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Art breaks out of the gallery and into downtown stores and restaurants



People expect to see art in the galleries along South Main, but the Downtown Memphis Commission is helping to spread visual art outside of the traditional spaces.

Paintings, photography, and mixed-media work created by local and regional artists are being exhibited at retailers and restaurants along South Main through December 19th as part of the commission's "Unveil South Main" project, an art walk, exhibition, and auction. Twenty artists have been chosen to exhibit up to 10 works of art at 20 selected establishments along South Main for 20 days.

"It's a very diverse mix of mediums in different styles and genres," said Leslie Gower of the Downtown Memphis Commission. "We have the graffiti artists, folk artists, modern, eclectic, and traditional. It's just a really interesting combination of artists coming together to put this collective exhibit on."

"Unveil South Main" was launched on November 30th at the Jack Robinson Gallery. All 20 artists were in attendance, accompanied by a piece of art they donated for an auction benefiting the South Main Association, the nonprofit responsible for the monthly Art Trolley Tour.

The auction items will be on display at the Blues Foundation at 421 S. Main. Items may also be viewed and bid for online at until December 19th. Aside from the donated items, participating artists will keep all of the proceeds from their works sold.

Display locations include the Green Beetle, Muse, the Russian Cultural Center, and Charlotte Fine Jewelry, among others. The complete list can be viewed on the "Unveil South Main" website.

Allison Furr-Lawyer's artwork is being displayed at Pearl's Oyster House. She said the majority of the pieces she's exhibiting were created exclusively for the event.

"I really wanted to have people in most of my paintings. Each piece has its own little story," Furr-Lawyer said. "I have one painting of my grandmothers, and one of them is in a wheelchair. It's [about] finding beauty in things that are normally not so beautiful and adding some kind of twist and humor to it."

Prior to the South Main art exhibition, "Unveil Downtown" took place this past summer and included 20 artists exhibiting artwork at 20 different locations for 20 days in the downtown core. The event raised $5,000, fueling the Memphis Downtown Commission to give it another shot.

A jury of local artists and curators selected 20 artists out of more than 100 submissions for the "Unveil South Main" exhibit.

"I am just so thankful for the exposure, to get my work out there," Furr-Lawyer said. "I hope people enjoy looking at my artwork and it creates discussion for people [while] they're dining. I get satisfaction from people when they're at least noticing my work and talking about it, whether they like it or not. That's important to me."

Gower said "Unveil South Main" is a great way to bring exposure to local and regional artists, as well as help with economic development in downtown Memphis. She said the event may blossom into an annual event, but the locations are subject to change.

"I hope our artists find this as a good platform for them to sell their artwork," Gower said. "And I hope it brings more foot traffic to the businesses in South Main and more exposure to the amenities in South Main. It's a great way to get out, shop, eat, and find art, especially with the holidays coming up."

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