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STREETSEEN  |  Carolyn Pollan

Photo by Steve Roberts

Capturing Local Color and Charm: The Creativity of Carolyn Pollan

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

Native Memphian Carolyn Pollan, 70, says she has been doing “creative stuff” all of her life. But it has been only in the last six years that she has seriously pushed it, finding it to be a form of personal therapy.

“I grew up in a household of seven people, in an 1100 square foot home,” recalls Pollan. “My creative endeavors were a sort of attempt to create my own personal space, my own land of make-believe. When I was 7 or 8 years old, I remember hand-sewing dresses for my baby dolls. I could always visualize the way I wanted things to turn out—and didn’t realize that everybody else did not naturally have that same ability.”

When it comes to her art, Pollan said that she never had any formal training.

“I did take an art class in 8th grade at Colonial Junior High School, but it didn’t really make an impact on me at that time,” explained Pollan. “And later, I went to Memphis State for a couple of years and tried painting with acrylics.”

However, it wasn’t until 2011 when Pollan’s brother-in-law took their entire family on a Greek Islands cruise from Istanbul to Athens that Pollan found her artistic muse.

“I had always wanted to see the Greek Islands,” explained Pollan. “And I quickly realized that instead of taking photographs that I wanted to paint these scenes.”

So she picked up a $5 travel-sized set of watercolors and a pad, and thus began her odyssey with watercolors.

“I painted 12 scenes from Turkey to the Greek Islands,” recalled Pollan. “I painted most of the scenes from the balcony of our cruise ship, painting what I had sketched the previous day. That year for Christmas all 12 trip participants received a set of 12 notecards—that’s how the watercolor notecard thing started.”

The notecards became cherished keepsakes from the family’s trip. And as other people saw them, folks began asking if there were more notecards available. To keep the images personal in nature, Pollan began painting scenes from her home and garden.

“I’m a gardener and I enjoyed capturing the images of the plants as they came into bloom,” said Pollan. “And more travel-based cards came about as my brother-in-law took us next to Bermuda, Puerto Rico and London. With each trip, I painted 12 watercolor scenes.”

And with each set of notecards, Pollan honed her artistic skills, realizing that she truly did have a gift and that she enjoyed sharing it with others through her artwork. It was when one of her friends opened a shop in Rossville that Pollan’s art began to circulate more widely.

“I was asked to do 12 watercolors of iconic scenes from Rossville—to make into notecard sets,” said Pollan. “I was just thinking notecards, but then people whose houses I painted wanted to buy the original full-size watercolors. Next a lady asked me to do notecards with images from Collierville. Then the same thing happened with scenes from Germantown and Memphis, as well as Hernando.”

Now, in addition to town-based images, Pollan has started capturing the charm of various local neighborhoods: Cooper-Young, Overton Square, Broad Avenue, Summer Avenue, the Highland Strip, as well as food trucks and area barbecue joints.

“For one of my next projects, I’m working on a series of 12 houses from my own neighborhood, East Buntyn, that I will launch at our East Buntyn Art Walk in the spring,” said Pollan. “Other areas under consideration for the future include Central Gardens, Harbor Town, South Main and Beale Street.”

For Pollan, painting from photos is much about memories. And those memories seem to resonate with others.

“Since I was 20 years old I have taken photographs around Memphis of buildings and places that I love,” recalled Pollan. “Now some of those images are turning up in my artwork. My notecards provide a tangible reminder of places, like a little taste of home,” concluded Pollan. “And they are a special way to send a bit of home to friends and family, and are also purchased as framable miniatures.”

For those wanting to add their own artistic flair to Pollan’s images, she has recently started reproducing the artwork from her notecards to make adult coloring books. Her work is available locally at Bingham and Broad, Burke’s Book Store and Diane’s Gift & Art on Overton Park.

For more information about Carolyn Pollan and her art, check out her page “Carolyn Pollan” on Facebook, or shop her products on Etsy at RoyalBeeArtCompany. Or contact her at carolynwpollan@gmail.com.

