Why am I doing this? I have many reasons going in and expect to find many more as the project progresses. I have no idea what the outcome will be - only that it will be organic, ever-changing, and community-driven. I want to:
1. create a green neighborhood space for parents and children to enjoy while exploring art, with an emphasis on outdoor sculpture made from recycled/found materials
2. provide local artists with a place to make and display their work
3. shape a space that is welcoming, fun, beautiful, and fosters a feeling of investment and partnership throughout the neighborhood
4. engage the Memphis community in art making through weekend open studios when anyone can drop in and participate using materials on hand
5. lead by example and show that a small group of dedicated individuals can succeed with such a project, and hopefully encourage others to do the same in their community
I've been doing a lot of reading over at Weeden Arts Watch, John Weeden is the former Executive Director of the UrbanArt Commission and now offers consulting services through the Vita Brevis Arts Bureau. John was interviewed in 2010 about the arts community in Memphis and his thoughts directly mirror my own, plus he's far more eloquent than I will ever hope to be. Here is an edited version of his answer to a question that I found interesting:
Q: "What is the state of the Memphis art scene?"
A: "I think the question is flawed in that there is no one coherent “scene”, so to speak. To my mind the concept of an art scene in the traditional sense connotes signature characteristics defined by distinct practices within a specific cultural moment of a place. I don’t think that condition is present here, indeed, it is rarely the case anywhere. It produces the perception of ‘monoculture,’ which thankfully, we do not suffer from in Memphis.
If there is one abiding characteristic of Memphis artists and cultural arbiters in general, that might be construed to be a common trait it would be that there is an incredible self-starter spirit here. Artists, musicians, dancers, actors, writers, filmmakers, they all understand that they will only succeed if they take it upon themselves to make it happen, that they can't count on anyone handing them anything, so they better sharpen up their skills and make their own 'scene(s).'"
Compelling, huh? Check out John's 2007 article on Tax Parcel Sculpture Parks. Right on!