project overview

Respect - Legends Park

Native American artist Tootsie Bell of Memphis installed Respect, her first large-scale public art commission, as part of the City of Memphis' Public Art Program. The sculpture for Legends Park is an homage to the old neighborhood, Dixie Homes. The Legends Park community wanted to get away from the old image of Dixie Homes and focus on the legendary stories that emerged from the neighborhood during its heyday. 

Music notes wrap around the sculpture indicating the deep musical roots of Memphis and the Dixie Homes community.

The central bat structure represents the importance of baseball in the neighborhood as well as the beginning of the Memphis Red Sox, the local Negro League Baseball team. Two Dixie Homes residents went on to become a part of of the Memphis Red Sox team. The sculpture features a queen bee, in honor of Quimby Bayou. Residents gathered and socialized at the bayou that eventually came to be nicknamed ‘queen bee.' Music notes wrap around the sculpture indicating the deep musical roots of Memphis and the Dixie Homes community. The music, taken from Aretha Franklin’s well-known anthem, “Respect,” speaks to the neighborhood's sense of identity and pride. The theme of rebirth and new hope is further reflected in the brass sun that tops the sculpture.


about the artist

Tootsie Bell

Tootsie Bell, influenced by nature, human emotion, spirituality, and her Native American ancestry, creates work that is human—evocative, moody, and rich with character. The artist currently resides in Memphis, TN where she received her Bachelors of Fine Art in both Sculpture and Illustration Design from Memphis College of Art. While in school she began working as a metalsmith for a local jewelry store and worked there until opening her own business in 1995. Bell Fine Art Jewelers was immediately well received by the Memphis community and Bell quickly developed a strong following for her work.

Tootsie has designed and executed numerous commissions, including a retirement gift for Alan Balter- world renowned conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, a gift for Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Color Purple”, and Tennessee memorabilia for the Grammy-winning Indigo Girls. In addition, she has reconnected with her sculpture roots and pursued, with success, her love of public art. In 2008, she installed Tree Trio, a series of bike racks for the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. In 2009, she installed House of Rock in My Big Backyard for the Memphis Botanic Gardens. In January of 2013, Tootsie installed her largest piece of sculpture to date, Respect,  in Legends Park, Memphis, TN.