Justin Fox Burks
The Water Tower Pavilion
The kitchen is the heartbeat of the home, a place where we mix things together and see what happens, where we take pieces of ourselves, or bits of our culture, and share them with those around us.
For the historic Broad Avenue Arts District, the Water Tower Pavilion is that kind of place.
“We wanted to have an outdoor artistic space that anybody in the community can come and use,” says David Brown, former president of the Historic Broad Avenue Arts Alliance and owner of Splash Creative, an advertising agency located in the neighborhood.
Since its May 2014 opening, the new pavilion has hosted numerous community festivals and become an affordable rental venue for local creative types. Situated between two large warehouses, the urban setting boasts ample room for large-scale functions, such as “Dance on Broad,” an inaugural six-part series that kicked off the pavilion’s unveiling. Neighborhood restaurants and food trucks also utilize the pavilion’s side service entrance to set up shop in the venue’s sunken courtyard for family-friendly Art Walks featuring live music accompanied by Memphis cuisine and an array of art.
Annual food festivals are emerging as well, such as the Southern Salsa Festival held in Octobeber and September’s BreakFest, a celebration of all things breakfast food. The sold-out event featured food competitions in categories ranging from “Best Breakfast Sandwich” to “Make It with Bacon.”
Justin Fox Burks
Tylur French of Youngblood Studios created the colorful design on Broad Avenue's signature Water tower.
Not only do the large industrial loading docks make an ideal gathering place for events, but the Water Tower Pavilion’s unique identity sets it apart from other venues around the country. It is probably the only property in the nation that operates as an active truck-loading dock during the week and converts to an art and entertainment space on the weekend, providing the neighborhood with a space to do what it does best: create. Broad Avenue has been a longtime hub for artists and creative types, including painters, sculptors, chefs, and entrepreneurs. Today, the denizens of the neighborhood still boast a colorful palette of personalities and passions.
The creative team behind the Water Tower Pavilion wanted to reflect that mix. Murals by world-renowned French artist Guillaume Alby and local artist Tom Clifton adorn the sides of the adjacent warehouse buildings that encapsulate the plaza. The most recent artistic addition to the pavilion is the mural on the water tower itself, designed by Tylur French of Youngblood Studios, and more new projects are under way.
Designs for the next phase of the pavilion feature a 38-foot-long “pocket park,” an urban green space featuring trees, seating, and a new sculpture. Taking their queue from the rest of the neighborhood, MATA’s new station located at Broad and Hollywood is actually a sculptural piece of art that doubles as a bus stop.
Brown is excited about the district’s future and says “it’s all been grassroots” thus far. “No one came in from the outside and said, ‘Here’s $100,000. Turn this into a really interesting art district,’” he says. “We did it ourselves.”