They come from all over the world, and their interests — from art and music to medicine and education — vary as widely as their hometowns (or home countries) do on a map. But they have at least one thing in common: Their passions drew them to Crosstown Concourse.
These are the resident artists, scientists, orchestra fellows, and physicians- or teachers-in-training currently living and/or studying, creating, or learning at Concourse. At least five residency programs are housed within Concourse, most of which are led by tenant organizations within the building. Memphis Teacher Residency (MTR) trains future educators in their space on the third floor, and their residents live in the Parcels apartments. Parcels is also home to IRIS Orchestra Artist Fellows and graduate students in the St. Jude Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
Church Health runs two medical residency programs through their Church Health Scholars program and Family Medicine Residency (a partnership with Baptist Memorial Health Care). Crosstown Arts is providing live/work space for up to 16 residents per session through its multidisciplinary residency program for visual and performing artists, musicians, and writers.
MTR offers a one-year residency for aspiring teachers, but each resident makes a promise to continue teaching in Memphis schools for three years after that. They tend to come from all over the country, so each resident is offered an apartment in Crosstown Concourse for their first year of that commitment.
“We believe in the co-work model and doing things in community. If you’re from Memphis and already have a home, we’re not going to ask you to leave your home, but the majority of individuals who come to do this program are from elsewhere,” says Yolunda Bass, residency director at MTR.
In that first year, residents are placed with an established teacher in a school in one of MTR’s six strategic neighborhoods — Alcy-Ball, Graham Heights, Binghampton, Orange Mound, Frayser, and Mitchell Heights. Those neighborhoods were chosen based on academic performance, prioritizing the schools with the highest need. MTR was founded on the principle of equal education.
“We tell our residents that we’re teaching them to be an urban educator, and when you go into these schools, you’re on a year-long interview the entire time,” Bass says. “We work closely with the principals, so we know when a school has openings. I’ll strategically place residents in schools where I know they can possibly get hired.”
During that training year, the residents are also working on obtaining a master’s degree through MTR’s university partner, Union University. The residents work in the classroom through their internships in public schools Monday through Thursday, but on Friday, they’re doing graduate coursework at MTR’s space in Concourse.
“The last class they take is Spiritual Life, and that’s when they learn our Christian component,” Bass says. “You don’t have to be a Christian to come to this organization. We’ve had agnostics and atheists, but when we recruit people, we’re very upfront. We tell them we’re an unapologetically Christian organization.”
Bass says the religious aspect of MTR’s training doesn’t bleed over into the classroom, but their residents are expected to exude MTR’s motto of “Christian love expressed through equal education” by holding themselves to a certain standard. They’re expected to carry themselves “in a way where people should know there is something different about you,” she says.
In addition to its full residency program, MTR also offers summer enrichment camps at Cornerstone Prep Lester Campus and Kingsbury Elementary to address systemic summer academic loss.
“In the camp, we target college students who may be interested in education but just don’t know it yet. A lot of people who do MTR camp eventually apply for the full residency,” Bass says.
MTR was founded in 2008 and was housed in a basement at Union Avenue Baptist Church before moving into Concourse early this year. From 2010-2017, 93 percent of its graduates completed their four-year commitment to Memphis, and 90 percent of their grads are still teaching in Memphis beyond that four years. Given that over 85 percent of their residents come from outside Tennessee, MTR has served as a significant recruiter of talent for the city. MTR is also repeatedly ranked the highest-performing teacher preparation organization in the state of Tennessee.
MTR is currently accepting applications for the next residency year, which begins next May 31. More information: https://memphistr.org/residency/apply/
“Crosstown Concourse is set up for you to have those interactions with a lot of people,” says artist and musician Eso Tolson.
Since mid-July, Tolson has been participating in a pilot version of Crosstown Arts’ multidisciplinary residency program. Through the program, he has studio space in the building where he’s been working on hand-lettering commissions for Teach for America and other clients.
