Have you braked by the poem on the wall along Remount Road, between Distribution and Dunavant streets? You can catch it as you drive past, or you can pull off the road and walk up to it. It’s worth it.

It’s a work of art, called “South End Verses,” that was revealed on Nov. 26. on the exterior wall of coworking space/creative hub C3 Lab (2525 Distribution St.). Hollis Austin of Austin Hand Lettering and Glen Nocik of C3 Lab and ACSM Inc. collaborated on the large billboard backdrop, which holds a panel with a visual art piece featuring words.

The Earth's many languages / They sound like falling leaves / at the end of a fruitful year. / Or lava that forms new mountains / Making faults and rifts and no apologies. / We can all learn from listening. / Death fools us as does victory / To win or lose is nothing to a ring. / Rain, speak to me.
The Earth’s many languages / They sound like falling leaves / At the end of a fruitful year. / Or lava that forms new mountains / Making faults and rifts and no apologies. / We can all learn from listening. / Death fools us as does victory / To win or lose is nothing to a ring. / Rain, speak to me.

The poem was written by local artist and activist Bree Stallings.

“I know a lot of people are hurting after the election, especially in the communities that I work in,” Stallings said. “I thought it was important to just pull out that we as a community and as a city need to just listen more. So that’s what the poem is about, is reconnecting with the basic humanity in times of trouble even if it’s loud sounds or soft sounds.”

“My thought was that the color, the size of it would grab people’s attention and it would bring them back,” said Austin, who painted the visual panel piece and hand lettered the poem. “It would just inspire people and make them realize that it’s possible to make public art happen and it’s not as hard as it may seem.”

Good thing other artists and wordsmiths will have the chance to apply to have their work featured on this South End Verses billboard in January. Every three months, the panel on the billboard will feature a new artist and a new poet or wordsmith who will collaborate to produce the piece.

This initial installation is supported by a Placemaking Micro-Grant awarded by Historic South End, while C3 Lab will continue funding the changes every three months.

“We wanted to create something that would have longevity, but also be fresh,” said Nocik of the project, which serves as a common space to share a message of inspiration, awareness or perhaps just a joyful thought.

“That’s the whole idea of the Placemaking Grant program, is to make it a little bit easier for anyone to have a cool idea and then — do it,” said Megan Gude, director of Historic South End.

This first installation will remain through March of 2017, with a new panel of art and words to be placed in the installation in April 2017. In January, C3 Lab will start taking applications by local artists and wordsmiths and likely make a selection by the end of January. Anyone will be able to apply, whether they are sculptors, 3-D artists, writers and beyond.

For now, swivel your head to the brick wall on Remount Road the next time you pass by. Maybe even slow down. Stop. Take in the sight and the words, and take the time to consider it all.

Photos: Katie Toussaint

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