Broad Avenue Water Tower DepotMemphis, TN
In May 2013, it was announced that Broad Avenue had won an ArtPlace Grant from ArtPlace America. This grant will transform an active warehouse loading dock on Historic Broad Avenue into an outdoor arts venue, convert a 140 foot tall water tower into an iconic public art beacon and activate The Water Tower Depot with eight weekends of community dance, followed by eight months of community-based programming. This community-based programming will focus on engaging the surrounding community, especially the residents of the Binghampton neighborhood.
The past month has focused on building public awareness regarding the project and leveraging the momentum created by the announcement. City of Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton, in conjunction with The Historic Broad Business Association and Binghampton Development Corporation, announced the grant at a press conference on May 20. The press conference featured the three key elements of the grant. It was held in the loading dock and in the shadow of the iconic Water Tower. Mayor A.C. Wharton spoke applauding the grassroots effort on Broad Avenue and the opportunities the ArtPlace grant brings. Bridget Marquis, Program Director ArtPlace America, also attended.
The community performance aspect of the grant also was showcased. The Salvation Army Kroc Center began with a performance of Broadway songs. Danza Azteca Quetzacoatl de Memphis followed with a amazing dance performance of traditional Aztec dance and dress. The press conference closed with a group dance session by Collage Dance Collective. The audience was invited to participate in the dance performance as a preview to the dance festival that will be funded by the grant.
The first official action we took from the grant was to hire a coordinator solely focused on building community-based programming.
In the past month, Broad Avenue has had great momentum coming off the press conference. On June 15th a new retail business opened on Broad Avenue. Independent Style Market (ISM) is a retail shop showcasing the best in indie designed and handmade products. ISM also is a creative studio offering DIY classes and select supplies not commonly available in the Memphis area. Two additional retail businesses are exploring joining Broad Avenue.
The first new programming began with the Broad Avenue businesses hosting a Demo Day on Broad. Businesses and art galleries featured artist demonstrations throughout the day. This event was a success because it brought more traffic and business than a normal Saturday. In addition, we received great press from the event, including a spot on a local channel.
Community pride creates action and excitement. Targeting a 1945 warehouse to create dual purpose has spurred passionate dialogue from the residents and business owners about what makes Broad Avenue distinctive and how to build upon this unique form. The commitment of new business owners to the street now equals that of long-time residents in the area to reactivate the feel of an early twentieth century Main Street versus building something new.
In addition, the grant has brought substantial interest in the area. We have had several local groups reach out to offer support and micro-grant opportunities. By starting programming and activity before construction and the dance festival, we are building capacity of the Broad Avenue businesses to support on-going programming. Previously the area hosted two events per year. We want the community to already see and participate in the great things happening on Broad before the outdoor arts venue and Water Tower art installation are built – creating a rhythm and instill in the community that Broad Avenue is a place to shop, eat, create.