Once the full program launches next summer and fall, it will offer residencies for visiting and Memphis-based visual and performing artists working in any creative discipline, including musicians, filmmakers, and writers in all genres. Residencies will be offered at no cost to participants and will include a private studio workspace and meals provided six days a week.
“This residency is about bridging the gap between Memphis-based artists and artists working elsewhere, providing more opportunities for creative exchange among a broader range of artists from varying backgrounds and disciplines,” says Mary Jo Karimnia, residency coordinator at Crosstown Arts.
Three-month residencies will be offered each year in the fall and spring, and shorter 20-day sessions will be available in the summer. Crosstown Arts will be offering longer studio-only residencies for artists who may not need housing within Crosstown Concourse.
Live/work residencies include a private bedroom/bathroom next to a common living area and shared kitchen for all residents. A family housing option is available, as well as accessible housing for residents with disabilities.
“A lot of residencies are not able to offer housing for families. I expect that will be in high demand, and I’m excited we can offer it,” Karimnia says.
In addition to live/work space, the resident artists will also have unlimited access to Crosstown Arts’ shared art-making workspace with a range of analog and digital fabrication and production resources, including a woodshop, multiple CNC/laser cutters, a Mac-based computer lab, a large-format digital printing service, a silkscreen/print shop, a small recording studio, and individual editing bays for video/audio production.
Artists may set their own working hours, and there are no project requirements during their residency. All residents are asked to participate in a limited number of public engagement activities while in Memphis, such as an informal artist talk or public performance/project, open studio event, or exhibition.
In addition to serving the public, Crosstown Arts’ soon-to-open cafe will provide residents with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In the evenings, residents will dine communally in the cafe.
The nonprofit has been gearing up for its full residency program for the past four years with a studio-only pilot version for Memphis-based artists. Through that program, four local artists — Ben Butler, Andrea Morales, Corkey Sinks, and Lance Turner — were given access to studio space beside Crosstown Arts’ gallery space on Cleveland. Additionally, Crosstown Arts has housed 35 visiting artists and musicians in their living spaces in Concourse since spring, while construction on the studio spaces was underway.
Crosstown Arts will be taking applications for its summer/fall 2018 sessions from November 1 through December 15. More information: http://crosstownarts.org/spaces/residency-program/applicationinformation/
But the Family Medicine Residency, a partnership between Church Health and Baptist Memorial Health Care, offers aspiring general practitioners more than medical training.
“We specialize in taking care of the urban working poor, which is what we do at Church Health. We’re trying to teach these doctors what we do here and how to take that out into the community,” says Collins Rainey, associate programs director for the Church Health Baptist Family Medicine Residency. The residency started last year and is now housed at Crosstown Concourse inside Church Health’s clinic space.
“Family medicine is primary care. We’re birth to grave — babies, children, men, women, elderly, pregnant ladies, we do it all. If you hurt your ankle, we’ll take care of you. If you are a pregnant lady who has bleeding, we’ll take care of you. If you’re a child with a fever, we’ll take care of you,” Rainey says.
Four residents training in the field of family medicine are chosen each year, and they stay in the program for three years. Currently, there are eight family medicine residents working in Concourse. “We try to train them to see the problems in what we call the ‘model for healthy living.’ It may not just be a medical problem. How does their job factor into that? How does their housing factor into that? How does their faith life factor in? How can we address those things to create greater healing within the person?” Rainey asks.
One month of the residents’ training year is focused on learning about the social determinants of health, which Rainey says tends to be related to poverty. Through that part of their training, the residents may participate in activities, like a planned cooking class next month where residents and their patients will together learn to cook healthier meals.
The IRIS Artist Fellows Program is a one-year residency for emerging professional musicians. It combines orchestral playing, chamber performance, and teaching artistry with a focus on community building and social equity. It’s only the second year for the program, but it’s the first at Concourse. This year’s three fellows — Marcos Santos (violinist from Brazil), Dara Hankins (cellist from Virginia), and Eugenio Figueroa (violist from Puerto Rico) — have been housed at Concourse since July.
