An interactive and progressive gallery space in Memphis, Tennessee, Odessa is slowly gaining attention as a unique underground arts and music space in the South. It’s situated in the Broad Avenue Arts District of the Binghamton community in Memphis, a neighborhood that originally was on the railway line between Tennessee and North Carolina. Eventually, the suburban area was annexed by the city of Memphis. Although the neighborhood remains underdeveloped, it boasts a strong sense of community and is gradually emerging as an important addition to the city’s aspiring arts scene.
Founded in 2007, Odessa welcomes all types of media submissions. In addition to more traditional 2D and 3D artwork, it especially encourages experimental, performance, video, and installation art. Along with the space’s rotating exhibits, Odessa also offers a wide range of live musical entertainment as well as movie screenings.
Odessa recognizes itself as a gallery whose mission is “to enhance the cultural experience of its community by providing forward-thinking emerging artists with an open environment for cross-disciplinary experiments.” Moreover, Odessa’s primary objective is not only to provide a progressive space for artists but an affordable one as well. Thus the gallery never charges more than $10 for submission fees, and it keeps admission prices to events even lower.
Art director Ashle Bailey, who curates most of Odessa’s exhibits, enthusiastically recalls an event from this September. “Recently, we had Release, which was a show that allowed everyone — not just artists — to anonymously submit items that they were holding onto for sentimental reasons,” she says. “At the end of the show, the owners were allowed to burn them in the backyard of the gallery in a bonfire.” This cathartic, hands-on performance piece would not have been successful without the active involvement of community members, who were given the opportunity to act both as artist and audience.
Though Release was inspired by sentimental keepsakes, the gallery’s upcoming show will provide an example of the vast spectrum of art that Odessa promotes. Next month, the gallery will feature a show by nationally recognized graphic designer Joshua M. Smith, otherwise known as Hydro74. This Orlando-based designer expresses his visions through various media, such as typography and packaging design as well as less-traditional forms like T-shirts and snowboards. He describes his work as “piety with progression” and has created bold and intricate graphics for such companies as Nike and Quicksilver.
Other future plans include making the gallery into a public art piece by allowing the creation of a vast mural on the gallery’s publicly visible exterior. Additionally, Odessa hopes to commission a local artist to design a sculpture garden for the gallery’s backyard. Bailey believes that this will make the gallery “a friendlier, community-oriented space.” This artist may also be commissioned to create custom bike racks for the gallery, and Bailey hopes that this will provide an initiative for the entire Broad Avenue Arts District to support bicycle advocacy in Memphis. Finally, Odessa plans to take care of some cosmetic updates on the building’s physical interior, with the hope that these updates will all “help to make the space as accommodating as possible for present and future artists.”