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Story by Audrey Hanes, Photo by Amy Long

The city of Jonesboro has long been supportive of its thriving arts scene, especially when it comes to the Downtown Jonesboro area. Numerous art galleries, music venues and theaters all serve as popular downtown destinations for everything from live music to visual arts, and thanks to one man’s vision and passion, Downtown Jonesboro is now home to TheArts@311, a new collective of musicians and artists that celebrates anything and everything about local music and the arts.

Dr. Carl J. Abraham, the owner of Infectious Disease Control Consultants, moved to Jonesboro in 2001 with his wife, Patty, and two daughters, Corinne and Gabrielle. He has enjoyed practicing both music and medicine in the city since his move and plays the drums in several different local bands and ensembles, including Tumbledown Shack, a Stone Temple Pilots cover band and the Delta Symphony Brass Quintet.

“Really, I’ll play with anyone; I’m always up for jamming,” he said. “I used to play at Gracie’s every week. When it closed, I didn’t have anywhere to play. When it came time for me to move into a new office, I walked into this space and thought it looked like a café, so I bought it. ... I threw my drum set in my office and decided to make a place to jam.”

The space that inspired Abraham and that has since been enjoyed by local artists and musicians from every genre has become a go-to meeting place for those who appreciate and want to support local arts. TheArts@311, located in Suite E at 311 S. Church Street, is connected to Abraham’s medical office and opens its doors on the weekends and evenings. It’s a dream come true for those who just want to get out and play or show their work but who can’t book one of Jonesboro’s larger venues or galleries.

“I love that when you walk through the door at 311, you feel among friends,” said local musician Nathan Crouch. “It has been a great way to network with other local musicians and music fans.

“CJ’s passion and enthusiasm is inspiring. He has given us a place to commune, collaborate and showcase our art in whatever way we envision, and I love that. I am excited for the possibilities and to be a part of the community at TheArts@311.”

Since opening its doors last October, the eclectic venue has played host to photography, painting, sculpture and other visual art exhibits, dance, theater, improv, comedy, avant-garde and def jam performances and book and poetry readings. The venue also welcomes any type of musical performances, such as zydeco, Celtic, classical, acoustic, solo or group vocal, hard rock, southern rock, blues, fusion, modern jazz, big band, funk, rap, hip hop, dance, world and ethnic, opera and more.

There are several regular and well-attended events at TheArts@311, including an open jam called “Knock Off Fridays” on the second Friday of each month, a healing drum rhythm class on the second Monday of each month and a jazz gathering on the fourth Thursday of each month.

For artists and musicians to be able to use TheArts@311 for performances or exhibitions, all they have to do is message the venue on Facebook and run their request by the board. The board currently consists of Abraham, Matt Carey, Mike Doyle, Mark Lamm, Mike Lovell, David Shade, Lisa Bowers Bohn and Hairy Larry Heyl, all of whom are dedicated to promoting the arts and providing resources for regional artists by offering education, outreach, networking and a venue for the artists and the public.

“We will have a whole different crowd of people here depending on the day or even the hour,” said Abraham. “The goal is to promote regional art and artists. Everyone on the board has that as a goal. We have board members who represent theater arts, photography, music and more; we want to have board members from every area.”

Abraham says the goal is for TheArts@311 to eventually be able to fund and promote artists and to be able to be a benefactor for those artists.

The venue features a stage and equipment – such as a guitar, bass, amps, drums, keys and more – for music performances, and the space works well for exhibitions of visual and fine arts. The stage can also be cleared for theater and dance performances. TheArts@311 has several LED televisions that are available for multimedia forms of art, and although the venue primarily serves coffee, Abraham encourages aficionados to bring food if they want to camp out for awhile.

“We want to be able to eventually host anything here,” he said. “Really, we will host anything here, from art shows to poetry readings to any type of music. We get local bands, and we get string quartets. ... It’s a great place for an audience of 20 people or for a bigger crowd.”

Bassist Jen Tyler of the local band Audeamus is also a booking agent, mostly for metal bands. She books bands all over Memphis and says there is a huge need for a venue in the Jonesboro area for those types of bands because so many talented bands go unheard.

“I really think it’s great that someone has provided an outlet for local musicians to display their talents,” she said. “The building is very nice, and I can’t wait to start playing there more and start helping out to keep things growing.”
Abraham attributes much of the venue’s early success to the support of the Downtown Jonesboro community and the city’s proven reputation for supporting the arts.

“People who are movers and shakers downtown are also pretty cool people; they really support music and the arts,” said Abraham. “Downtown Jonesboro is coming along just as musicians and artists would want it to. ... There is an incredible breadth of music here.

“(Jonesboro) has gone from having one place to having several places to see music on the weekends. You can now see two or three great, enjoyable bands several different nights of the week. ... Arkansas is the birthplace of rock and roll. Everyone plays music here. It’s mind-boggling. It’s incredible. It’s just an amazing place to live.”

For more information about TheArts@311, visit the venue’s Facebook page at