Six New Downtown Memphis Murals: The Artery Alley Project

Posted by Holly Whitfield | May 10th 2017 15797 100

Ed. Note: I’m so happy to bring you this post from contributor Veena Rangaswami, who’s done the legwork on figuring out what’s going on with some of the new murals downtown. 


Have you seen the cool new artwork in Barboro Alley downtown and wondered what it was all about? Don’t worry, I’m here to fill you in.

Barbaro Alley  – aka “The Artery” as we’re now calling it – was commissioned by the Downtown Memphis Commission to increase the vibrancy and walkability of the South Main area. The alley was chosen for its proximity to a number of creative businesses as well as the connection it provides between AutoZone and ServiceMaster.

Of the 40 proposals that were submitted by artists, six were chosen for the Phase I installation on the west side of the alley, with more coming in Phase II later this year that will fill out the east side.

As someone who is always on the lookout for new murals and street art in Memphis, I love the vibrancy of these six pieces and how they have brought the alley to life. I can’t wait to see how it continues to evolve with the next phase of the project.

And now, on to the murals:

1. Back in the Ponds // Christopher Reyes and Michael Roy aka Ninjacat + Birdcap
Follow @birdcap and @madebyninjacat

This is a showstopper of a piece that will immediately draw you in with bold colors and a unique look. A longtime downtown resident, Reyes was excited about contributing awesomeness to his neighborhood, and he loves the allure of having the piece transform from mural by day to a stunning visual experience at night.

Ed. Note: If you loved FISH at Crosstown Arts as much as I did, this has a similar “animation” through lighting concept. 

2. Streak // Emily Elizabeth Miller
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A street artist and illustrator living in Nashville, Emily attended art school in Memphis and wanted to give back to and leave her mark on the city that shaped her so significantly as an artist. She used the Memphis Tigers, a mascot for our beloved city, as her inspiration and created the mural using prints and wheatpaste.

Ed. Note: Emily did one of my favorites on the giant Paint Memphis wall at Chelsea and Evergreen.

3. 1968 // Lawrence Matthews
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Next, you’ll find 1968 by visual and recording artist Lawrence Matthews. Matthews decided in the summer of 2016 to take on more public art projects as a way to expose people to visuals and ideas that could educate or inform them of different moments in history.

1968 takes on Memphis’ role in the history of the Civil Rights Movement, and the piece is a great reminder to remember our city’s history as we continue to move forward.

4. Skywalk // Eszter Sziksz and Stephanie Cosby
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A post shared by Stephanie C Cosby / Memphis TN (@stephccosby) on

Skywalk is a collaboration between two artists who work together with the understanding that art is a bridge that connects us across languages. They wanted to bring sunlight into the grey concrete of the alley, and they purposely used lenticular prints in their work so that it comes alive when people walk through. All of the photos in the piece were taken by Stephanie, and Eszter and Stephanie worked together to bring the work to life.

5. Soul Color // Marcellous Lovelace
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I love Marcellous Lovelace’s Soul Color for its fun abstract style and also for its homage to Memphis’ place in the halls of music history. Honoring some of the most famous musicians to record in Memphis, this piece will appeal to locals and visitors alike.

6. It’s Beautiful Where You Are // Joseph Boyd @ Flight of Fancy Co
Follow @flightoffancyco

If you venture across South Main to the east side of the Artery, you’ll find Joseph Boyd’s It’s Beautiful Where You Are, a visually stunning piece that I loved for the feeling of life it invokes. Inspired by nature and wanting to showcase the local beauty of Memphis, Joseph chose to feature a mockingbird and irises, Tennessee’s state bird and flower, along with women’s nails inspired by his wife, a fellow artisan.

In his own words, “We should all travel and take in the beauty of this earth but we should recognize that we have something pretty great here.” I agree, wholeheartedly.


About The Author
Veena grew up on the banks of the Mississippi River, and after many years of splitting her time between Memphis and India, she has finally returned full-time to the 901. By day she is a program specialist for the Bridge Builders program at BRIDGES, and by night she can be found reading and writing, eating her way around Memphis, cheering on her favorite sports teams, plotting her next out-of-town adventure, and pretending to be a runner. All she wants is a lifetime supply of Dr. Pepper and to see the Grizz bring home an NBA Championship. Read about her adventures, and follow along for yourself on Instagram and Twitter.


Author: Holly Whitfield

I write about what’s going on with Memphis music, food, arts, events, sports, people, and culture. Memphians love Elvis and barbeque with a passion that must be seen to be believed, but there is so much more to this place.

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