STREETSEEN  |  Memphis Second Line Jazz Band

Photo by Steve Roberts

Making Music: And All That Jazz

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

Bringing the sound of New Orleans style jazz to the streets of Memphis, that was the inspiration for the founding of Memphis Second Line Jazz Band. The actual event that catalyzed the group’s beginning came in the form of a phone call. An out-of-the-blue phone call to Ellis Adams Keplinger, requesting help to make someone’s birthday really special. The hostesses of the party wanted to give their friend, who absolutely adores New Orleans, the next best thing to being there—a second line parade.

The tricky part was that the party was little more than 48 hours away.

Ellis took up the challenge. A recent graduate of Christian Brothers High, he had participated in the CBHS band program all four years of high school. In addition to being in the pep band and concert band, for the last two years he had been a member of the school’s historic band and its jazz band. Ellis was ready on bass drum and he completed the group with former CBHS bandmates Diego Garcia on snare drum, Daniel Smith on clarinet, Andrew Devall on trumpet, as well as trumpet player Jason Cooper, a current bandmate from the Mighty Sound of the South marching band at the University of Memphis. In less than 24 hours, Ellis had assembled a band. By the time of the party, the group had a prepared setlist for the event.

Gathering on the sidewalk outside of the Madison Hotel, the band members dressed simply in what would soon become their “uniform.” Long-sleeved white shirts, jeans, and a funky tie. Some of the ties sported musical motifs, others had New Orleans images. And of course, the guys wore Mardi Gras beads.

“When the birthday party exited the hotel’s dining room and came down the stairs to the main lobby, the birthday girl had no idea what had been planned for the next part of her evening,” recalled Ellis. “As soon as their entourage stepped outside onto the sidewalk, we began playing 'Second Line Parade.’ Her hostesses began pulling their own Mardi Gras beads out of their purses, along with a parasol they presented to their honoree. There was a definite shift in the atmosphere as everyone became really excited by our music.”

The band led the birthday party southward down the pedestrian mall. Along the way, they drew more curious glances from passersby and diners in sidewalk cafes and restaurants. The magic of the music seemed to be contagious to everyone within ear shot. People flocked to the procession, joining in and waving their napkins. Other people ran alongside the band, taking pictures and videos. It was not a sight usually seen in Memphis, yet it felt so familiar to those who had spent time in the Crescent City. Ultimately, the procession reached its final destination—Beale Street. As the birthday girl started to offer her thank you’s to the group for making her birthday one to remember, Ellis politely stopped her, saying that they had one more song they wanted to play for her.

“We broke into a jazzy rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ and the crowd on Beale Street spontaneously joined in,” said Ellis. “It was just one of those unplanned things that really capped off our performance.”

Since that first performance, Memphis Second Line Jazz Band has played a variety of gigs; a wedding and an after-party for a wedding, Fourth of July parades, the annual Words Matter event and the opening of the Mid-South Book Festival, as well as the opening of the Southern Junkers Market in Overton Square. They also performed at the Woodruff-Fontaine House for Haunted Happenings, and the fourth annual Memphis Masquerade Ball, held at The Guest House at Graceland. During the holidays, they even played for Santa. When he landed by helicopter at the Pink Palace Museum, the band led a crowd of 650-700 people in a second line procession from the museum’s front lawn to the main lobby as Santa opened the Enchanted Forest.

Eight months after founding the band, Ellis has added several instruments and musicians to the Memphis Second Line Jazz Band roster; Cameron Benson on sousaphone, Sam Ellis and Andrew Scherson on saxophone, Freedman Steorts on trombone, and Ian Shapiro, Miguel Pilcher and Reno Warmath on snare drum. The result is a collection of some of the finest young musicians in Memphis. The band utilizes five or six band members per performance, each selected to accommodate booking requests.

“We’ve had a great time playing different venues around town,” said Ellis. “It is very gratifying to see people respond so favorably to our brand of jazz and we appreciate everyone who has turned out to support us.”

To learn more about Memphis Second Line Jazz Band, follow them on Facebook (Memphis Second Line Jazz Band) and Instagram (@jazzinthe901) or send an email to 901secondlinejazz@gmail.com