M. Foster Reviews the Latest Pop-Up ArtsFest

by - May 04, 2012

In a neighborhood that thrives on weekend outdoor activities, parks, and porches, Orange Mound was the most appropriate, yet unlikely, for an ArtsMemphis Pop Up ArtsFest. The festival was the last of three funded by an NEA grant that featured tables from major art institutions in Memphis, like the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, the Metal Museum.

The entire event was very child oriented. Each table had some activity for children. Muddy’s Bakeshop had coloring pages, independent artist Eli Gold offered assistance to cut out copper shapes, and the Metal Museum helped children produce an aluminum relief.

This pop-up was attended at about the same rate as the previous two Pop-Ups according to an ArtsMemphis volunteer. The non-scientific estimate was somewhere around 300-500 people throughout the day. The first event was at Frayser and the second at Hollywood/Springdale. Each has combined live performance such as the Memphis Ballet and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra with the hands-on activities sponsored by local arts organizations and artists to cultivate a family-friendly community days.

In true Memphis style, the Orange Mound edition also offered BBQ food vendors and the ever-popular dollar snow cones. Face painting and easel painting drew lines; children seemed at home and engaged in the various activities while adults lingered near the performance stage. The highlight of the large stage was headliner Al Kapone with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and the U DIG Dance Company performing a repeat of the ticketed November collaboration at the New Daisy Theatre, also under ArtsMemphis supervision along with the Tennesee Arts Commission.

While the Pop-Up ArtsFests are a far from museum sanctioned “high art”, the event in Orange Mound succeeded in engaging art institutions in community involvement. While art fests often mutate fine art into a marketable craft fair, the Pop-Up in Orange Mound was much more of a community engagement endeavor than a concern for commerce or pretense. Hands-on activities were well represented by this installment and families comfortably welcomed – clearly these were goals of the event.

With the program’s success, dialogue surrounding art and community is necessary. What does art mean to Memphis? It is certainly more than an enjoyable afternoon at Melrose High School Stadium and more than art on a wall at the Brooks. How can all facets of fine and performative art (I’m talking gallery art, “high culture”) in Memphis translate into community engagement without becoming something already represented as an arts- and-craft fair? Perhaps the next NEA grant will deliver an answer. 

M. Foster writes for Barista Magazine and keeps an independent art blog at fostercollection.blogspot.com. She is a graduate student in sculpture and art history at the University of Memphis.

Volunteers and Participants from the event

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