Portland Based Architecture and Design studio selected to create sculpture at Cossitt Library.

UAC commissions Rhiza A+ D, a Portland based architecture and design studio,  to create an interactive sculpture at Cossitt Library that celebrates the rich history of the library and its revitalization efforts through Reimagining the Civic Commons Initiative

UrbanArt Commission is partnering with the City of Memphis to produce a large sculpture that attracts and engages Memphians and visitors to the library. The selection committee expressed an interest in a public art piece that will provide an interactive element that engages visitors and encourages use of the library's extensive and expanded services. It will be durable to sustain interactive use and ultimately considers the mid-century architecture and history of the library.

Once commissioned Rhiza A + D said they “are excited to work with the City of Memphis, a city known for its art - music making, innovation and creation. As we researched early blues makers we were inspired by W. C. Handy(Musician, composer, publisher, chronicler and father of the blues and 1909’s “Memphis Blues”) who we discovered was deeply influenced by the music of the natural world.The sculpture we proposed is deeply inspired by the these early fantastical memories of the library and popup books merged with the inventive and creative spirit of the mocking- bird (the state bird).


rhiza A +D

from left to right: John Kashiwabara, Ean Eldred, Peter Nylen, and Richard Garfield, ,

The historic Cossitt Library sits at the corner of Front Street and Monroe Avenue in downtown Memphis. Built in 1893, the building served as the City's main library collection until the opening of the Memphis Public Library at Peabody and McLean in 1955. In 1959, the original Cossitt building was torn down and replaced with the Mid-Century Modern structure that exists now. Cossitt Library was also an important site during sit-ins in 1960 when African American students from LeMoyne Owen College were barred access to the library. The students were represented by a number of prominent lawyers active in the Civil Rights Movement including Benjamin L. Hooks, Ben Jones, J.F. Estes, A.W. Willis, Odell Horton and Russell Sugermon. The trial went to the Supreme Court where the court ultimately ruled that public facilities had to be open to all residents regardless of race.

Cossitt remains an active branch library serving the needs of the downtown community and is a key site involved in the Civic Commons revitalization effort. Reimagining the Civic Commons is a national initiative that seeks to counter economic and social fragmentation in our cities by revitalizing and connecting public places such as parks, plazas, trails and libraries to bring together people from different backgrounds. By creating greater connectivity between thriving civic assets, the funding will create a unifying place in downtown, bringing together citizens of various backgrounds who might not ordinarily meet. In Memphis, assets within the Civic Commons have been identified as Cossitt Library, Memphis Park, Mississippi River Park and the University of Memphis Law School promenade. As part of the revitalization of the Civic Commons, Cossitt Library will undergo a mid-century inspired interior and exterior renovation developed by Groundswell Design Group.

This project is funded through City of Memphis’ percent-for-art program in partnership with UAC to create public art projects across Memphis neighborhoods. UAC manages the City’s public art program, recommending project opportunities and facilitating the artist selection process, design, fabrication and installation of projects. The artist selection committee for the Cossit Library Project are Lauryce Graves-McIver with the Memphis Library Foundation, Shamichael Hallman Branch Manager of Cossitt Library, Andria Lisle with Fourth Bluff, David Fierabend of Groundswell Design Group, Penelope Huston with Downtown Memphis Commission, visual artist, Joel Parsons with Rhodes College Clough Hanson Gallery, Visual artist Terry Lynn, and Cheryl Swift – City of Memphis, Engineering (non-voting).

proposed sculpture design for Cossitt Library Sculpture

proposed sculpture design for Cossitt Library Sculpture