City of Memphis' Percent-for-Art Program | UrbanArt Commission


Release Date: Friday, July 13, 2018

Budget: $145,500

Deadline: Friday, August 24, 2018, 11:59 PM CST

Eligibility: Any artist living and working in the United States. Memphis-based artists are strongly encouraged to apply.


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 F. 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. Moreover, the library is expanding its programming to challenge the definition of what resources a library can provide. When Cossitt Library reopens in late Spring 2019, it will offer a variety of classes and creative, dance, performance, technology and programming workshops.

In turn the City of Memphis has partnered with UAC to commission a large-scale sculpture project for the exterior of the library that encapsulates the new expanded use of the library and the reinvigorated visitor experience from improvements to the interior and exterior.


Cossitt Library is located in core of downtown at the intersection of Front Street and Monroe Avenue. The library sits inset from the street level, featuring a courtyard on the east side, and green space on the west side. Sitting on the bluff of the Mississippi River, the back of the library overlooks Riverside Drive, the Mississippi River, and Mississippi River Park. To the North of Cossitt sits University of Memphis Law Library, and Memphis Park.


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 expresses an interest in a public art piece that will:

  • Considers the mid-century architecture and history of the building
  • Be durable to sustain interactive use
  • Includes a participatory element that visitors can look forward to, particularly families with children
  • Welcomes individuals to the library without being a barrier
  • Incorporates functional elements such as seating into the design

The commissioned artist or artist team will be selected based on previous experience with the design of exterior sculpture projects. Applicants are also expected to have the technical capabilities to design and install such projects, including providing maintenance instructions. The finished project must require little to no regular maintenance. Final artwork should complement the characteristics and neighborhood identity of the site. The artist(s) selected shall be expected to collaborate closely with site engineers, landscape architects, and any necessary party for the successful installation of the project, including the community. NOTE: Commissioned artists are permitted to work with outside contractors to fabricate the actual work of art.

UAC and the City of Memphis are committed to equity and inclusion in our work. To this end, people of color, LGBTQIA individuals, and differently-abled persons are highly encouraged to apply.


Friday, July 13, 2018 | RFQ Released

Friday, August 24, 2018 | RFQ deadline

Thursday, September 6, 2018 | Artists notified, finalists selected

Wednesday, September 12, 2018 | RFP opens

Wednesday, October 24, 2018 |  RFP closes

October 25 - 31, 2018 | Finalist proposal presentations

November 2018 | Artist selected & contracted


Total Budget $145,500; Design $29,100; Fabrication $116,400, all-inclusive.

Up to three finalists will receive a $1,500 honorarium for a schematic design.


UrbanArt Commission provides the opportunity for any artist interested in a specific project to meet with staff, ask questions about the project and/or public art process and review their submission. Dates for info sessions related to this project are as follows:

Saturday, August 4, 2018, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm

Tuesday, August 7, 2018, 6:00 - 8:00 pm

Thursday, August 9, 2018, 11:30 am - 1:30 pm

Artists based outside of Memphis are welcome to email to schedule a time to discuss this project. Locations are TBD. Feel free to join UAC’s mailing list and/or follow us on social media, where information about these sessions will be posted.

If you are interested in applying as a team but have questions about potential teammates who compliment your skills or how your practice would translate into a collaborative project, UAC highly encourages you to reach out to discuss with our staff.


The art selection committee will select three finalists based on their applications; professional qualifications; ability to work within a budget, meet deadlines; and successful completion of previous public art projects. Each finalist will be asked to prepare a schematic design, followed by a presentation to the artist selection committee. Each finalist will receive a $1,500 honorarium for an original design developed specifically for the site.

The selection committee for this project consists of the following individuals:

  • Lauryce Graves-McIver, Assistant Director of Strategic Partnerships, Memphis Public Libraries

  • Shamichael Hallman, Branch Manager, Cossitt Library

  • David Fierabend, Principal, Groundswell Design Group

  • Meg Johnson, Urban Designer, Groundswell Design Group

  • Michael Cheney, Urban Designer, Groundswell Design Group

  • Penelope Huston, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Downtown Memphis Commission

  • Terry Lynn, Memphis-based visual artist

  • Nelson Gutierrez, Memphis-based visual artist


UAC now posts all open opportunities and accepts applications online through Submittable. Note that you will no longer need to join UAC’s Artist Registry within to apply to an opportunity. Instead, follow the steps below to apply to an open UAC opportunity through Submittable:

  1. To apply to an open Request for Qualifications (RFQ) or Request for Proposals      (RFP), go to   Click on the opportunity that you are interested in to view more details.

  2. Click the Submit button next to the opportunity that you wish to apply for, or if you are already within an opportunity, scroll down to the Create your account / Have an      account? Sign in form.

  3. If you already have a Submittable account, click the Have an account? Sign in tab      to sign in to your account. If you don’t remember your password, use the Forgot? link on the login form.

  4. If you don’t have a Submittable account, you must create one to apply. Create      your free account by filling out the Create your account form. Fill in all information and click the Create Account and Continue button to continue with the submission process.

  5. From there, you will be able to complete and submit your application. You can      now use this account login when submitting to all future UAC opportunities. Once you have submitted your application, you will receive a confirmation email that confirms receipt of your full application.

Please submit the following materials online at

  • A typed letter explaining your interest in the project and your general approach/concept to its design and production. Please do not submit design proposals at this point.

  • Up to 20 images of past work including title of work, date, medium, budget and project partners, if applicable.

  • Resume, not to exceed 2 pages.

  • List of three professional references, including current phone and email.

  • It is the preference of UAC that all submission materials be uploaded digitally through Submittable. However, UAC will accept paper submissions delivered our office at 422 N Cleveland St, Memphis, TN 38104.

For more information please contact:

Emily Rooker, Project Manager

901.221.4077  /


Applicants will be notified as to the status of their application. Commissioning of artists by UAC and the pursuit of all UAC activities are implemented without preference to racial or ethnic origins, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, disability or age.

UAC reserves the right to modify this solicitation and to request additional information from participating artists.

UAC reserves the right to accept or reject, at any time prior to the commissioning of a work, any or all proposals when the acceptance, rejection, waiver or advertisement would be in the best interest of the project. In addition,

The staff of UAC will be responsible for all correspondence and communication by and between applicants and members of selection panels. Discussion regarding these projects by and between any applicant and any member of a selection panel outside of regularly scheduled meetings during the selection process may be grounds for the disqualification of the applicant. Such determination shall be in the discretion of UAC.