As children we are encouraged to nurture our creative side. Enthusiastic parents fill social media feeds with photos of their young ones performing in plays, singing at talent shows, and- as Junior Chefs- baking sweet works of art. But that enthusiasm appears to wane when, as young adults, we express a desire to pursue the artist’s life. We are asked about our “Plan B,” told to focus on getting a “real job,” and reminded that “having a hobby is different from having a career.” So, we seek out pockets of people in the places where we reside whose enthusiasm is still full of vigor, whose support of the artist’s life gives us encouragement to continue on, and who remind us through their actions that creativity and art are still much-needed pillars of our communities. East Buntyn is one of those pockets and its residents are as enthusiastic as ever about Memphis-area artists.
Nine years ago the East Buntyn Art Walk began with its missions to “help local artists market their work, show off the East Buntyn neighborhood and its diverse and vital people, and to provide an opportunity for East Buntyn neighbors to get better acquainted through collaboration, art, music, and food.” There were less than ten artists present for the inaugural walk in 2009 but this year, with more than one hundred artists signed up to showcase their work, we can confidently say: missions accomplished.
For both the artists and residents of this historic Memphis neighborhood, the art walk encompasses so much more than art: it has become a foundation for new friendships formed, a place where hobbies- or “side gigs”- have turned into full-fledged entrepreneurial enterprises, and a space where young artists who have never before been given a platform can embrace the notion that yes, their gifts are needed in our world. Shannon Little, an East Buntyn resident, understood at its inception the importance of this foundation and has worked hard over the years to fortify it.
Little is owner of a Memphis-based public relations firm which works with small businesses in various aspects pertaining to their growth, including marketing and social media needs. Yet even with a demanding schedule and roster that includes clients who have been featured in national publications such as Time’s Money Magazine, she has dedicated countless hours and professional resources as a Volunteer Committee Member with the East Buntyn Art Walk. Her own experiences, coupled with those shared by fellow neighbors, lends to the day being one of her favorite days of the year.
“Promoting [their] businesses is making an impact,” says Little when reflecting on the artists who have participated and whom have shared that the day is their “biggest money-maker all year long.” In some instances, the success of this day can be seen as confirmation that what is now supplemental income has the potential to expand into a full time venture, as is the case with a jewelry designer who still maintains her “day job” but whose work has sold out at the event. Moments such as these bring Little back to the art walk- as a volunteer and a consumer- year after year: [for me] it’s a natural fit.”
And she doesn’t just talk the talk; she walks the walk. Little hosted the art exhibit of a University of Memphis student in her own yard one year. The student had no formal training but his immense talent was obvious; he had no resources and simply needed a space in which to showcase his work. She says he arrived at her home with an array of pieces ranging from pencil sketches to colorful cartoon characters, selling most of them, including the one she purchased for a Mother’s Day gift. He left the East Buntyn Art Walk proud and excited, Little shares, encouraged to continue with his art.
“I’m a big believer in it,” she tells me as plans for this year’s event are well underway.
And we, as artists know, it only takes one to believe.
The East Buntyn Art Walk will take place on April 21, 2018. For more information, please visit www.eastbuntynartwalk.com
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