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Downtown Memphis renovated into arts district

Perhaps one of the most innovative and resourceful arts projects has been the reinvention of the downtown Memphis warehouse district in 16 art galleries comprising the South Main Art Galleries. It is also home to the National Civil Rights Museum.

“Renovations were attempted before,” said Brenda Joysmith of Joysmith Art Gallery, “But it did not take root ... until now. This time, the public has been quite receptive.”

The galleries are situated right downtown, just four blocks away from historic Beale Street. Not long ago the area was quickly declining, until local artists became involved. For the past 10 years, locals have worked to reinvent this area into a prestigious area for the affluent.

Not only is the old warehouse district home to 16 art galleries including the National Civil Rights Museum, but to upscale residences as well.

Many of the galleries are run by local artists; however, there are many international artists who exhibit here as well.

Original works of art are in various mediums including watercolor, oil and acrylic paintings; various methods of sculpture; stained glass and photography as well.

The galleries hold true to the quote by Okwui Enwoi, written above the exit within Joysmith gallery, “The aim of curating is not to be a tastemaker, but to produce knowledge not just of art but of the world in which it is made.”

In addition, the galleries feature a “Last Friday” each month, which is a Trolley Art Tour from 6 to 9 p.m. Visitors ride the historic trolley for free, stopping at galleries and shops that remain open offering refreshments and, at times, live music. The South Main Art Galleries have something for every taste and is well worth the trip.

The following is a list of some of the galleries:

• Rivertown Gallery: an artist-run gallery within which membership covers space rental. Located at 125 South Main. Hours of operation: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment.

• Bennett Stained Glass: Shipping anywhere, features works from award-winning designers from “Hamburg to Hawaii.” Located at 38 South Main.

• Jack Robinson Gallery and Archive: Home of Vogue photographer Jack Robinson (1928-1997) and also features work from other local and international artists. Located at: 44 Huling Row. Hours of operation: Tuesday-Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday 1p.m. to 5 p.m.

• Joysmith Gallery: Features local African “American artists as well as original works from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and South America. Houses watercolors, oils, acrylics and sculpture. Located at 46 Huling Row.

• Disciple Design: Houses spiritually inspired drawings, paintings and photographs from up-and-coming artists. Located at 390 South Main.

• Durden Gallery: Features European style works of art, housing affordable paintings, photography, sculpture and glass. Located at: 41 Huling Row.

• Hollis Arts: Abstract and figurative art work by Mickey Hollis. Located at: Suite 1007 Huling Row.

• The Patio Gallery: Workshop and gallery of Ed Vining, housing artworks in mediums of fine woods, leathers and clay. Located at: Suite 103 Huling Row.

• Jay Etkin Gallery: One of the largest contemporary galleries in the Mid-South housing paintings, sculpture, works on paper and ethnographic art forms. Located at: 409 South Main at Huling Row.

• Art Village Gallery: The oldest of the galleries and features works of art from Ephraim Urevbu. Located at: 410 South Main at Huling Row.

• The National Civil Rights Museum: At the historic Loraine Motel, the site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Museum depicts the history of the Civil Rights Movement from slavery to the 21st century. Located at: 450 Mulberry at Huling Row.

• Universal Art Gallery: Houses works in mediums of paintings, photography and sculptures by international artist Arnold Thompson as well as contemporary works from local artists and international artists. Located at: 111 G. E. Patterson.

• D’Edge Art &Unique Treasures: Houses contemporary folk, blues art and other unique treasures on two floors by regional and international artists. In addition, contemporary music prints and posters are available. Located at: 550 South Main.

For directions and more information contact