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Starving Artists

Gallery for emerging artists struggles to stay open.



Although most businesses in the Broad Avenue Arts District are undergoing something of a renaissance, Odessa, a gallery known for its support of young artists, is in danger of closing.

Odessa, located at 2613 Broad, is struggling to pay the bills, and they're asking for donations to help sustain the gallery through the end of the summer.

Donations can be made online to the "Help Save Odessa" campaign at The fund-raising campaign will last until mid-June. At press time, Odessa has raised just over half of its $3,000 goal.

"Broad marks the newest arts district in the city," said David Brown, president of the Historic Broad Business Association and owner of Splash Creative Ink on Sam Cooper.

Brown said Odessa is one of the few creative outlets where Memphis' emerging artists can display their work in a gallery setting, and it plays a vital role in the Broad Avenue community.

"We knew firsthand the need for such an open and non-discriminative space in Memphis," said Ashle Bailey, a recent Memphis College of Art graduate and co-owner of Odessa. "We wanted to move away from the mainstream establishments [in Memphis] that had become so institutionalized."

Since opening its doors in 2008, and after undergoing a management change last year, Odessa has moved toward "securing a venue where ambitious art can thrive," said Bailey, who helped shift the space from a party and concert venue to more of a dedicated gallery space.

"We recognize the unmet need in Memphis to broadly support the creative endeavors of a nascent, but potentially powerful, emerging artist community," Bailey said. "[Odessa] guarantees a home for experimental and ambitious creative expression in Memphis that quite literally has nowhere else to go in our city. ... We exist to support artists in Memphis."

With that goal in mind, Bailey and co-owner Adam Gilreath, have been careful to keep the cost of renting gallery space affordable. The gallery has averaged roughly three shows a month since opening, which, with the rental fee at $100, has left Odessa in need of additional revenue.

The Historic Broad Business Association has been able to help mitigate Odessa's financial troubles in the past by helping them to get grants for non-profit arts groups.

More recently, the association has helped spread the word about the current "Help Save Odessa" campaign. But the gallery is still falling short.

With the right amount of local support, Bailey said, "Odessa has the vision and ability to play a significant role in shaping the future of Memphis' arts community."

Some plans include increasing the number of artists shown and extending their exhibition time. Odessa would also like to decrease, or even eliminate, artists' rental fees. Additionally, Bailey hopes to partner with public schools and nonprofit organizations to provide free gallery exhibition opportunities to an even younger generation of emerging Memphis artists.

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