After several months away from our beloved campus, many Rhodes students have now returned to the Memphis area. Whether you live in the dorms, on the streets nearby, or in whatever house was still available by the time we became confident enough to sign leases and believe we really were coming back this semester, it’s home sweet home.
I was a freshman when we were sent home, and an anxious one at that. My exploring of Memphis had barely begun, and when we left, I was just starting to feel comfortable and learn my way around the pothole-strewn streets. But now we’re back! And I have a few of my favorite finds from this semester (so far).
Not a secret spot or anything, but this museum completely overturned my expectations. I had frequented the Brooks, just across the street from campus, in pre-apocalyptic times. But a few weeks ago I took my first trip to the Dixon. The snow had not yet fallen, but the gardens were mostly dead. And yet still, the greenery that remained and the lemons inside the greenhouse were beautiful to walk around. It’s an excellent place to meet new friends or socially distance and see old ones. Once you wander inside, a perfectly-sized gallery awaits. Currently, this means an exhibit by a local Memphian, featuring Memphis scenes painted in the style of Impressionism, often mimicking famous paintings directly, such as Monet’s Rouen Cathedral series. Another exhibit, featuring authentic Monets and Cassatts, explores American Impressionism, artists who traveled to Giverny and were directly influenced by Monet and his gardens there. The Dixon’s permanent gallery is amazing too, with statues from Rodin and paintings by Matisse, Renoir, and Degas, just to name a few! There’s plenty of sights to see, but you won’t get overwhelmed as larger collections tend to grow tiring. Also, right now they have FREE admission!
4. Shelby Farms: Hyde Lake
Again, not a secret spot. Shelby Farms is one of Memphis’s great sites to see, being one of the largest urban parks in America. This spot specifically, however, has been a safe haven for me and my roommates. Hyde Lake is large enough to give you a real feel of being on the waterfront, including a boardwalk so you can really stand out in the middle of it all! The wind whips just like a coastline and there are small hills to the side that make for great picnic destinations! Plus, it’s easy to socially distance here, and the weather is beginning to warm up!
3. Art Center
Incredibly close to campus for all that reside nearby, the Art Center is the perfect place to pick up some supplies for new hobbies and creative endeavors. The staff is so helpful and so kind, and there are excellent vibes throughout. On my first visit, I had one of my all-time favorite conversations with a random customer and the store was playing the soundtrack to My Neighbor Totoro! Highly recommend supporting a great store, great hobbies, and great people. It’s also just a great experience to get out (safely) and try new things!
2. Broad Avenue
Perhaps this reflects more on my exploration skills than the secrecy of this neighborhood, but I only found Broad Avenue due to a wrong turn on the way to school! Attempting to get to Summer and avoid the weird turns of East Parkway, I accidentally found myself on a small street with creepy construction on one side, but a row of beautiful little shops on the other! This was the artsy, communal neighborhood I had been looking for in Memphis! Cooper-Young and Midtown are also great places to go for that kind of vibe, but this was it. Full disclosure, I now work on Broad Avenue, but this is not a paid promotion. There are places to eat, such as Broadway Pizza and Muddy’s Kitchen (open Thurs-Sat for those baked goods we all missed so dearly); places to shop, like Merchants on Broad and Falling Into Place, boutique-esque stores with jewelry, Memphis merch, and local art; and places to see, like the Broad Avenue Water Tower and its lovely paint job or the mural on the side of West Memorials! And once Covid times are over, they host Art Walks and everyone comes together and celebrates creativity and community all in one.
Not a place, and not specific to Memphis, but I had to shout them out. My roommates and I have begun a puzzle wall, where we hang all our completed puzzles for a lovely display. (You can get mod podge to do the same, coating front and back, from the Art Center!) It’s a communal or individual activity, and is just thought-provoking enough to keep me awake without stressing out already stressed to the brim college students. Plus, there are so many aesthetic ones these days! Novel. Memphis is a great place to look, they have New Yorker, Edward Gorey, and Botanical puzzles just to name a few! They lead to interesting conversations, allow for a chance to NOT look at a screen for entertainment after a long day of Zoom, and are the perfect opportunity to just listen to some music and sit for a while (or a podcast, like Beyond Beale, whose first episode is out now!).
Stay safe, give yourselves a break, and seriously, listen to Beyond Beale.