If it is true that art defines a place, then the Mid-South has wonderful clarity. Memphis is well represented by artists and gallery owners, and individual communities in the city often have a distinctive creative bent. The South Main Arts District is one neighborhood that consistently offers urban chic venues in the midst of a neighborhood trimmed with aged architectural elements, charming storefronts and historic sites.
As the weather continues to warm up, consider rediscovering the arts scene downtown, beginning with a walk down South Main. (Or if you don’t want to walk, take a Downtown Trolley! The South Main Trolley Nights are from 6 to 9 p.m. the last Friday of every month all year, come rain or shine.)
A few must-see stops in the the South Main Arts District:
The Jack Robinson Gallery (44 Huling) honors a vast body of work by Robinson, a Vogue photographer whose portraits of 60’s and 70’s cultural icons such as The Beatles, James Taylor and Jacqueline Kennedy have timeless appeal. Owner Dan Oppenheimer’s extensive collection of vintage black and white Americana photographs from 1920 to 1960 attracts collectors worldwide.
Robert Bain of the Joysmith Gallery (46 Huling) is an internationally known curator who educates people about artwork and the world in which it was produced. Originally, the gallery was intended as a showroom for Joysmith’s original pastels and limited- and open-edition prints by his wife, Brenda Joysmith. After its first year, they adopted an additional goal of featuring ancestral and contemporary art.
D’Edge Art (550 S. Main), vibrant with contemporary folk and blues art, offers regionally known artists such as N.J. Woods and Kevin Mitchell. Internationally known artist George Hunt has his studio at the D’Edge Gallery. He has been the artist for the Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival poster for years, and his current painting for this year’s event, Memphis Music Diva, is on display.
The Memphis College of Art Nesin Graduate School and Hyde Gallery recently joined the South Main neighborhood (477 S. Main). This location houses MCA’s MFA and Graduate Education Programs. It also provides exhibition space to graduate candidates and hosts a wide variety of contemporary exhibitions. MCA’s presence indicates that this area is serious about art!
And do not miss The National Civil Rights Museum (450 Mulberry), a cornerstone of the community. Many more art venues are tastefully placed in and around the district’s renovated warehouses and upscale urban lofts. Visitors who explore these hospitable galleries and exhibit spaces will discover a pleasing variety of local, national and international artists who reflect the diversity, history and ambitions of South Main and the greater Memphis community.