“We want joy to be seen as a human right, not something accessible based on privilege.”
Ebony Archie and Coresa Hogan are the founders of MEMFOLK, a Memphis-based experience brand that creates culturally immersive spaces that build communities.
Two friends in the creative profession, Ebony and Coresa saw a need for Southern spaces and art installations aimed at evoking Black joy.
“We’re both from cities that are majority-minority,” Ebony shared. “We both grew up in the South, and people have negative impressions about that sometimes. But we love where we’re from. It’s an area rich with deep history and culture, and the South has formed so much of our identities and even shaped our creative eye.”
After such an exhausting year, the pair hope to bring light, refreshment, and mental wellness to their community.
MEMFOLK’s first three main installations take the form of spaces inside 125 square foot shipping containers where visitors (two at a time) could encounter the installed exhibit. Their projects have included FLOWERBOX, which placed the visitor in a human-sized flower box for a grounding experience; SKYBOX, which surrounded the viewer’s bodies with clouds as if they were skywalking; and GIFTBOX, built to look like a life-sized wrapped present.
Coresa and Ebony met in 2017 when they were both fashion bloggers. They discovered that they both loved traveling, and began seeking out immersive experiences and art shows around the country and even internationally.
“Our idea for MEMFOLK was born when we traveled to Cuba and visited an art installation that had been converted from an old oil factory into an Afro-Cuban art space,” recalled Coresa. “We fell in love with the concept and wanted to bring it to our own community and place of heritage—the American South.”
Between the two, Coresa and Ebony have travelled over 31,000 miles visiting art installations and place-making initiates. After seeing what had already existed, and knowing it didn’t fully capture the urban experience, they knew it was time to take their own crack at crafting place-based spaces.
With their idea intact, MEMFOLK was ready to get to work. All it needed was a little bit of direction and support.
“I kept reading in entrepreneurship articles and magazines about a business’s need for a champion—someone who would highlight your work and connect you to customers, resources, and mentors,” said Ebony.
They found that champion in Epicenter Memphis, the local entrepreneurship hub. Both Ebony and Coresa went through the CO.STARTERS Core program powered by Epicenter. There, they forged lasting relationships with other local businesses as well as mentors and resource providers.
“We want to create joyful environments for people of color, and that means places to be silly. Where you can be silly, you can be safe.”
“CO.STARTERS made a huge difference,” Ebony shared. “Both in terms of the tangible tools and resources from the program itself, and the people we met. We leveraged our CO.STARTERS experience as much as possible, from the sessions to the guest speakers, to the pitch night at the end. Epicenter and CO.STARTERS really became our champions.”
Coresa agreed: “I was actually just invited to an entrepreneurship conference in Birmingham, and four or five of the speakers were from the Birmingham CO.STARTERS program. So the local hub in Memphis is an awesome resource, and now we get to tap into this regional and national network that CO.STARTERS has.”
MEMFOLK is now busy preparing for their next big project. Ebony and Coresa have been resting as the pandemic intensified this winter, but they’re ready to bring more ideas to life in the Memphis area—and perhaps in other Southern cities.
However, as they grow and thrive, MEMFOLK will remain focused on their customers—and specifically on urban communities.
“For the longest time,” Coresa said, “Black folks in the South have been excluded from experiencing joy. For both historical reasons and current negative stereotypes. We want to create joyful environments for people of color, and that means places to be silly. Where you can be silly, you can be safe.”
To see MEMFOLK’s work and hear about upcoming projects, check out their Instagram page @memfolk and sign up for their newsletter!