If you're ever in the Memphis area and are looking for an artsy music-filled place to stay or even just a visit for a nice afternoon or night on the town, consider The Central Station Hotel for all of your needs. Not only is the hotel a former train station that still maintains many of the original landmarks from when it operated as the Central Station over a hundred years ago (including the seats and floors), it's also one of the best places you can go in the Memphis area for the finest live music, musicians, and artists. Whether you are there for an overnight stay or for an evening of dining and music, you'll be surrounded by loads of interesting artwork (even in the bathrooms), and tons of creatives. We had the privilege of checking out Central Station in action for ourselves a couple weeks ago, and chatted with art director Anna Wunderlich and Central Station General Manager Troy Dixon to learn more about the talented individuals featured in the hotel.
How Central Station Hotel in Memphis Has Become the Place for Artists and Musicians
We paid the hotel a visit and chatted with the curators
All of the art in Central Station was curated by Anna Wunderlich, a Memphis-based art consultant who initially started the project before the pandemic. Wunderlich has worked in art for many years, and used her wealth of knowledge and resources to personally pick the designers (many of whom are emerging in the space) and artwork used throughout the hotel. You can check out her website here.
Demond Melancon's hand-beaded life-size portrait of Issac Hayes from his 1971 album Black Moses is one of the first pieces of artwork you're greeted with upon entering the lobby. Melancon is a multidisciplinary contemporary artist and performer with
extensive roots in the Black Masking Culture of New Orleans, who's career spans almost thirty years. "After creating this piece, his career has gotten even bigger," says Wunderlich. "Demond's even had exhibitions in London, which is special because he's just a true creator. He's known for his hand-beaded artwork of different musicians around the area, so that's how I was able to find him."
As you leave the lobby and walk towards the elevators (which either take you up to your room or downstairs to where the music lounge restaurant), you'll begin seeing the crayon artwork of Henry Speller, who was also an accomplished blues musician who played guitar with Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. "Henry was known to draw on anything he found with crayons. Sometimes he would draw items like pay stubs, and other times we draw the different musicians and entertainers he encountered and interacted with."
The lobby bathrooms feature the work of local Memphis artist Jenni Stallings, who approaches her artwork by "paying attention to the little things to see what they reveal." A true artist in every form, Stalling has this to say about her artwork:
"Recognize with witness because the world is small and full. When looking at a dandelion, I see an atom, the shape of the world, nature repeating itself over and over again, the fractals, the flower of life. I use situations, figures, symbols to create sentiment and respect for nature and life. Beeswax gives my work a dream like quality. Through it’s texture and process, I’m sealing my
Stallings attention detail can be seen in this original Jukebox piece she created for the hotel, which is inspired by a local Memphis attraction.
Brandon Donahue is an artist that works primarily with assemblage and airbrushing techniques that he collects and
repurposes mass-produced or through found everyday articles and materials. Sports equipment, fallen street signs and video game controllers are transformed through various techniques
and processes of airbrushing, spray-painting, deconstructing and then are reassembled in additive, repetitive formats. For Central Station, Donahue created this sculpture of deconstructed basketballs. "One of the things Memphis is known for other than music is basketball," says Wunderlich. "This brings all of that together, and we wanted something that you can really see when it comes to the texture."
Here's some of more of the wonderful artwork displayed around Central Station.
Central Station General Manager Troy Dixon showed us even more artwork, and described how the hotel can be a place not just for live music to be enjoyed, for Memphis artists to get more exposure through performances.
"Here we have a 4,000 vinyl record collection, and within that is a Memphis artist, has a Memphis artist in it, or is song about Memphis," explains Dixon. "The depth and breadth of Memphis music and artists is pretty expansive."
Here's a closer look at those beautiful vinyls.
Nate Renner is an artist and designer from Memphis who studied art at Freed- Hardeman University. Nate's work relies on childhood imagery and familiar Southern imagery and icons, and the artist has participated in a number of group exhibitions including Young Collectors Contemporary, Crosstown Arts, Memphis, TN, and Binder Projects, as well as curatorial work with Memphis is the New South, Grit Gallery, Memphis, TN and Owner/Operator of Swish Gallery.
Louis St. Lewis and Nate Sheaffer
Louis St. Lewis and Nate Sheaffer are a dynamic duo creating an imaginative and fresh approach to the collision of fine art and neon. St. Lewis has been doing his thing in New Orleans since pre-Katrina. He acquired an enthusiastic local fanbase and is included in both the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art collections. Sheaffer is widely regarded as one of the leading neon fabricators in the South, with 30-plus years of experience. When the two met and started collaborating and sharing a studio, things heated up quickly. The duo are considered one of LIVE NATION’s go-to creators.
"These were the original benches used in the train station," says Dixon. "We try as hard as we can to keep it as close to how it was originally with maintenance."
Eight and Sand
"Chad Weekly is our music curator and he does an amazing job with what's being played through the hotel. We have DJs every night including a lot of guest DJs that fly in from all over the world. The DJ booth is an old hammond organ that is completely unique and one-of-a-kind—you won't find it anywhere else and there's only one in the world. This whole lounge is the living room of Memphis—it will go from relatively empty during the day all the way up to people that are sitting on the stairs and on the sides of the stairs depending on who's spinning. We can get as many as three to four hundred people, and it turns into a club."
Simply put, Central Station is a vibe times ten for anybody who is a lover of art and music. You can find out more information about the hotel, its artists, and musicians via their official website.
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