Memphis, Tennessee, is known for the sound of the Delta Blues and the taste of Southern barbecue. However, the city is also home to a thriving theatre scene centred in Midtown and a trendy gallery district in the Cooper-Young District. This comes together to make for a vibrant cultural scene year-round. Our picks for August’s top events showcase cultural variety Memphis has to offer, on and off the beaten path.
Art | Andy Warhol Portraits: Art and Irony at the Art Museum at the University of Memphis
12 July – 13 September
The Art Museum at the University of Memphis presents Andy Warhol Portraits: Art and Irony to coincide with the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art’s simultaneous exhibit Marisol: Sculptures and Works on Paper. Both Marisol and Warhol were Pop Artists working at the same time and colleagues, with Marisol performing in Warhol’s films. Beyond the Campbell’s Soup cans and Brillo pads, some of Andy Warhol’s best-known works are his portraits. Don’t miss this opportunity to view a generous sample of the Warhol portraits in the Art Museum’s collection and especially the opportunity to appreciate these works in conjunction with the Marisol exhibition at Memphis Brooks.
Art | Nick Peña: Processing the Ideal at Dixon Gallery and Gardens
13 July – 5 October
Reflecting on the contemporary American landscape and the social and political norms that shape it, native Memphian painter Nick Peña creates arresting canvases that challenge the viability and reality of the American Dream. His latest show, Processing the Ideal is on display at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens through early October. Heavily infused with nostalgia, Peña’s works deconstruct the notion of the American home, situating familiar imagery in a fragmented landscape. While visiting the Dixon Gallery, explore the arboretum and the extensive manicured gardens, peppered with contemporary sculpture. Visitors may also enjoy a retrospective exhibition of American Impressionist Charles Courtney Curran, also on display during August.
Music | Live at the Garden Summer Concert Series
1 August, 22 August
The Live at the Garden Summer Concert Series runs from June to September, bringing popular music acts to the beautiful setting of the Memphis Botanic Garden. The series opened with country music group Little Big Town and continues through August with country artist Jennifer Nettles performing on 1 August and classic rock stars Styx on 22 August. Food vendors are on site for the event, but concertgoers are free to bring in their own food and beverages. Enjoy the beautiful weather that summer brings to Memphis in one of the most unusual concert venues in the city.
Film | Memphis 48 Hour Film Project
Over the weekend of 1-3 August, local filmmakers of Memphis will compete in the 48 Hour Film Project in which they are challenged to complete a short film in only 48 hours, as the name would suggest. After the films are completed, Malco Studio on the Square will host the premiere of the films on the evening of 6 August. This showcase of Memphis’ talented filmmakers is part of a nationwide tour of the 48 Film Project. Winners of the Memphis competition have a chance to go on to compete at the international level, with the top 10 films of the competition nationally being screened at the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner in 2015.
Theatre | Women’s Theatre Festival of Memphis
7 – 9 August
For cultural travellers who prefer live action to cinema, look no further than the Women’s Theatre Festival of Memphis. Housed in The Circuit Playhouse and other theatres in the Memphis Midtown Theatre District, the festival promotes theatre written for and by women and recognises accomplishments by women in the theatre world. Performances include Long Time Since Yesterday, Bijou’s Secret, Camp Logan, and Teaching: A Futility in Four Marking Periods. Shows are performed throughout the day and evening on Friday, 8 August and Saturday, 9 August. The festival also hosts numerous workshops, readings and bestows the Gyneka Awards, honouring outstanding women in Memphis theatre and beyond.
Art | Cooper Young Night Out
The first Thursday of every month, the artsy Cooper Young District hosts the Night Out, celebrating local galleries and restaurants with one big open house. A balmy August evening will provide the perfect backdrop to this gallery hop. Enjoy the current exhibitions in Jay Etkin Gallery or Gallery Fifty Six during extended hours, and stop in Central BBQ for some authentic Memphis barbecue or have a late dinner in style at The Beauty Shop. Local musicians are on the streets playing live music to accompany the cultured evening, and the restaurants and bars will remain open long after the galleries close.
Cooper Young Night Out, Cooper Street & Young Avenue, Memphis, TN, USA +1 (901) 276 7222
Music | 12th Annual Memphis Tri-State Blues Festival
A short drive south on Interstate 55 from downtown Memphis will transport music lovers just across the Tennessee state line into Mississippi for the 12th Annual Memphis Tri-State Blues Festival at the Landers Center in Southaven. Performers this year include Denise LaSalle, Shirley Brown, Bobby Rush and Mel Waiters. With performances from these blues legends and more, this promises to be an exceptional evening that showcases the cultural legacy of the Memphis blues locally and its lasting influence internationally. Savour some of the best examples of the genre in the city where the blues was born.
Music | An Evening with Crosby, Stills & Nash at Orpheum Theatre
Continuing with the theme of musical legends, classic rock superstars Crosby, Stills & Nash will be playing an intimate show in the historic Orpheum Theatre downtown in one the biggest music events of the summer in Memphis. The 1928 theatre is a stunning venue, resurrecting the opulence of the Roaring ‘20s and living up to its reputation as the ‘South’s Finest Theatre’. The Orpheum is also home to Ballet Memphis and Opera Memphis and hosts 10-12 Broadway shows throughout a season. The theatre only offers seating for 2,400 guests, providing a cosy setting in which to enjoy this renowned trio who gave their first performance together at Woodstock 1969.
Theatre | Stick Fly at Hattiloo Theatre
21 August – 14 September
Set in Martha’s Vineyard, the play Stick Fly revolves around the tension created when the two sons of an affluent African-American family bring their significant others on holiday to meet their family for the first time. Critically acclaimed, the play will make its debut in Memphis at the Hattiloo Theatre in late August and run through mid-September. The Hattiloo Theatre, located in the Memphis Midtown Theatre District, is a Black repertory theatre, showcasing the talent of African-American playwrights and writers. It has collaborated with Ballet Memphis and the Dixon Gallery and produces 8-9 plays each season.
Stick Fly, Hattiloo Theatre, 656 Marshall Avenue, Memphis, TN, USA +1 (901) 525 0009
Food | Cochon Heritage BBQ Competition
The Cochon Heritage BBQ Competition tours barbecue meccas across America, showcasing the wide variety of this uniquely American dish. This is no ordinary competition. Chef teams must use one whole heritage breed pig to produce six distinct dishes consisting of four meats and two sides. Five highly talented chef teams will go head-to-head, and the audience of the competition ultimately decides the winner. Tickets are a bit of an investment, but for foodies with a serious love of barbecue and a desire to taste and see the flavours that set Memphis style barbecue apart, this event will be well worth the price.
By Michelle Combs