Bravo Memphis: Local Arts + Local Food = Awesome

I was at a meeting the other day with my friend Julia McDonald, who in addition to being the Director of Marketing and Communications at ArtsMemphis is a big support of Eat Local Memphis and the Eat Local movement. We were chatting about Bravo Memphis, the young arts group that I’ve been a part of for the past 5 or 6 years, at least as long as I’ve been in Memphis after college. After a year of membership, I bucked up and joined the leadership council, and they still (evidently) like having me around.

Art has played a formative role in my life,  so it was an easy sell to get me to join Bravo and then, later, to really try to support the project. I think Bravo is a no-brainer for a five spot of reasons:

  • Cost Quality Ratio – One of the most important calculations in deciding if a restaurant is a good value is my “patented” (not really) formula. The cost of Bravo shakes down to be about $10 per event, which includes admission to an event, beer, wine, and food. Without drinking High Life, Boone’s Farm, or Milwaukee’s Best Ice Light, there aren’t too many places where you can get 2 drinks for $10, let alone a ticket to a play and some food out of it. Think about it.
  • Eat Local – Of the six upcoming Bravo events this spring, 5 of them have local restaurants attached as food sponsors. From Trolley Stop to the Three Angels Diner, you can sample some of our best local places.
  • Cool People – I’m not saying that I’m cool, but I’m also not saying that I’m not. The crowd that goes to Bravo includes a lot of nice, fun people that are interested in going out, checking out the arts, and generally being legit.
  • Great Events – I don’t know about you, but I like seeing things like plays, musicals, exhibits, recitals, dance parties, and so on. It gives you a good, cultured Facebook status that will make your other friends think that you are smarter, generally more handsome (or pretty), and slightly more dangerous in an intellectual way than they did a few minutes before. Win-win.
  • Patronage – As much as I’d like to say this bullet point in about Patron, what I’m really saying is that Memphis is full of outstanding creative talents. In the old days wealthy families would take care of these geniuses, so that they could practice their art. Nowadays, it is up to us to buy tickets and make donations as a group, so that our community can be full of the people that make Memphis so much better than your average city. Part of Memphis’ life blood is food, art, and music. If we support those that make that for us, then we all end up the better.

Enough of my bullet points, I know they are irresistible and my argument undeniable, but I’ve decided to really bring out the big guns. Interview style. I sat Julia down to get the scoop about Bravo and their upcoming collaborations with local restaurants.

PHASE I – The Bravo Interview

Eat Local Memphis: Julia, even though I’ve been an active member of Bravo for about 6 years, will you give me (and the readers) a refresher on what it’s all about?

Julia McDonald: Bravo is a fun, social way for people aged 21-40 to experience the arts through unique monthly events. There are 8+ Bravo events each season, and each get-together includes a reception with wine and apps along with a performance or exhibition at an arts venue. The group introduces people to like-minded professionals as well as Memphis’ cool, diverse arts scene.

What is the Bravo connection to ArtsMemphis, and what does ArtsMemphis do?

Bravo is a membership level of ArtsMemphis, a nonprofit grant-making organization. ArtsMemphis raises funds to support the arts across our community. We give project and operating support to arts organizations, fund arts education and outreach for students, enable the underserved to experience the arts for free and enhance and build audiences for the arts and culture. Last year we allocated $4.3 million to the community through 250 grants, so we really do have a pretty significant impact on the arts in Memphis.

I think it is so cool that you are purposely partnering your art events with local restaurants! What are the remaining events and their food partners?

It’s great to get to incorporate local restaurants into our events. This year is especially fun since we’re featuring food from several new restaurants. We’ve already had events with The Majestic Grille, Huey’s, The Four Way and Escape Alley Sundry. There are 6 events remaining in this Bravo season, and this is what we’re planning:

January 20: Opera Memphis’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Playhouse on the Square with food provided by our fabulous Bravo sponsor The Uptown Grocer

February 22: Art Tour at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, then heading over to Trolley Stop Market

March 3: Voices of the South’s Cicada at Theatre Works, with food from 3 Angels Diner

March 24: Film with Indie Memphis at the Malco Summer Drive-In with food from the concession stand!

