Memphis Art Park at the Promenade: Re-establishing Memphis as a Thriving Hub of Arts and Culture

 Mario  Walker, Assoc. AIA; John Kirkscey

M.A.P. proposes to create community art centers and an outdoor art park which would beautify, reconnect and bring dynamism to the neglected Front Street Promenade.

The downtown Promenade was set aside upon the founding of Memphis for public use and enjoyment. Memphis Art Park (M.A.P) offers the city a compelling plan that honors the letter and spirit of the public-use easement protecting the Memphis Promenade. M.A.P would stimulate the city's arts and culture, while adding a burst of energy to downtown and the under-utilized Front Street Promenade.

The design proposes to:

  • (I) Convert the Cossitt Library buildings at Front and Monroe into M.A.P's Community Arts Center for film, music, dance, and performing arts with a digital library and arts-resource center, among many other amenities.
  • (II) Convert an existing fire station at Front Street and Union Avenue into M.A.P's Visual Art Center with an art gallery + exhibition venue, arts facilities, a rooftop event deck, and a bluff-top cafe.
  • (III) Transform the existing 'Memphis Park' to the north of the University of Memphis School of Law into M.A.P's Art Park, which would include an outdoor artist market, a cafe and a performance pavilion for theater, music, dance and film, among other showcases and events.
  • (IV) Enhance the River Bluff Walkway behind the Law School in order to increase its utility and attractiveness to the public as well as to better integrate M.A.P's arts campus.
  • (V) Beautify the exterior of the neighboring Parking Garage with green walls, murals, and LED lighting; plus complete the River Bluff Walkway's missing link between the Cossitt bluff-top and the trolley stop at Union and Riverside by: building a pedestrian bridge over Monroe Drive to connect the Cossitt bluff-top with the parking garage and creating a pedestrian walkway along the western edge of the parking garage that then ramps down and around the fire station until it connects with the existing bluff-walk at Union Ave and Riverside drive.
  • (VI) Construct new pedestrian crosswalks across Riverside Drive at both Monroe and Court Avenues with LED-illuminated gateways to better and safely connect the Mississippi River Park with the M.A.P campus.

M.A.P would be operated as a public-use community arts complex and park for the benefit of emerging artists, creative youth, entrepreneurs, and arts organizations as well as for the enjoyment of the public. Locals and tourists alike would be welcomed to enjoy MAP's arts centers and park, live performances, cinema screenings, gallery showings, sculpture garden, public plazas, bluff-top cafe and more. However, the use of M.A.P's various arts facilities would be reserved for locals, since the goal is to enrich and expand the arts community of Memphis.

In addition to offering facilities for artists to help cultivate their creativity, arts education and community outreach would be at the heart of M.A.P's mission, from classes for young artists and children, to after-school and summer programs for at-risk youth. M.A.P's Master Plan not only establishes two new community art centers and an art park that nurtures and showcases our city's emerging creative class; it also creates a beautiful, dynamic and more integrated Promenade that locals and tourists alike can fully enjoy.

Memphis Art Park will serve as a creative incubator and an integrative forum for the city's emerging filmmakers, musicians, dancers, performing artists, visual artists, and entrepreneurs. The facilities throughout M.A.P's downtown campus will also provide Memphis artists with an intimate yet high-profile showcase space, so locals and tourists alike will be able to enjoy the city's emerging arts and culture amid spectacular views of the mighty Mississippi River and Downtown. M.A.P. aims to nurture the soulful, artistic, and historically-innovative creativity already inherent to our Memphis's DNA.

Image credits


Mario Walker, Assoc. AIA; John Kirkscey