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

cordova library | request for qualifications

Release Date: Thursday, March 7, 2019

Total Budget: $100,000 (includes honoraria for three finalists to develop site-specific proposals at $1,500 each)

Deadline: Thursday, April 18, 2019

Eligibility: Any artist currently residing within the tri-state area of Tennessee, Arkansas & Mississippi. Artists are invited to apply as a team if desirable.


The UrbanArt Commission (UAC) works to create opportunities for artists and neighborhoods to connect and shape spaces through public art. Since 2002, UAC has managed the City of Memphis’s Percent-For-Art Program, which allocates funds annually to develop public art in connection to capital improvement projects. UAC, in partnership with the City of Memphis, will commission a new sculpture project for the exterior of the Cordova Library that encapsulates the vision of Memphis Public Library and Information Center (MPLIC) as a timeless vessel for literacy, early childhood development, educational achievement, workforce development, and the individual growth of Memphians.

Cordova, TN was originally a farming village east of Memphis with fewer than a dozen farms when it was founded in 1835. It was renowned for the freshly cut flowers that were shipped to Memphis, thus the town's motto was "Farms, Flowers and Fellowship". It later became a railroad station constructed in 1889 and has since grown to one of Memphis’ largest suburban residential and commercial districts. Cordova lies east of Memphis, north of Germantown, south of Bartlett, and northwest of Collierville.

The Cordova Branch Library started in one room at the old train depot on Macon Road. Later it served as the Cordova Branch Library of the Memphis-Shelby County Library for more than 50 years before moving to the 1913 community center on Sanga Road. The Cordova Library was opened in the late 1980s under the direction of Judith A. Drescher, the first female library director in Memphis. Like her predecessors she was strongly committed to information services. “If libraries are going to promote themselves as an information service, they’re going to have to turn into one,” she said soon after her arrival. With this as her creed, Drescher brought library services to underserved neighborhoods through several mobile units and the construction of the Cordova and East Shelby branch libraries.

In 2004, the branch moved to its current facility on Trinity Road. The spacious branch bursts with a variety of programs from multilingual story-time and classic film showings to ESL classes and lessons on health and nutrition.

site specifics

The Cordova Library is located at 8457 Trinity Road, Cordova, TN 38018. It is encompassed by an arboretum which is developed by the Cordova Garden Club (CGC) who have been cultivating a relationship with the library since 2003. Over the years CGC has planted and maintained trees, shrubs and perennials on the grounds. In 2011 CGC began presenting gardening workshops for adults and children several times a year. At that time CGC began to consider working to certify the grounds as a Level 1 Arboretum.

An arboretum is simply a collection of trees. You might think of it as an outdoor museum of trees, a place where you can see and compare mature trees and study different varieties you might want to include in your landscape. The purpose of an arboretum is to promote tree conservation, preservation, and education. Arboretums provide a pleasant place for people to visit and enjoy the great outdoors. Research shows that interaction with nature is important for our physical, spiritual and emotional health.

Over the next several years, CGC members raised money for trees and set aside donated funds for memorial trees, hoping to identify 30 trees. In the Spring of 2015, CGC purchased and planted 6 trees, and consulted with several arborists in the area to correctly identify and name all of the trees. The tree list was finalized and approved by a representative of the TN Urban Forestry Council (TUFC) in October of 2015, and the Cordova Library Arboretum was approved as a Level 1 Arboretum.

scope of work

The selection committee expresses interest in a sculpture project that is attention-grabbing, reminds people of the importance of the library and ignites interest in Cordova Library’s various programs, resources and services with work that:

  • Creates an inviting atmosphere for library visitors

  • Draws attention to entrance of the library

  • Appeals to all ages/users of the library

  • References nature

  • Inspires imagination

  • Connects the services of MPLIC to support the lives of the Memphis citizens

  • Speaks to the values of MPLIC which are welcoming, helpful, fresh, fun, and transformative

The commissioned artist/s will be selected based on the strength of their qualifications submitted, ability to adhere to deadlines, and work within the stated budget. Applicants are expected to have or collaborate/subcontract with appropriate vendors to meet the necessary 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. People of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, differently-abled and neurodiverse persons, indigenous peoples, youth, seniors, and women are strongly encouraged to apply. Artists who have not received a public art commission previously are encouraged to consider the opportunity and to reach out to the UAC team in advance of submitting.

selection committee

Raushanah Morgan - Cordova Resident

Valentina Cochran - Architect, Arch Inc.

Dorothy Northern - Memphis-based artist and retired art teacher

Alice Burns - President of Friends of the Cordova Library

Francis 'Zeb' Mathews - Cordova Library Branch Manager

Arnold Thompson - Memphis-based artist

Cheryl Swift - City of Memphis Engineering Division (non-voting)

project timeline

Thursday, March 7, 2019 RFQ released
Thursday, April 18, 2019   RFQ deadline
By Friday, April 26, 2019   Notify finalists of RFP invitation
Thursday, June 6, 2019 RFP deadline

project budget

Total project budget is $100,000, including artist honoraria - up to three finalists will receive a $1,500 honorarium for a site-specific proposal. Design budget $23,875; Fabrication budget $71,625 all-inclusive.

finalists requirements

The artist selection committee will select three finalists based on their applications, professional qualifications, ability to work within a budget, and meet deadlines. 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, leading to one finalist being commissioned to implement their concept.


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 UAC’s Opportunities page. Click on the opportunity that you are interested in to view more details.

  2. Clicking on the Submit button will redirect you to our Submittable page, which contains all of our current open opportunities. 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 by following the “Cordova Library” link at

  • Include 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 any.

  • Résumé, not to exceed 2 pages.

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

  • Complete applicant’s materials should be uploaded via the UAC website only. Hardcopy packets, digital files, and CD-ROMs will not be accepted.

information sessions

UAC will host an information workshop for artists interested in learning more about this project:

Saturday, March 30, 1-3 PM, UAC offices, 422 N. Cleveland St.

Artists may also schedule a meeting with UAC staff to review their application and portfolio. Appointments are available Monday, April 8 and Wednesday, April 10 between 3 and 7 PM. Contact A.M. O'Malley-Miller at 901.881.8205 or to schedule a meeting.

For more information about the project please contact:
Shanette Parks | Senior Program Manager
901.552.5039 |
This RFQ and support materials may be downloaded at:


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.