Memphis Convention Center | City of Memphis | UrbanArt Commission

memphis convention center - front st. entry | request for qualifications

Release Date: Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Total Budget: $50,000 (includes honoraria for three finalists to develop site-specific proposals at $1,500 each)

Deadline: Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Eligibility: Any artist currently living and working in the Memphis metropolitan area. Artists are invited to apply as a team if desirable.


The Memphis Convention Center is being reimagined as the facility undergoes an important expansion and upgrade with modern enhancements. The dramatic renovation of the convention center is currently underway and will be complete by Fall 2020. Originally opened in 1974, the Memphis Convention Center sees approximately 500,000 visitors annually and has generated an economic impact of $73 million in the last 5 years. The adjoining Cannon Center for Performing Arts was opened in 2003. The renovations will create new meeting spaces, greater flexibility for room configuration, expanded visibility and connection to the Mississippi River and downtown skyline, natural light throughout the building, and more visible points of entry and wayfinding to enhance visitor experience for both Memphians and those traveling to our city.

The $200 million dollar project is more than an expansion and renovation. It’s a transformation of the building’s interior and exterior through which every square inch of the convention center will be touched by this project, bringing high end finishes and amenities. Through an extraordinary effort of long range planning with meeting planners and groups that utilize space in the building annually, the Memphis Convention Center is continuing to host events and open for business during the renovation timetable. Renovations are projected to be complete by Fall 2020 and are funded through the hotel/motel tax and Tourism Development Zone (TDZ) funds.

As part of the overall reimagining of the convention center, $1 million has been allocated to produce new site-specific public art projects at key locations throughout the facility, as well as ten spaces for rotating exhibitions from Memphis-based artists and arts organizations.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.

site specifics

The Memphis Convention Center is located in downtown Memphis at 255 N. Main St. along the Mississippi River. Following the expansion and renovation of the convention center, amenities will include a column-free 118,000 square food main exhibit hall, a new exterior concourse and pre-function space, 46 breakout rooms, and a 28,000 square foot ballroom for smaller events.

scope of work

UrbanArt Commission is partnering with the City of Memphis and the Memphis Convention Center Board of Commissioners to produce a mural or series of small sculptures for an interior wall inside the Front St. entrance of the West Meeting Rooms. The selection committee expresses an interest in a public art piece that will speak to one or more of the following themes (additional information will be provided to finalists invited to submit site-specific proposals):

  • Natural assets of the area including the Mississippi River, Mississippi Flyway, and a dense tree canopy

  • Celebrate the rich history of music made in and inspired by Memphis

  • Honor the stories and experiences of the diverse communities and leaders in Memphis history, particularly indigenous and black communities

  • Explore the possibilities of Memphis as the city moves forward into our third century

The artist selection committee will select three finalists based on their applications, professional qualifications, ability to work within a budget, and meet deadlines. The commissioned artist/s will be selected based on the strength of their proposal following RFP invitation. Applicants are expected to have the technical capabilities to design and install such projects, including providing maintenance instructions. (NOTE: Commissioned artists are permitted to work with outside contractors to fabricate the actual work of art.*) The finished project should require little to no regular maintenance. Final artwork should complement the aesthetics of the site and the goals of the Memphis Convention Center renovations. 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.

UAC, the City of Memphis, and MCC Board of Commissioners are committed to equity and inclusion in our work. To this end, applications from people of color, indigenous peoples, differently-abled, LGBTQ+ and women are strongly encouraged.

*Interested artists who have not completed public art projects at a similar scale are encouraged to reach out to UAC to discuss their applications. Previous public art experience is not required for this commission.

selection committee

Doug McGowen – Chief Operating Officer, City of Memphis; MCC Board of Commissioners

Nicole Seltzer – Director Convention Center Sales, Memphis Convention Center

Thomas Midgley – Hotel and Restaurant Management Program Coordinator, Southwest Tennessee Community College; MCC Board of Commissioners

Frank Ricks – Principal, LRK Inc.

Gretchen McLennon – Consultant, DI Studios

Rachel Knox – Program Officer, Hyde Family Foundation

Lani Glancy – Vice President, AutoZone; Board Chair, Memphis Travel

Sally Pace – CEO, Connect Healthcare Collaboration; Board Member, Memphis Travel

Tom Marshall – Principal, O.T. Marshall; MFA Partners (non-voting)

project timeline

Wednesday, July 3, 2019                             RFQ released

Tuesday, July 23, 2019 – 5:30 – 7 pm        Information session hosted by UAC

Wednesday, August 7, 2019 – 3 – 7 pm   Workshops hosted by UAC

Wednesday, August 14, 2019                     RFQ deadline

By Friday, August 30, 2019                           Notify finalists of RFP invitation

Friday, October 11, 2019                              RFP deadline

Week of October 28, 2019                           Finalist presentations to committee

project budget

Total Budget $50,000; Design $11,750, Fabrication $32,250, all-inclusive. Total project budget includes honoraria for up to three finalists of $1,000 for their proposal designs.

finalists requirements

Each finalist will be asked to prepare a schematic design, followed by a presentation to the artist selection committee. Each finalist will receive a $1,000 honorarium for an original design developed specifically for the site.


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 “MCC - Front St. Entry” 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 session for artists interested in learning more about this project:

Tuesday, July 23, 5:30 - 7 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 Wednesday, August 7 between 3 and 7 PM. Contact A.M. O'Malley-Miller at 901.881.8205 or to schedule a meeting during that time or if alternate times are needed.

For more information about the project please contact:
Lauren Kennedy | Executive Director
901.552.3934 |
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.