May 4: The Foreigner at Germantown Community Theatre (food TBD)

June 30: Footloose at Playhouse on the Square (we’re hoping to partner with Cortona, the new Italian restaurant opening in Dish’s former Cooper-Young space)

Food from the Four Way

So, a membership that gets you into all of these awesome shows and food local restaurants AND free wine and beer must be priceless, correct? Seriously, what does it take to join?

We’re offering half-season discounted rates right now (join online here). For all 6 events left this season, the price is only $65 for a single membership and $90 for a double membership. To put that in perspective, it would cost $66 for a couple to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream on a typical Thursday night at regular prices. So, $90 for that event plus five others and food and drinks?! That’s a pretty good deal…

Tell me a little about the members that you have? (maybe a little description of the typical members?)

We have about 200 members this season, and honestly our “typical member” is not from Memphis. A lot of Bravo members are young professionals who are on the scene, involved in other community-based groups like MPACT and interested in know how they can get plugged in with what’s happening in the city.

Members at the Kick-off Party

I think one of the cool things about the group is that while most people are young professionals, there is still a lot of diversity, whether in career path or *gasp* whether they grew up in M-town or outside of it. Personally, I think that as a lifelong Memphian, it would be easy for me to just stay in my same old group, so I’ve really appreciated meeting people that didn’t go to Buntyn Preschool with me. Thoughts?

Very true! Bravo is a great mix of people who are from Memphis and who are new to town. It’s a fun, unintimidating way to engage with our city and to become more familiar with our arts scene. That goes for people who are from Memphis or not. I think we appeal to a diverse group of people because we have a diverse set of events. For instance, this season we saw an exhibition at the Brooks, one of the cornerstones of the arts in Memphis, and we partnered with Neosoulville, which creates and programs African-American cultural events, for one of its Soul Cinema screenings of 70s Blaxploitation. We like to go to more established venues and explore the emerging art and artists in Memphis.

What’s the deal with this ArtsCard that comes as part of the membership?

An ArtsCard is a benefit that comes with all levels of membership to ArtsMemphis. It looks like a credit card and gives you 2-for-1 admission to most nonprofit arts venues in town. We support so many different organizations in Memphis through operating and project support, and we want people to get out there and see the amazing work they’re doing! Half-price tickets are a great way for our members to experience first-hand the arts community that they are supporting.

PHASE II – The Food Interview

Julia, you’ve been a supporter of the Eat Local movement from before there ever was one. Why do you think it is important to eat locally?

I appreciate the attention to ingredients, the commitment to authenticity and the point of view that come across in a local restaurant. Local restaurants and food help create a city’s (or a neighborhood’s) personality and culture, and I want to support smaller, independent businesses and business owners. The fare is always better than at any chain restaurant – honestly, how could you ever eat at On The Border when Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana is down the street?! Food made with heart, skill, creativity and pride is a lot easier to find in a local restaurant, from a hole-in-the-wall barbeque joint to Erling Jensen.

Where would we be most likely to find you on a Sunday during brunch?

The Beauty Shop has the best brunch in town! When I’m not there, my family has the post-church rotation down: The Brushmark, Restaurant Iris and my mom’s perennial favorite, Paulette’s.

Food from Huey's

Where would you send your college roommate if they were in Memphis on their birthday?

The most fun for a girls’ night is Mollie Fontaine Lounge. My husband and I are absolutely obsessed with Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen for a special occasion (or pretty much any occasion). Other places where you can never go wrong: Bari, McEwen’s on Monroe or Tsunami.

What are the last 3 local places that you ate?
This week: dinner at Abyssinia (the vegetarian platter is killer!), lunch at the Mantia’s counter at Lucchesi’s. On Sunday we went for brunch at Iris, which was a collaboration between chef Kelly English and Jonathan Magallanes from Las Tortugas. Amazing!

Anything else to share?

Speaking of eating local…this fall ArtsMemphis published Wild Abundance, a cookbook celebrating the recipes and convivial spirit of the kitchen of Southern duck hunting clubs. Fabulous chefs – John Besh, Karen Carrier, John Currence, Derek Emerson, Kelly English, Martha Foose, Alex Grisanti, Donald Link and Lee Richardson – contributed the chapters of this one-of-a-kind book!

The End

Hopefully I’ll see some of you all out on the 20th at Playhouse on the Square for A Midsummer Night’s Dream! See you there!


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