Multicolored Memphis monument aims to make Mud Island a millennial mecca

Memphis sign on Mud Island

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Organizers hope social media influencers of the Bluff City make a pilgrimage to visit a new, vivid Memphis monument downtown.

A new, block-letter sign simply saying, “Memphis,” is now on display on Mud Island, and the goal is to have it as the new destination for trendy millennials to take their Instagrams, Snapchats, stories and selfies.

Local photographers said they are glad Memphis is joining the list of cities to put up big, bold, bright block-letter signs displaying the name of the city. One said it is sure to make downtown a destination for social media junkies.

“As a photographer, I welcome any and all bright or interesting public installations,” said Austin Anderson, a local social media photographer with a large social media presence. “It gives people a great checkpoint to visit when exploring a new city. It is extremely important for a city to keep up with trends to attract more young people.”

Anderson said photographers love installations like this because it starts up a challenge to see who can take better photos of the art or who can get their photos first.

Officials with the Memphis River Parks Partnership, who oversaw the new sign, said that’s exactly their goal: to get more people to visit the area.

Tylur French, owner and founder of Youngblood Studio, was the artist who made the vision for the sign come to life.

“MRPP came to me and talked to us about creating an Instagram-able moment or a highly photograph-able moment to attract people over here on Mud Island,” French said.

French said he loves creating public art, and he thinks all cities need public art. He created the Overton Park Bike Arch sculpture and the water tower on Broad Avenue, among other projects in the city.

“It’s really one of my missions … to bring as much artwork to the community as I can,” he said. “I raised my kids in this city, and the people I love and care about are in this city. And I know that a city that has artwork woven into its fabric is a more kind and humane and thoughtful community, so this is the best way I can help.”

There are some other art pieces distinguishable to the city of Memphis. But the sign on Mud Island is by far the biggest, brightest and in a much more prominent location than some of the other Memphis murals.

Ruby Zielinski, design strategist for MRPP, said the sign looks similar to Toronto’s sign because the sign in Toronto was the organization’s inspiration for the sign in Memphis. The difference is the typeface and colors of Memphis’ sign, and it has the Memphis skyline in the background of photos.

“You get that beautiful photo with ‘Memphis’ and then the big skyline in the back,” Zielinski said. “So at sunset, it’s pretty incredible because it just kind of lights everything up.”

To light up the night after the sun sets, Zielinski said the sign will soon have programmable lights that will enable light shows during concerts and events. She said those should be set up before the 4th of July weekend—a perfect time to attract visitors to the island.

“We really want to bring young people, people who haven’t been here, people who are new to Memphis and locals to Mud Island,” Zielinski said. “We’re doing that with the sign. We’re doing that with a lot of summer programs. We’re hoping people embrace the sign and embrace Mud Island as a park rather than a theme park.”

One of those summer programs starts Friday night. From 6 to 8 p.m., MRPP will host a family-friendly event, A Vibe on the Island, with music and food, and they will have the sign on full display with temporary lights.

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