Creativity emerged from the South Willet Street Bridge as artists came together from across the country to participate in the third-annual “Paint Memphis” art festival Saturday.
This year’s festival featured over 150 artists who came to paint Willett Street between Central Avenue and Lamar Avenue, two buildings east of the underpass and the Altown Skate Park.
As the mastermind behind the festival, Karen Golightly’s desire to bring more public art to Memphis originated from her early years as a photographer.
“I was a graffiti photographer for a long time, and I would take pictures of graffiti and public art,” Golightly said. “During that time, I saw things in other cities that I didn’t see in Memphis. I decided to bring the opportunity to Memphis and made it so that graffiti artists were given a platform to show their art and have people in Memphis see this as a light in the city.”
With the help of her colleagues, Golightly was able to establish the first Paint Memphis festival three years ago, which took place on Chelsea Avenue at North Evergreen Street for the first two years.
A returning artist featured at this year’s event was Megan Kelly, 30, from Asheville, North Carolina.
“I had a great experience last year and decided that I wanted to come out and do it again,” Kelly said.
The inspiration behind Kelly’s mural came from her fascination with repetitive patterns.
“A lot of people refer to the shapes I paint as mandalas,” Kelly said. “I’m really attracted to bringing colors together. The patterns are something that I’ve been doing for five years, and the repetitive technique is something that is very inspirational to me.”
Kelly said she hopes the event brings “unification” to Memphis.
“I think that murals tend to bring a lot of positive things to the community, and they have a way of bringing people together, so I hope that it brings this,” Kelly said. “It’s also a fun, light and easy environment.”
Another artist present was Jamond Bulllock, 33, who returned to this year’s event after a positive turnout participating in the first Paint Memphis festival.
A native Memphian, Bullock said the inspiration behind his mural, entitled “Be Bulletproof,” came from his desire to inspire others to accomplish their goals.
“The focus of the mural is about being unstoppable,” Bullock said. “A lot of times we go through life having doubts, and we have people who doubt us, so it’s about never giving up and not letting people get in your way of success.”
Another local artist present was Paige Ellens, 26, a studio arts major at the University of Memphis.
Ellens said locals gave her positive feedback about this year’s event.
“I think it’s something good because it’s adding an experience,” Ellens said. “A lot of people have stopped and told me, ‘Thank you. This gives me something to look at.’ It seems like local people are really excited about it, so that makes me excited.”