Neighbors making neighborhoods: Khara and NJ Woods

ioby is more than just a crowdfunding platform: we’re a team   of  individuals who are passionate about  helping neighbors make their neighborhoods safer, greener, more livable and more fun.  We love hearing from ioby Leaders about  their experiences planning, funding and implementing a project with us. We think by sharing  these experiences,  complete with both triumphs  and roadblocks,  we can help spread knowledge and  maybe even inspire others  to  take action towards positive change where they live.

 

Looking for signs

As a self-identified sign-hunter, Khara Woods is always on the lookout for street art in Memphis. On leisurely walks through her hometown, she documents property signage and graffiti as reference for her graphic design and hand-lettering projects.

Khara and NJ Woods

[Photo by David Leonard]

One day in midtown, Khara stopped in her tracks and took notice of a colorful new  graffiti-inspired mural  on a formerly unsightly wall along Lamar Avenue. The stark contrast between the mural design and surrounding disrepair drew into focus  the strange mix of rapid transformation and neglect  that for her characterizes the historic neighborhood of Rozelle-Annesdale. The wall sat adjacent to a freeway that now the divides the area, which was formerly a bustling corridor   for residents and commuters. Her curiosity piqued, Khara was determined to track down the artist responsible and soon learned that the art was one of eight installments comprising the “Paint Lamar” ioby campaign led by  Kyle Taylor. Khara kept ioby on her radar. She bookmarked the site to her browser and checked in periodically.

 

A family affair

She also sent the link to her mother. While Khara scouts emerging street art, her mother NJ Woods keeps busy as a “primitive folk” artist building on a collection of self-portraits depicting Mid-South and Civil Rights- era living. For some time now, they had been looking for a way to collaborate,   and they had an idea to  work on   a large scale public mural together.  They had applied for grants, responded to city RFPs and sought funding from arts commissions to no avail. Feeling defeated,   they tabled their collaborative project until they had the resources to execute on their own terms.

NJ and Khara Woods

[Photo by David Leonard]

 

A connection is made

In the early stages of ioby’s 85K  Memphis Match, Khara skimmed our blog announcement and promptly got in touch with our office  to float a question about what permission she’d need for a potential public mural project. After connecting with ioby’s   Ellen Roberds in person at an Urban Resource Center meeting, Khara shared her concerns about her lack of fundraising experience and navigating permissions for public property use. Drawing on her local relationships, Ellen facilitated introductions between local business owners, weighed in on potential sites, and even proofread Khara’s draft emails to property owners.

After much back and forth with  local stakeholders, Khara secured   the site of a welcoming local eatery in Midtown: Moore Food Company. Launching their ioby campaign “Headshots”, Khara and NJ quickly racked up   match funds for their $1,000 funding goal for wall clean-up materials and paint supplies. Inspired by NJ’s past collage work, the mother-daughter pair spent a couple of weekends rolling out a cast of minimalist geometric figures to represent  the diversity of their   Memphis neighbors. After Khara and NJ’s mural  went   up  on behind the  Moore Food Company, the restaurant  saw business profits spike – their beautification project  was clearly doubling as a placemaking success and a striking new neighborhood landmark!

Headshots mural

[Photo by David Leonard]

 

Vision meets guidance

Khara and NJ’s mural project reminds us that fundraising is just one of many barriers that can stand in a way of potential leaders starting a project. After being burned by grant opportunities, Khara felt discouraged by bureaucratic language, sluggish timelines, and by veteran organizers competing over resources  for public arts projects.

When the Woods pair came to ioby with the  vision to get their project off the ground, ioby provided the footing they needed to ask for buy-in from their community. Ellen’s guidance   throughout the process speaks to one of ioby’s core principles: we believe that our neighbors   know what’s best for their neighborhoods. While we’re confident that local residents are the ones best equipped to make on-the-ground change, our hands-on approach offers leaders the chance to build confidence and expand their skillsets. We’re here to affirm ioby leaders’ right to improve their neighborhoods   and to guide them through unforeseen hiccups along the way. ioby is proud to be a part of Headshots fundraising success and we hope it’s one of many for the Woods family!

And  remember: if you’re ever headed east from Downtown Memphis, keep on the lookout for the Woods’ bold and whimsical 10-foot  geocentric headshots to jut into view.

One thought on “Neighbors making neighborhoods: Khara and NJ Woods

  1. Beautiful job ladies! It is amazing to see a Mother/Daughter team come together to create such beautiful art!

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