With the goal of making art more accessible to inspire the creative spirit in all Memphians, Arrow Creative aims to be much more than just an arts program, a collective studio space or a place to buy art. The nonprofit brings Memphis makers together to form a one-roof creative district – a united, diverse and welcoming hub for the community to enjoy all of the vibrant arts the city has to offer. Co-founders Abby Phillips and Dorothy Collier are actively seeking a permanent location with enough space to offer a full range of services, including large-scale equipment, studios, retail space, event space, classrooms and much more.
The opening of the Arrow concept shop in October 2019 was the first step towards the larger goal and gives Memphis a taste of what’s to come. Located in the ever-growing Broad Avenue Arts District, the 1,700-square-foot space gives Memphis creatives a dedicated place to work, sell their art, meet with clients and collaborate with others. Retail space, located at the front of the shop, is an engaging stop for shoppers. More than 40 local creatives sell their art, jewelry, apparel, bath and body items, and home goods. Further in, long tables in an open area are available for communal desk space, classes and larger meetings, and a cozy conversation area is perfect for meeting with clients. Six studio and creative office spaces are currently rented to a variety of creatives.
“Artists don’t have a water cooler to gather around,” explains Dorothy. “They need a place to share ideas and energy. We received over 60 applications for our six rental studios, so the need is clear.”
The term “artist” or “maker” includes visual artists, photographers, writers, designers, creative entrepreneurs … the list goes on. “We welcome any kind of creative,” says Abby. “Right now, our renters include a paleo food blogger, a jewelry maker, a graphic designer and web developer, a talent agent (who is also a dancer), an abstract acrylic artist and a pour painter.”
Studio renters are required to be in the store 15 hours a week when the retail business is open so the public can meet the makers as they shop for unique items. “It is so rewarding to watch people actually talking to an artist and learning about their medium,” Abby adds. “And we love watching the artists learning from each other and growing.”
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Arrow also provides creative community education and arts programming. Classes range from longer intensives for professionals to fun, one-night events perfect for couples or a girls’ night out. The first summer camp will begin in June 2020, with classes in drawing and painting, animation, clay sculpture, digital design, fashion design, book illustration, photography and writing. “Memphis College of Art offered summer camps for years, and we want to continue that legacy,” says Abby.
A native of Memphis, Abby started a talent agency for film and modeling after college. In 2012, she created Memphis Fashion Week, a showcase of spring and summer fashion collections. Today the event is under the umbrella of Arrow Creative as a premier fundraiser and continues to celebrate local and regional fashion designers, photographers, models and boutiques each April.
A second fundraiser is the Positively Creative Summit, a day-long experience featuring notable speakers and break-out sessions for creative entrepreneurs, and the Positively Creative Series, which offers a variety of workshops for local creatives. The Positively Creative Podcast, created and hosted by Dorothy, focuses on running a creative small business and is a natural fit with the summit and series.
A transplant from Franklin, Tennessee, Dorothy is a mixed media artist and creator of Dorothy Art. At a 2017 pop-up event, she realized the importance of an artist being on-site to engage with customers. “I felt there was a real disconnect between art and the artist,” she says. “There are studios just off the beaten path in Memphis, maybe just one building away from a more trafficked area, that may not attract customers just because not many people know they are there. Having artists together, with studios open to the public, allows people to fall back in love with art.”
Abby and Dorothy are excited about the future of Arrow Creative and their search for a forever home for the one-roof creative district. They plan to build on Arrow’s existing foundation to offer new programming and engaging spaces, such as 40 individual studios and creative offices, expanded retail, gallery and community event spaces, and 10 shared equipment spaces. Those areas will offer access to printmaking, papermaking, letterpress, painting, photography, woodworking, ceramics, a sound lab, illustration/animation and fashion design equipment. The concept shop on Broad Avenue will remain open.
“Although finding the perfect space and getting the funding for it are our biggest challenges now, we love to see how everything is coming together so well at the concept shop,” says Abby. “When the artists and the public are around, the energy is invigorating!”
The Arrow concept shop is located at 2535 Broad Ave, Memphis, TN 38112. Memberships are available for access to community co-working spaces, social media support, members-only events and more. The retail shop is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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