It was pretty cool to be mentioned by New York Magazine's online article looking at Memphis art happenings as a source for learning what's happening in the local art ecosystem.
However, I have to confess being as surprised as anyone else, because while the focus of this blog started out with the goal of showing old friends in the art world what Memphis artists were up to, it’s never really been about finding out what shows to go to or openings to attend.
Visual Memphis is the most excellent venue for upcoming exhibitions and art events.
ArtsMemphis is where you should look to learn about the broader arts and cultural productions city-wide.
This blog turned into more of a space for longform musings and considerations about why art matters to a place like Memphis a long time ago. I don’t get out enough since our little boy was born to serve as any kind of maven of up to the minute who’s who guru of the Memphis art scene any more. Scores more have come to town since I started writing here in 2007 (or was it 2006?) with energy to burn and ideas to breathe new life into this weird little town, not quite New Orleans, not quite Nashville.
Memphis will never be a major visual arts capitol.
Although from time to time the bootstrap ethos of this town with the highest per capita poverty rate in the nation gets noticed outside the borders of Shelby County for quirky one-off projects or DIY galleries in unconventional places, the city of Memphis cannot and will not ever sustain the level of activity necessary to truly become a magnet for visual arts production and consumption that it would require to make a fundamental shift of the ravenous art world gaze towards this patch along the Mississippi River where 3 of the lowest performing states in every indicator for education, health, and income for anything longer than a ‘weekend getaway’ or fleeting novelty project by parachute hipsters.
Let that sink in a moment…take a deep breath…let it go…now let’s move on.
The good news is, we don’t need to be.
What Memphis is good for, is allowing its artists the space to be as creative as they need to be in order for their souls to find peace. Unless that kind of freedom winds up driving them crazy and pushes them out to chase greater art ambitions, to New York, Chicago, or London, or L. A., which happens all to frequently for critical mass to ever really build up steam. Or, it suffocates them in their attempt to make sense of the dreams that keep them up at night until the air runs out and they’re either working jobs that kill their creativity or kills them outright dead because they couldn’t let it go. I wish I was in a more optimistic frame of mind, but I’ve seen the potential for Memphis to be awesome come and go all too often for rose colored glasses. I think its time we changed our priorities. Memphis doesn’t need to be an art world destination. Or, a whistle stop on the biennial route. Or an exotic hinterland of blues and barbecue that modernity forgot. It needs to be great.
So, let’s start thinking about what would make Memphis the greatest art town it could possibly be…for its artists, its audiences, its cultural arbiters, and its general public. If outsiders take notice, they’re welcome to join in.
But, let’s make this clear, we don’t need them.
Starting with the next post, I’ll begin detailing what’s happening right with art in Memphis.
After that, I’ll let you know what else needs to be done.