Soulsville USA, the neighborhood that spawned Stax Records, is the target of an ambitious revitalization plan building on the community’s musical heritage and a decade of community investment from public and private sources. A $678,195 grant from Chicago-based ArtPlace will give the plan a significant jump-start.
The project includes transforming an historically significant building — the former home of bluesman Memphis Slim (John Len Chatman) — in the neighborhood surrounding LeMoyne-Owen College into “Memphis Slim’s Collaboratory,” a new arts center that will feature artist collaborations, music/studio training, and video-casting of neighborhood oral histories.
Community LIFT, an economic and community development intermediary organization, is driving the first phase of this revitalization plan in partnership with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra (MSO). The MSO plans to hold classical, pops and Opus One concerts in the neighborhood to attract new crowds to Soulsville USA, and will establish a regular presence there through its many community-based programs. Darel Snodgrass spoke with the MSO's Joseph Nelson and Rhonda Causey about this ambitious project.