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Flyer Flashback

To mark the Flyer's 20th anniversary, we're looking back at stories from our first two decades.

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In late February 2000, city officials were planning the rebuilding of the legendary Stax recording studio in South Memphis. In conjunction with that plan, the city hoped to revitalize the blighted neighborhood surrounding the old Stax site at McLemore and College.

In the February 24, 2000, issue, writer Chris Davis issued a call to artists in his "Artists Sought for Soulsville Gateway Project" story: "The plan is to create a series of murals (though other art forms may be considered) that will reflect the 'Soulsville' neighborhood's unique history."

The project was headed by the UrbanArt Commission. Murals were planned for the neighborhood's four gateways: the railroad trestles on Bellevue, north of Severson; a trestle on Mississippi Boulevard near Booker T. Washington High School; an area of Porter Street near LeMoyne Gardens; and the overpass at Walker near LeMoyne-Owen College.

Eventually, artist Arnold Thompson was selected for the project. Thompson created a mural — featuring Warhol-esque portraits of Isaac Hayes, Aretha Franklin, and other Stax stars — on the retaining walls under the railroad trestle on Bellevue.

But the UrbanArt Commission was unable to raise enough funds to cover the other three murals, and according to project manager Elizabeth Alley, the commission was unable to get permission to paint on some of the other railroad properties.

Said Alley: "If we were ever able to revisit that project, I think we would, since the neighborhood has changed so much over the years."

Bianca Phillips

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