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The Wall Street Journal's Homes section catches up with Kaywin Feldman, the former director of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, to take a look at the home she shares in Minneapolis with her husband, architecture professor Jim Lutz. While in Memphis, the couple had fixed up the striking Seagle house on Poplar across from Overton Park. Looking around for something similar modern in the Twin Cities, Feldman made an interesting choice:

When Kaywin Feldman moved here to take a job as the director of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, she knew it would be difficult to replace her home in Memphis. Designed by a student of famed architect Louis Kahn, it was a 1950s-built midcentury modern that she and her husband, Jim Lutz, an architecture professor, had worked to restore and improve over nine years.

After looking at nearly 30 homes, Ms. Feldman finally found another modern house with a boxy exterior and glass walls. But this one had a different provenance. Constructed five years ago in a Wisconsin factory and installed in a few weeks on-site, it was a "weeHouse," one of a series of prefabricated homes designed by local architects Geoffrey Warner and Scott Ervin of Alchemy Architects.

At 2,900 square feet, the four-bedroom, three-bathroom house is one of the largest of the series--the couple jokingly refer to it as their "not so wee house." Located in the Linden Hills neighborhood, which is lined with more-traditional early 20th-century homes, the house is made up of four glass-and-cedar modular units stacked just slightly off-center, with small cantilevers, topped by a flat roof.

The couple say they like the low upkeep of the weeHouse compared with their architecturally significant fixer-upper in Memphis. They're also enjoying more privacy these days:

For the glass wall overlooking the street, Ms. Lutz insisted on installing window coverings, strung on simple hospital-track metal fixtures, for privacy. At their previous home, which overlooked a city park, "I would sometimes have someone come up to me and say, 'Oh, I saw you getting a book off the shelf,' " she recalled. "I said, 'When we move here, I want drapes and I want them now.' "

Don't miss the slideshow with pictures of the interior and the exterior of the weeHouse.

Rhodes College economics professor and Forbes.com columnist Art Carden is leaving Memphis to take a position on the faculty at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., and today he dedicates his column to all the things that he and his family will miss about our city. Rhodes was Carden's first academic job out of graduate school, so Memphis will always have a special significance for him. He begins his appreciation -- for the city's restaurants, kid-friendly activities and Fellowship Memphis church, among other things -- by noting that Memphis is doing better these days even by Forbes, whose city rankings haven't always painted Memphis in a positive light:

Forbes catches occasional flack around town for ranking Memphis on its "most miserable cities" list.

It's not as miserable as you might think, though. We like Memphis, and it's improving; Jane Donahoe of the Memphis Business Journal notes that the city fell to #16 on the 2012 list from #6 in 2011, #3 in 2010, and #2 in 2009 and points out how city leaders have responded.

We're going to miss Memphis. We've had fun here, we've made a lot of friends here, and we started our family here. Here are a few things we're going to miss about Memphis, and a few things you should look for the next time you're here.


cook4.jpg Remember the Sarah Palin's-head-shaped smoker that Chicago artist J. Taylor Wallace used to cook a pear-stuffed suckling pig at last spring's Art Cookers 4 "Taste/See" at the National Ornamental Metal Museum? I thought it rang a bell. Anyway, the metallic visage of the Pride of Wasilla has found a new home these days. From Complex via Chicagoist (which has a bunch of pics of the Palin head):

Two years ago, Chicago-based sculptor J. Taylor Wallace created this statue in the image of Sarah Palin, and it's quite accurate--it has a big mouth and it takes up space. After unveiling it in Memphis, the piece has found a new home on the South Side of Chicago.

According to Wallace, Palin's decision to thrust herself into the debate about health care reform was the trigger for the piece. Its arrival will be celebrated at the Bridgeport Sculpture Garden, and Bridgeport Art Center will roast a suckling pig inside of the sculpture (it can be used as a stove) on Friday.

The Los Angeles Times, which mentions the Metal Museum, has this statement from Wallace:

The artist told the television station that the statue "was kind of in response to the political climate at that time, when the healthcare debate was going on. I thought she was a distraction from what was important, and it was cathartic to spend three months doing it.... It helped me out a lot."

PICTURED: J. Taylor Wallace with "We're havin' a Tea Pear-ody," his Sarah Palin-shaped metal smoker, at the Art Cookers 4 "Taste/See" show on May 20, 2011, at the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis.

Thumbnail image for APTOPIX-Tennessee-Daily-Lif.jpg The Commercial Appeal photographer Mike Brown's extraordinary action shot of a young woman bobbing for mudbugs at this weekend's City Auto Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival made the top spot on ABC News' Pictures of the Day blog. See more of Brown's Crawfish Festival images here.

NPR on Memphis: 'Jack Robinson on Show: Portraits 1958-72'

 
Jack-Robinson.jpg NPR's The Picture Show blog today mentions the recently released "Jack Robinson on Show: Portraits 1958-72," a collection of iconic celebrity shots from Vogue and other publications by the eponymous photographer whose work is archived and sold at the Robinson Gallery on South Main in Memphis.

The Commercial Appeal told the story behind the book when it was released in January: Robinson lived in Memphis for the last 25 years of his life, almost in seclusion, rarely talking about his past work with his celebrity subjects and his carrying-on with the Andy Warhol gang. After Robinson's death, his employer, Dan Oppenheimer, happened upon a treasure-trove of work at the photographer's apartment, much of which made it into this new volume.

