They eventually hope to hold design competitions for the public art at some of the Overton Square properties. Those competitions would be open to the public, and the winning designer would get the job of implementing that design.

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