Thursday, August 26, 2010

Main and Union: A Third Thursday to Experience

Note: This posting was originally meant to be my first of this blog. I wrote it by hand last Thursday while sitting at South of Beale, contemplating this new Man Versus Art blog idea I had just come up with while thinking about how I could write an entry on the event I had just attended. I've had other ideas that just happened to come up in the meantime. But I figured I better get this up soon. And I guess today is a good day to post something related to an "art walk/hop-type event" since it's Friday Art Trolley Tour.

I wasn't planning on starting this blog quite yet but I was inspired by my visit to the Main and Peabody Third Thursday event. This neighborhood is not fully established, but really, what community in Downtown Memphis really is?

This two-block stretch of Main between Peabody Place and Union receives its fair share of traffic, thanks to a handful of residential properties along with bars and restaurants, clothing stores, the Center for Southern Folklore, Belz Museum of Asian & Judaic Art and a couple of art galleries.

This stretch of Main doesn't have the artsy vibe that can be found in the heart of the South Main Historic Arts District. Are they trying to get there? I guess you could say they are. It took South Main quite a while to get to where it is today. (For more on what the stakeholders in this area have in mind with the Third Thursday event, read this story in The Daily News.)

The stretch of Main around Peabody Place will definitely be helped when the new residents start to move into the newly constructed residential/commercial mix-use building at Gayoso and Main that for so many years has been referred to as "the big hole on Main." I think there's great potential there, especially considering all the businesses in the area and if Pinnacle Airlines ultimately does move its corporate headquarters nearby.

Anyway, on this night (Thursday Aug. 19) I spent some time strolling the street, listening to the two musical groups set up and talking to the owners of See Main Street. But most of my time was spent in the neighborhood's two art galleries for two different reasons.

First, it was Art Under a Hot Tin Roof, a gallery I had never stepped foot in before. Entering this gallery was a unique experience for me and it had nothing to do with the art and beautiful colors in the space. No, it just might have been the first time I ever set foot in an art gallery without my art-loving wife dragging me through.

What happened next -- a long conversation with the gallery owners about art -- I can proudly say is a byproduct of this blog. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have tried so hard to discuss the gallery's art if it were not for my desire to really engage myself in the arts scene over the next year for this blog.

A couple of thoughts about this gallery: It opened in a space formerly occupied by a bank at the corner of Main and Gayoso a year and a half ago. It's a clean, bright space filled with regional, national and international art. For example, walk into the gallery from Main and you're greeted by a small display of local pottery in the same room that bright paintings from a Mexican artist hang. There are paintings of various sizes, jewelry and more in this welcoming space. It was an enjoyable time looking at the art while discussing some upcoming shows that will debut at the August and September South Main Art Trolley Tour nights.

On the negative side of things on this evening I was sad to learn upon walking into Rivertown Gallery that it will close Sept. 10 after 15 years of business. It's hard to understand, but basically a new tenant is moving into the current gallery space.

The Rivertown owner didn't want to leave, but now it seems she might not reopen elsewhere. At least she said she's not rushing into any decisions. And that's too bad. Rivertown provides space to local artists of various styles and abilities. The artwork is very affordable. Here's hoping they find a new home soon.

I guess it's just a sign of how things are in the life of art galleries in town. Or at least that's what I've seen in Downtown Memphis through the years as many galleries have come and gone for various reasons.

I encourage you to stop by Rivertown before they pack up.

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