by Elle Perry
The Memphis Music Initiative began its five-year, $20 million program to strengthen music engagement among youth in 2014.
And, three years into that work, the organization’s founding director of partnerships and operations has struck out on his own — as chief executive and innovation officer of the new Memphis Arts Engine.
North Carolina-native Deron Hall founded the Memphis Arts Engine as of June 1, with office space in the same Cooper Young building as Young Avenue Sound.
A social impact design firm, Memphis Arts Engine will work through two different segments: Co-Pilot, a full-service consultancy for those working in the arts and culture fields and a Social Impact Engine accelerator, for people who have an arts or cultural idea but need help executing.
So far, the group’s Co-Pilot segment already has 12 clients, ranging from individual artists to foundation leaders. Both local and national groups have expressed interest in the service.
Co-Pilot program will serve as the organization’s revenue and partnership generator while providing solutions support for the accelerator.
Hall said he was inspired to create the Memphis Arts Engine after an “Eat Pray Love” moment during his honeymoon in Bali earlier this year.
He thinks there are five areas that are not “well attended to” in the local art world: arts policy partnerships; cultural vibrancy/civic engagement; business partnership and development; marketing; and development/technical assistance.
“Who sees it as their responsibility to fundraise for everyone, not just the organizations in their portfolio?” Hall asked.
Hall is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati — College-Conservatory of Music (where he studied music education and the French horn) and the executive program in arts and culture strategy at the University of Pennsylvania.
He serves on grant panels for the Heinz Endowments and the National Endowments for the Arts. At the Memphis Music Initiative, Hall directed global partnerships, operations, philanthropy and research. His previous art administration background includes serving as the founding executive director of the Cincinnati Outreach Music Project and working as a graduate research fellow at the University of Cincinnati.
In Memphis, he also worked at Westhaven Elementary School and Trezevant High School.
Hall said he is interested in surfacing the cultural assets of Memphis neighborhoods.
“Memphis has over 100 neighborhoods but we only talk about north, south, east, Midtown and Downtown,” he said.
Memphis Arts Engine is Memphis-based, but Hall said the world has a lot to learn from the Bluff City.
“I think Memphis is going to be the capital of social entrepreneurship in the nation,” Hall said. “This work is really about the joy, well-being and the radical imagination.”
Memphis Arts Engine’s staff includes Hall, an assistant and a suite of about 10 consultants.