“Our fellowship is a diversity initiative so it is designed to address the under-representation of African Americans and Latinos in classical music,” says Rebecca Arendt, IRIS Orchestra’s director of community initiatives and artist fellows coordinator. “We do a national search, and then they are selected based on an application that includes a resume and essays and audition videos.”
Once chosen, the fellows are expected to spend 20 hours a week working as a music mentor in Shelby County Schools through IRIS’ partnership with the Memphis Music Initiative, which is also housed within Concourse. Music mentors are able to provide opportunities that wouldn’t necessarily happen with just one teacher in a classroom.
“They’re another set of eyes on the students, to help them feel seen and capable at what they’re doing,” Arendt says.
Additionally, the fellows spend 15-20 hours per week engaging in outreach concerts and working with community groups to bring orchestra music to places in the city that typically don’t have access. Since this residency year has begun, the fellows have worked with daycare and preschool children at Hope House, which serves children affected by HIV, and played music for children in one of the long-term care units at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. They also hosted a free, lunchtime concert series in the Medical District through a partnership with the Medical District Collaborative.
“Our fellowship has a very strong mission towards community involvement and using music as a tool for social justice,” Arendt says. “So they’re not only spending time in the schools but they’re engaging the community at large.
And that’s not all. The fellows are also full-time members of the IRIS Orchestra, which plays host to 190 musicians from all over the world. They gather five times a year in Germantown for five concert weeks, and the IRIS Artist Fellows will perform in those concerts.
“IRIS Orchestra has a very good reputation throughout the U.S.,” says Artist Fellow Figueroa, who said he chose to apply for the program to help him transition into a professional orchestra career. “This gives us a chance to play with people who are already doing what we’re hoping to do.”
More information: http://irisorchestra.org/artist-fellows-program/
“Students wanted to work with us. They wanted references to medical school. They wanted to know how to be successful in this kind of work, working in a community from the ground up. So they would come and rake our leaves or do other chores, and we’d write them a letter of recommendation,” says Alan Swistak, organizational development coordinator at Church Health.
That was the mid-1990s when the program was called Clinic Assistance. But it was formalized into the Church Health Scholars program about five years ago. And these days, the Scholars do much more than rake leaves. They get hands-on experience working alongside medical professionals at Church Health in Crosstown Concourse.
“It’s a one-year, gap-year program for recent undergrad students who have gotten their degrees. They’re looking to pursue careers in the medical field, either as providers or working in public health,” Swistak says. “When they come in to work with us, they’re not students; they’re learners. They’re here to learn through experiences and learn from their mentors.”
Each year, 10-20 Scholars (this year, there are 13), all in their gap year before beginning a graduate program, are placed into positions in Church Health’s referral clinic, dental clinic, and in the Well (Church Health’s children’s wellness program). Not all Scholars live at Crosstown Concourse, but everyone reports to work there daily, 40 hours a week. They’re also given full employment benefits. “Some of the most popular positions are in our referral clinic. We have at least four open positions there every year. They work with patients to help schedule appointments and send them out to outside providers. They also set up the in-house specialty clinics,” Swistak says.
Like Church Health’s wider mission, which seeks to reclaim the Church’s biblical commitment to caring for body and spirit, the Church Health Scholars focus on that intersection of faith and health. Scholars get to know one another at organized social get-togethers every three months, and they’re expected to participate in planned service activities, such as a recent volunteer day at Jacob’s Well, where they prepared dinner for people experiencing homelessness.
“Every three months, we do learning programs. The first one focuses on the social determinants of health — those socio-economic factors that contribute to poverty and bad health. We do a simulation of living in poverty through the University of Tennessee extension program,” Swistak says.
Church Health Scholars began taking applications for its next season on October 16 and will be accepting them through February. More information: https://churchhealth.org/apply-become-scholar/