At first glance Brownsville, in the heart of cotton country east of Memphis, might seem like other Delta towns with interesting historic districts. But what’s that gray metal structure rising above the downtown? A tall building going up? A power plant? Something from the set of a film? Not even close. Mindfield is, in the words of a longtime Brownsville resident, “a man’s life in steel.” It’s the ongoing work of Brownsville native Billy Tripp, and even in the world of visionary folk art, not easy to classify. The construction, which Tripp began in 1988, includes a salvaged water tank, a fire tower, and an embellished Harley-Davidson named Sylvia. It is the largest work of art in the state; some elements top 100 feet in height. It reminds some of the Watts Tower in Los Angeles, but Mindfield is a uniquely personal ever-changing vision.
While in Brownsville, stop by the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center. The music room pays tribute to jazz, blues, and rock greats who were born or lived in the area, including Tina Turner, Yank Rachell, Hammie Nixon, and Sleepy John Estes. Next time you hear the song “Delta Dawn” and Tanya Tucker sings, “All the folks in Brownsville think she’s crazy,” you’ll know exactly where the town is located.
Mindfield open daily year-round. Heritage Center open Mon.–Fri. year-round.