Underground Artists Capture Memphis' Creative Spirit

Memphis’ creative spirit is most alive in the city’s underground arts scene.

An artist painting in Memphis

Find art studios filled with local Memphis artists in downtown Memphis. Photo by The Commercial Appeal.

Hatiloo Theatre in Overton Square. Photo Credit: Justin Fox Burks

Hattiloo Theatre is one of few independent Black theatres in America. See a show in Overton Square. Photo by Justin Fox Burks.

Amie Vanderford playhouse sign

Playhouse on the Square

Belz Museum horses

Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art Jade Horses

Some of Memphis’ hottest emerging artists show their work at Odessa, a tiny space located in the emerging Broad Avenue Arts District. In addition to art shows, Odessa hosts movie nights, dance parties, live music and pop-up shops. The Broad Avenue Arts District is located in an industrial neighborhood in Midtown. It’s home to small art galleries, studios and restaurants.

Another hot spot in Memphis’ underground arts scene is Five in One (also known as VINI). The live/work studio serves as a gallery space, music venue and shop where the two owners/occupants sell their screenprinted T-shirts and posters, and handmade jewelry. On Monday nights, VINI hosts a weekly social club for artists and crafters of all kinds.

For a live-theater experience, visit the Hattiloo Theatre. It’s Memphis’ only black repertory theater, and it stages works by African-American artists in a cozy Midtown space. The theater is also home to Zora’s, which stages smaller productions, spoken-word shows and open-mic nights.

For funky live performances in Midtown, get tickets for an event at the Evergreen Theatre or TheatreWorks. The Evergreen Theatre is home to Project:Motion, a modern dance company, as well as a monthly showing of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." TheatreWorks stages smaller shows by companies like Voices of the South and improv comedy troupe FreakEngine.