There are great ideas in Memphis that die for lack of a few thousand dollars while we chase multi-million dollar magic answers.

We were thinking about this as we read about Odessa’s financial challenges.  The inventive young people – Ashle Bailey, and Adam Gilreath – who took it over are doing their best to keep the three-year-old nonprofit performance/gallery space afloat.   They knew first-hand the need for an open and non-discriminative space in Memphis, away from the mainstream establishments that had become so institutionalized.

And we need to help them. The good news is that they are already halfway toward their goal to keep things open for three months.

If we can’t solve this one, we should abandon any pretense that we’re serious about developing a creative ecosystem in Memphis.  Keeping Odessa open is imminently essential and imminently affordable – $3,000 – and it’s also an investment in the exciting transformation and reinvention of Broad Avenue that is happening right before our eyes.

Investing in an Ecosystem

As our friend Kerry Hayes said: “In the short time I’ve lived here, it’s really turned into one of the most remarkable urban regeneration stories I’ve seen. Maintaining its identity as an organic arts district is incredibly important to the stakeholders there, and keeping spaces like Odessa in place and able to thrive is critical to that vision.”

All of this makes Odessa the biggest bargain in town for supporting progressive art genres in Memphis.  The monthly expense for Odessa is $1,150 — $800 for rent, $150-200 for utilities, and $150 for cleaning and hanging supplies, paint and spackle, and toiletries.

Or put another way, Odessa’s average of three shows monthly costs a grand total of $384 each (the rental fee is $100 and ultimately the plan is to eliminate it to support emerging artists).

“Odessa’s survival and success is the difference between a really special public space rooted in and led by our creative class… or seeing another interesting neighborhood lose the things that make it special by gentrifying too much too soon,” said Mr. Hayes.

If you want to see some of these highly creative artists, click here.   Then you can make a donation by clicking here.


Speaking of the people who understand what a real creative ecosystem is, our friends at Live From Memphis put on yet another highly successful event with its Bikesploitation film festival last weekend.  In their words: “Thanks to everyone who came out to the Warehouse last Friday night, the Bikesploitation Film Festival was a great success. 17 short films from around the world, including six from Memphis filmmakers, explored our love affair with the most efficient mode of transport ever invented.”

Here’s their on-the-scene report:

Standouts in the out-of-towners included “There Goes and Asshole” by Brooklyn, New York’s DeLeon. The short and to-the-point film consisted of surveillance camera footage of a particularly brazen bicycle thief making off with a bike outside the filmmaker’s apartment edited into a music video for a song about the incident. Mateo Vega’s “Day In the Life of a Bicycle” was one of the most successful narrative shorts of the festival, tracing a stolen bike through the streets of Amsterdam as it passed from one owner to another before coming to a tragic conclusion.

Some of the evening’s biggest applause was garnered by the Swedish film “Robo-Rainbow”, about a bike-mounted graffiti machine that creates automatic rainbows with the flip of a switch. Two California entries were also well-received: Michael Evans’ visually striking “From Steel” is a montage of the creation of a custom bike, and “2010 San Francisco Bicycle Music Festival Highlights” was a look at a unique, mobile, human-powered celebration that produced enough electricity with 8 volunteer cyclists to actually power a full punk band, with requisite loud amps.

The local entries were also strong. Cort Percer’s “VF” strung together an ambitious science fiction narrative; Kris Steward’s “Bicycle Thieves 2” spoofs the cult of beloved Vittorio De Sica, Italian Neo-Realist film by imagining a modern update to the frequently cited “best film of all time” candidate. Joe Royer’s highlights of the Outdoors, Inc. Cyclocross race made me feel lazy just watching the kids division, much less the uber-athletes who raced over all obstacles, even the ones they had to carry their bikes over. Christopher Reyes’ “Tall Bike” documented the creation of the instantly iconic, if not very practical, ride at the National Ornamental Metals Museum, and Sarah Fleming’s Indie Memphis-winning “Training Wheels” once again cast its spell on the audience.

But the evening belonged to Corduroy Wednesday’s “Confessions of a Pedalphile”, which took home both the jury and audience choice awards. Starring Bart Shannon as a man whose love for tiny bikes crosses some kind of line that I was not formerly aware of and Jon Sparks as the preacher who tries to forcibly convert Shannon to the world of “big bikes”, the technically impressive and hilarious short is sure to start burning up the internet with its laser wit.

After the films, the evening wound down with food from two pedal-powered Downtown carts and no shortage of beer and wine. Judging from the big crowd and enthusiastic response, we may have to do this one again next year!

Please check out these wonderful films and filmmakers who helped to make this event exhilarating:

Films from Memphis

“Tall Bike” | dir. Christopher Reyes | Memphis
“Training Wheels” | dir. Sarah Fleming | Memphis
“VF” | dir. Cort Percer | Memphis
“Outdoors Inc Cyclocross Championship Race” | dir. Joe Royer | Memphis
“Corduroy Wednesday’s Bike Movie” | dir. Valibus | Memphis
“Bicycle Thieves 2” | dir. Kris Steward | Memphis

Films from around the world

“Day in the Life of a Bicycle” | dir. Mateo Vega | The Netherlands
“A Bicycle Trip” | dir. Lorenzo Veracini | Italy
“There goes an asshole” | dir. DeLeon | Brooklyn, NY
“Tricycle” | dir. Mathieu Naert | France
“From Steel”    | dir. Michael Evans | California
“Robo-Rainbow” | dir. Akay | Sweden
“404 Beach” | dir. Chairman Ting and Company Policy | Canada
“We got more” | dir. Cyriak Harris | United Kingdom
“Bicycle Portraits” | dir. Stan Engelbrecht | New Zealand/South Africa
“Push Pull” | Landis Fields | California
“2010 SF Bicycle Music Festival Highlights” | dir. Rock the Bike | California