From NPR:

The career lasted 17 years before Robinson came undone and moved to Memphis. There, he sobered up and took a job as a stained-glass designer. By the time Oppenheimer met him, New York City and photography and alcoholism had all been buried in the past. And there's really no one who knows much more -- at least not outspokenly.

"I kept waiting for some family member to step forward and make arrangements, and to this day no one has stepped forward," Oppenheimer says on the phone from Memphis. Robinson, it seems, left everything to Oppenheimer on purpose -- knowing it would be in good hands. He was right; Oppenheimer still gets excited when he talks about it.

"I wouldn't have known what Tom Wolfe looked like 45 years ago but I knew the name," Oppenheimer says. "It overwhelms people to this day to see all of the icons of your youth ... to see all of these people when they're 20 years old."

PICTURED: Self-portrait by Jack Robinson.

Longtime Memphis provocateur, political candidate and misunderstood landscape artist Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges has appealed a recent finding that his Daytona Beach, Fla.-area home is a nuisance, what with its "manmade sand dunes, sculptures, kitsch and clotheslines with panties, bras and other clothing."

Mongo, of course, is no stranger to this sort of thing. When last we heard about the Zambodian snowbird, authorities in Florida were excavating his uniquely decorated yard with heavy equipment while he was away for the summer. The latest alleged violation is a result of his "redecorating." Nor is he a stranger to lawyering up and making it very expensive for local governments to deal with him.

Hodges has been quarreling for several years over his yard with neighbors and county code enforcement. Similar issues over his yard decor have followed Hodges at his home in Memphis and former home in Fort Lauderdale.

"I call it decorating, art and landscaping," Hodges said. "They are like Hitler, like back in Germany. I have a house and I'm landscaping it, but this is all a political thing and totally irritating."

DP shows off Memphis jookin' moves for 'Hurt Village' cast

 

You can't stage an Off-Broadway play about North Memphis and not show some jookin', that homegrown street ballet style that is Memphis' hottest cultural export at the moment. Former Memphian Katori Hall's new show "Hurt Village" includes scenes of jookin', and to train the actors, the Signature Theatre Company retained the services of Memphis "jookin' consultant" Daniel "DP" Price. Below, on Vimeo via Broadway World, check out DP showing the "Hurt Village" cast how Memphis gets down, and see some more of his moves from a recent Memphis Grizzlies game.


Hurt Village: Jookin' in Rehearsal from Signature Theatre Company on Vimeo.

Katori-2.jpg The new play "Hurt Village" by Katori Hall, the Memphis-born playwright whose Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. play "The Mountaintop" picked up a host of awards on the way from its premiere in London to a celebrity-studded production on Broadway, premiered this week Off-Broadway in New York. Here's the synopsis:

Here's how Signature bills Hurt Village, which received a 2011 Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award from TCG: "It's the end of a long summer in Hurt Village, a housing project in Memphis, Tennessee. A government Hope Grant means relocation for many of the project's residents, including Cookie, a 13-year-old aspiring rapper, along with her mother Crank and great-grandmother Big Mama. As the family prepares to move, Cookie's father Buggy unexpectedly returns from a tour of duty in Iraq. Ravaged by the war, Buggy struggles to find a position in his disintegrating community, along with a place in his daughter's wounded heart."

Hall created the play as part of a program called Residency Five, sponsored by the Signature Theatre Company. She attended the Signature's fundraising gala a couple of weeks ago, and The Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy was there:

Hall said being part of the "Residency Five" at Signature Theatre - a program which grants playwrights three world-premiere productions of new plays over a five-year residency - is a dream come true. She said when she moved to New York after acting school, the Signature was her favorite theater. "I just felt like my particular experience was being put on stage, and it was being crafted with care and with this nuanced detail," she said. But at the time, Signature seemed to work only with established playwrights, so Hall told herself to give the dream up. "But fast forward almost five years later, and it's like no, they're opening their arms and embracing new work, and I can be a part of that new work."
Some readers of The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle have been e-mailing the newspaper their ideas for what to name the institution created from the merger of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities. A onetime Memphian offered his idea based on our own local state university's most recent name change:

The excitement and consternation over a new name for the merged Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities reminds Robert Hamrin of the old Memphis State University when he lived in Memphis. The school was in an athletic conference with schools like the University of Louisville and University of Cincinnati.

"Many members of the University and community felt that 'Memphis State' sounded like hicksville compared to having a name like 'University of Memphis,'" Hamrin wrote, and that's just what the school became, to much satisfaction. So his suggestion: "How about 'The University of Augusta?'" 

Views of Memphis, 1887 to 2011, 'an unpredictable hodgepodge'

 
The Atlantic Cities has today a fascinating collection of side-by-side then-and-now photographs of Memphis, then being 1887, after the city had lost its charter in the wake of the yellow fever epidemics. There have been some constants over time, including Court Square, which the writer says "still serves as a simple and inviting public space in the center of its historic downtown." Changes for the worse include "consistently inconsistent building patterns" (hulking modern government buildings sandwiching historic Trinity Lutheran Church) and "isolated housing projects" "that fail to integrate themselves into the city's street grid."

Even as a mid-sized market, Memphis' downtown and inner city is unexpectedly small and lacking in density. The central business district has retained much of its building stock and has slowly built up over time. But as you move north, south, east or west, the change is dramatic.

Much of the city's downtown has evolved into an unpredictable hodgepodge of surface lots and low-density residential developments (a surprising proportion of it public housing). Memphis has maintained its economic importance thanks to its transportation infrastructure but its growth has failed to improve the urban condition of its core.


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