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Mid-South Coliseum artwork reflects father-daughter magic

by Liaudwin Seaberry Jr. —

From a young age, Memphis textile and graphic artist Theo James knew what his career focus would be centered around – the arts.

“I was that kid that would be sitting in the corner drawing my favorite cartoon characters or doing something of that nature,” James said, recalling his start in the art industry. 

From that point on, James began patterning his airbrush style of art, perfecting his craft. 

From styling T-shirts in his neighborhood to establishing his own art business, his wisdom and experience has allowed him to modernize his artistic techniques, while still applying the methods he became known for. 

James’s daughter, Nisa Williams, a senior at Crosstown High School, took after her father and has developed her artistic skills, progressing with advice from both her father and her classes at school.

At the behest of the Coliseum Coalition, advocates for the revitalization of the legendary Mid-South Coliseum, James and Williams collaborated over the summer, painting six 15-by-15 feet murals. 

The artwork, located on the outside of the Coliseum, was completed by the end of summer. 

The murals represent Memphis culture, talent, justice, community, passion and imagination. 

The murals represent Memphis culture, talent, justice, community, passion and imagination. (Courtesy photo)

For James, the project has helped put the bow on a more than 30-year career in a way he couldn’t have foreseen.

“I would have never thought that I would get a chance to work on a project with my daughter of this nature, and it’s certainly been a blessing for me to have done that,” James said.

Despite growing up around the arts, Williams insisted her passion for art was organic and that she chose to pursue this pathway herself. 

“You would think that my dad pushed me into the arts, but from a young age, I pursued it myself. There was no pressure from my father to go down the same pathway as him.” 

Williams became more motivated when she went on a Civil Rights Movement for Education trip in New York City. As a result, she and a few classmates at Crosstown High designed a few murals around the school, catching the eye of Marvin Stockwell, a member of the Coliseum Coalition. 

With funding from the coalition, Williams and her father went to work carving out the layout for the Coliseum project. 

The murals are a testament to father-daughter creativity. (Courtesy photos)

Despite the size of the murals, Williams knew that her father could fill in the holes she missed. That knowledge energized her to keep pushing forward. 

Her determination surprised James.

“There were times that I felt like saying ‘Ok, we can complete a few more strokes and we will be done for the day.’ but Nisa would want to keep going,” James said. “She inspired me at times, and I think that we worked really well off one another.”

For Williams, the project represents the beginning of her art goals and aspirations. She wants to attend art school, and the Coliseum project played a huge role in confirming that for her. 

“Being able to work with my dad and making something as special as we did makes me feel really good and I am looking to producing more art in the future.”

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