Cooper-Young Community Association wouldn’t be what it is without our neighbors. They volunteer. They own businesses. They contribute their ideas and their passion to the Cooper-Young community. Each month, we will highlight a Member of the Month who gives back and embodies the spirit of our hip, historic community. The MOTM for July is Karen Capps, local artist and long time CY resident. Her art is well-known in these parts. She has been commissioned by groups such as the Mojo Awards. Here, she discusses her art and how Cooper-Young contributes to her creations.  If you would like to be involved in what makes CYCA great or recommend a Member of the Month, email

How long have you lived in CY?

I have lived in this house since 1994, prior to that I lived on Elzey for a couple of years.

What is your favorite thing about CY?

I love it that I can walk or ride a bike or scooter to my favorite bar/pub and restaurants. 

Tell us about your art.

I make mixed media collages, combining painting on wood with discarded objects such as bottle caps, rusted small tools, vintage toys, cigarette lighters, antique bottles, fishing line floats, broken jewelry, rusty nails, hair clips, keys, broken glass, dog tags. I find materials in juke joint parking lots, historic dump sites, abandoned places, riverbanks, garages and basements at estate sales. My work has roots in aspects of the Southern experience. Much of it draws on my childhood spent in the wilds of Arkansas. A major theme in my repertoire is the blues heritage of the Mississippi Delta and Hill Country. Planning a show, I decide on a theme which is often topical. Research includes books about biographies and history, personal anecdotes, news media, and visiting sites. I research the music and lives of historic or living influential musicians and and places. For building and structure portraits, I study their use and historical or personal significance and draw scaled patterns based on photographs. I collect materials on site whenever I can. For commissioned home portraits, I ask clients to bring me mementos of their lives spent there, junk drawer things that can’t be thrown away for their emotional significance. My Flotsam/Jetsam show was centered around the recent historic flooding in Memphis, so I used a lot of debris that was left behind after the waters receded.

I want the viewer to have an emotional response my art. The experience can be surprising, funny, curious, delightful, poignant, or even sad. I aim to engage the viewer into some sort of discovery, be it in learning something new about the subject’s history, or in a visual treasure hunt through the layers of material in the pieces.  

How does CY inspire your art?

I have an art studio and a screen print shop in my backyard but I also enjoy making art in the backyard under the old pecan tree. 

What’s your favorite CY event of the year and why?

Fall in Cooper Young brings Tiger Football and tailgating. We have a tailgating group call CY Tailgaters (duh), our theme is “we cross the street”.

Where can we find you on a Friday or Saturday night?

On Thursday at Aldo’s, 4:30. Friday I usually get together with my girl at her house or mine to just chill, sit on the porch and drink a few beers. Saturday’s is a toss up. 

Tell us a good CY story.

I had a friend break my porch swing then pester the mess out of me to get rid of it. So, to shut her up I put it on the street and it was picked up immediately. A few weeks went by and I saw it on Elzey propped up against a telephone pole, a few more weeks went by and I saw it on Nelson, a few more weeks went by and I came home and it was on my neighbors porch. He had fixed it and repainted it. He had a new renter moving in and the guy brought his own porch swing so he gave it back to me, fixed and repainted. It’s now hanging on my porch again. 

What do I want to see happen in CY in the future?

We need rainbow crosswalks!

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