We use the Arts to strengthen and advance communities, and the people who live in them.

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What is ArtUp?

ArtUp is an organization that integrates Arts, Culture, and Community Engaged Design into community development.

Arts as a tool for change.

We believe the arts have the power to create equity and improve the quality of life in disinvested communities of color.

Communities have a seat at the table

It’s all about equity. The community has a say in the process and decides how to best use the Arts to meet their needs.

Why do we do this?

Because (like the communities we serve) we see the wealth of creativity, passion, and beauty that exists in neighborhoods rather than just the blight, crime, and unemployment that so often plagues them.

Here’s what we’re doing about it.

We’re using the Arts to redefine places, reimagine spaces, and invest in people to create sustainable communities of color.

Learn more about the work.

Our work is centered on using arts-based strategies to help disinvested communities of color. It was born out of a need to find new ways to solve old challenges in these communities.
We form partnerships with neighborhood residents and their organizations, supporting them by building their skills and knowledge in how to use the arts to revitalize their community. This enables them to sit at the table to co-plan and co-manage the projects that directly benefit them.

Learn How You Can Help

The Fellows Program

The Fellows Program consists of a series of workshops, conferences, and site visits around the country to teach artists, neighborhood leaders, and others art-based strategies to address community revitalization.

Apply for Our Fellows Program Here

“Boy am I thankful for you, your heart and the opportunities you have worked so hard for us to have to learn and grow and do better!!!…..”

–Orange Mound Resident

Social Enterprise Program

The social enterprise program identifies arts-based startups in disinvested communities and provides them with technical assistance, capacity-building, and seed funding.


Our work employs a new strategy that enables communities to reduce unemployment, remove blight, and eliminate crime.

Community Engaged Design

A process that brings together architects and organizers with communities so that residents can have a say in reimagining how their neighborhoods can look.

Community Skills Mapping & Evaluation

A process to uncover a neighborhood’s skills, talents, and assets so that they can be used to benefit the entire community.

Founders & Team

Linda Steele

Founder & CEO

Linda Steele is the Founder and CEO of ArtUp, a project that began as a community engagement initiative at ArtsMemphis to use the Arts as a tool for social change in disinvested communities. In 2014, Steele launched the Fellows program to build the capacity of Memphis arts groups, artists, and neighborhood leaders in the emerging field of arts-based community development and has presented the work to audiences all across the country. Her work has received numerous awards such as the inaugural Robert E. Gard Award from Americans for the Arts and an Artworks grant from The National Endowment for the Arts. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Linda has used her arts management expertise to help open the first arts-based private pre-school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She has served in leadership positions at Urban Gateways: Center for Arts Education, The Art Institute of Chicago, and Cool Culture, Inc. and has an extensive background in youth development and education. She is a graduate of Amherst College and Harvard University.

Chris McLeod

Co-Founder + Chief Strategy & Branding Officer

Chris McLeod is Co-Founder and Chief Strategy & Branding Officer for ArtUp.  He began supporting the work in 2014 as a consultant to ArtsMemphis, helping artists and arts organizations learn how to use a strategic marketing approach to build arts audiences and engage underserved communities.  He is a regular speaker at various conferences around the country, sharing his knowledge and expertise about place branding and arts-based social change initiatives. A native of the Bronx, NY, Chris’s marketing and branding career started with some of the top Advertising, Digital, and Branding agencies in the world on such notable accounts as: ExxonMobil, Hyatt, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Humana, and Microsoft. Based in Washington D.C. He received a B.A. from Amherst College and an M.B.A. in Marketing from Howard University.

Amy King Ruggaber

Fellows Program Manager

Amy King Ruggaber is an arts programming specialist, teaching artist, performer, writer, and arts advocate. She graduated from the Community Engagement Fellows Program in 2015 and assumed the management of that program the following year.  Previously, she served as the Associate Executive Director of the innovative theatre company, Playback Memphis and as the Director of Education and Community Outreach for Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati in Ohio.  Deeply committed to shining a light on the vital role of the arts in communities, Amy participates in arts advocacy efforts through her involvement with the Americans for the Arts and the Tennesseans for the Arts. A native of North Carolina, she graduated from UNC-Charlotte with a degree in Vocal Music Education.

Hannah Lewellen

Impact Designer

Hannah Lewellen is a recent graduate of Rhodes College, where she received her BA in Art. Through her Bonner Service Scholarship, she jumped into the wild world of the arts in Memphis. Since moving to the city in 2012, she has been involved with a number of local projects, including the Cooper Young Mural Project, Unsheltered: Unseen, and the R.E.P. Summer Art Camp.

Paul Thomas


Paul Thomas, known as the “Recycle King”, is an artist and designer based in Memphis, TN. As the Artist in Residence for ArtUp, his first project was to transform a former liquor store into what is now the Orange Mound Gallery. The Gallery is located in the historic Orange Mound neighborhood, of which his family has been a part for 6 generations. His work focuses on using recycled materials and discarded items to create beautifully unique pieces of art. In 2016, his private collection of vintage clothing was featured in fashion shows celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the Brooks Museum. He has also been a featured designer in the Curbside Couture annual recycling show at the Clinton Museum for the past 6 years, where he also created fashion pieces called “Moving Art” out of recyclable Coke products to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Coca-Cola’s iconic bottle. He took 1st place in the 2014 Curb Couture Trashion Show, sponsored by City Memphis Beautiful. Paul is a strong advocate for cleaning up the environment, encouraging people to be creative with their resources.



119 South Court Avenue, Suite 100
Memphis, TN 38103

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