“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”
The mission of My Cup of Tea has always been about supporting women in the Orange Mound community through job opportunities and authentic cross-cultural relationships. But it has also included doing our part to revitalize this once thriving community.
The resurrection of Orange Mound, or any community struggling with crime, poverty, declining property values and few opportunities for economic mobility, is complex, multi-layered and there is no single strategy that will move the needle. What many community developers and activists agree on, though, is that the arts are essential to revitalizing a community. As a Princeton University working paper put it,
“The arts revitalize neighborhoods and promote economic prosperity. Participation in the arts improves physical and psychological well-being. The arts provide a catalyst for the creation of social capital and the attainment of important community goals.”
Bill Strickland, an activist and founder of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in inner-city Pittsburg argued in an NPR TED Radio Talk that exposure to beauty is critical to community change. He says whether music, painting, sculpting or dance, engaging with beauty on a consistent basis changes vocabularies, behaviors and raises expectations for what is possible for the community to a new level.
“It turns out we may need beauty to survive, in the same way we need oxygen and water,” says Strickland.
We’re not sure if human beings need beauty in the same way we need water and oxygen, but what we know is that people don’t thrive without it.
Fortunately for Orange Mound, there are passionate, adept organizations and leaders organizing the community and promoting the arts. One of those organizations is the Orange Mound Arts Council (OMAC,) which manages the Orange Mound Gallery.
We have teamed with OMAC, and we are leveraging their network, expertise and energy to create a unique opportunity for Black artists. My Cup of Tea plans to introduce a new Memphis-themed tea to add to our collection, which includes favorites like Bluff City Chai, 901 of A Kind Coconut Almond and Blue Suede Shoes Organic Wild Blueberry. Collaborating with OMAC, we have issued a request for proposals seeking a professional Black artist to design the new box.
The artist’s design and personal biography will be featured on the new box. A fee of $1,000 will be paid for the design and the artist will retain ownership of the original artwork. If you know someone who might be interested, the deadline to submit a portfolio is September 1st. Please share this link: www.shopmycupoftea.com/proposals.
Beyond this single project, we envision future opportunities to empower and promote Black artists annually. One possibility is to open the request for proposal to amateur artists who would be mentored by professional artists. Whatever the next iteration, emphasizing the beauty and talent that exists in this historic community is essential to support its rebirth.
Shelby County Commissioner Reginald Milton, commenting in the Commercial Appeal on the opening of the Orange Mound Gallery may have said it best.
“Art is a way to express our fears, our passions, our concerns, our anger. Art is unique, it is a gift from God to humans.”
We couldn’t agree more.