1,440 Hours of Viewing: Looking at art with Brooks Museum Guard Lilian Woods

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Gallery Security Officer Lilian Woods has been working at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art since last December. That’s thirty-six weeks at 40 hours a week, which roughly (art school math) equals 1,440 hours on her feet–and when the galleries are not full of visitors, looking at art. Her favorite piece is Light of the Incarnation by Carl Gutherz. Smart choice for a Brooks’ employee: It was Gutherz who first committed the idea of an art museum in Memphis’ Overton Park to paper. In 1906, as a favor to Mrs. EA Neely, Gutherz sketched what would later become the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art on the back of sheets of stationary. Later, when Bessie Vance Brooks endowed the project with start-up money in honor of her late husband Samuel Hamilton Brooks (Neely’s husband’s business partner, as it were) architect James Gamble Rogers based his design on this cocktail napkin-esque Gutherz sketch.

But Light of the Incarnation is no sketch. On the museum’s entry level in the 19th century American art gallery, at over 6 1/2′ x 9 1/2′, this painting demands the room. In addition to being large, there are at least 30 gilt relief halos to account for, and innumerable details which reveal themselves as gifts for committed viewers. Mrs. Woods is one of those viewers. Hear her explain what is going on in Light of the Incarnation below:

The Flamingos Have Flown the Coop: Or, One Flamingo Flies Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Public Programs Manager Andria Lisle reflects on Brooks’ Art & A Movie program and interviews photographer Susan Segal.

pink9Behind the scenes, planning our quarterly Art & A Movie programs, which are part of the larger Brooks Films program, feels a little bit like training a housecat to jump through a fiery hoop. It can be done (see: Moscow Cats Theatre), but it is often a difficult process. First, we have to choose the film and negotiate screening rights. Then we have to find a suitable art-making activity that must fit numerous criteria: It has to relate, somehow, to the accompanying film. It has to be inexpensive, interesting, and easily interpreted. It has to be open-ended enough for attendees to riff on their own. It also has to pass the eagle-eyed examination of our Chief Curator and Registrar, who have strict rules on what kind of art-making materials can be used in the Rotunda, where many works of art, including Nam June Paik’s Vide-O-belisk and photographs by William Eggleston and Ernest Withers are on view.

Paint and glue are verboten, which spurs our imagination on to more creative ideas. Make working clocks out of 45 rpm records? We did that when we screened Thunder Soul. Braid chic bracelets out of sailor’s rope? Yes, when we screened Bonjour Tristesse. Fabricate miniature chairs out of champagne cork cages? Yes, along with a packed screening of Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture. We’ve made ransom note Valentines (and liberally poured White Russians) for The Big Lebowski, and sewn felt mustaches for City Lights.
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The Art of Science Exhibition Featuring Our Very Own Maggie Exner!

Maggie Exner is one of the nicest and friendliest people I know. I met her at work here at the museum, and have always been impressed by her personality and artistic capabilities. She is unique beyond explanation and very involved in the Memphis art community.

Last Friday, she was in an art show with Art of Science, where “scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital partner with local artists to produce the 2012 Art of Science exhibit aimed at bridging the gap between the two disciplines and helping expose the Memphis community to the great art and research done in their city”. Check out her amazing installation!

Meet the Brooks Teen Advisory Committee!

Meet the Brooks Teen Advisory Committee, a group of teenagers from local high schools that will meet once a month throughout the school year.

What’s the goal?

The Brooks museum is interested in developing a teen program and the committee will help us determine what it should look like. We will test some of our ideas and some of theirs. Activities will include gallery tours, art making, and workshops with professional artists. In the spring, the committee will plan and execute an exhibition in the education gallery. The Brooks will solicit teens for guidance and feedback throughout the entire process.

In September, the committee convened to connect with the museum and staff and bond with each other.  Teens explored the museum through prompts such as, “Find an object, that for you, embodies pure joy..,” and then shared their responses with the group. Later, members created a work of art that expressed the ideas shared in the galleries.  We can’t wait to see what happens next!

For more information about the Brooks Teen Advisory Committee please contact jenny.hornby@brooksmuseum.org

Sonya Clark’s Woven Combs Will Live Permanently at the Brooks!

GREAT news from our chief curator, Marina Pacini: Thanks to the   many people who have generously donated funding, Sonya Clark’s Woven Combs will live permanently at the Brooks! And the artist herself will be here for a lecture on Thursday, August 30.

This blog is written by Andria Lisle Public Relations and Public Events Manager for the Brooks.

If I Can Dream Recap

The Brooks enjoyed an energetic opening reception for the If I Can Dream exhibition on view in the Education gallery until September 16, 2012.  The exhibition is a result of an international art contest in partnership with Elvis Presley Enterprises to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death.

The artworks, selected by a professional panel of judges, were created in response to the quote “If I Can Dream.” This inspirational tune marked the rebirth of Elvis’ career when he sang it in a heart-felt performance during the final episode of his 1968 NBC comeback special, Elvis. Written by the show’s musical director W. Earl Brown, after the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, the lyrics describe a world full of hope and free of doubt, pain, and fear.

Visitors of the exhibition have the opportunity to vote for Fans Favorite through August 18th. The winner will receive a $220 gift card to shopelvis.com, a trophy, and a certificate of appreciation.

Congratulations to all of the artists chosen for the exhibition!

  “…while I can think, while I can talk, while I can stand, while I can walk, while I can dream, please let my dream come true…” –lyrics from “If I Can Dream”

This blog is written by Jenny Hornby Assistant Curator of Education for the Brooks.

Last Two Weeks of Wacky Wednesdays!

Get hyped up for Wacky Wednesdays at the Brooks with our Brooks Kids page! We also offer tons of family friendly events, which you can check out here!

Make sure you unwind from all of the wacky fun with our 3 new exhibitions: The Soul of a City: Memphis Collects African American Art, Elvis is in the Building, and Early Quilts from Southern Collections.

Spotlight On: Our Lady of Sorrows School, 5th and 6th Grade ABC Program Experience 

Some of my fondest memories of elementary and middle school include the art projects that went along with the most interesting units that my favorite teachers thought up – the same teachers that inspired me to go into education myself. As a first year educator, I was daunted with the task of creating not only engaging standards-based lessons, but also incorporating art into what my students were doing in the classroom.

Participating in the ABC (Art and the Basic Curriculum) Program through The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art exposed both my students and me to excellent lessons that highlighted how to successfully use art integration in the classroom. We were also privileged to take part in guided museum visits and activities that showcased the wonderful educational resource that is the Brooks.

Most of my students have lived in Memphis all of their lives but had not been to the Brooks before participating in this program. I have a combined fifth and sixth grade classroom of mostly boys who are between the ages of 10 to 12 – not a group that most would say would be interested in fine art. When, during our first museum visit, I saw my entire class sitting at attention (a difficult task for many a middle school student) and intelligently discussing the symbolism in a particular painting with our fabulous museum educator Ms. Brown, I knew we were taking part in something special.

Ms. Brown’s three visits to our classroom at Our Lady of Sorrows School in Frayser were equally rewarding for my students. They learned how to create a Sioux Winter Count – an activity that brought an ancient Native American tradition to life for them within the four walls of our classroom. Their study of plant and animal cells in science was reinforced by our final ABC lesson for the year, which consisted of creating a scientific illustration of a cell.

From having the opportunity to join in on an ABC teacher watercolor painting workshop earlier this year to seeing the growth in my students because of their participation in this program, I look forward to the interesting lessons and activities my students and I can expect for next school year!

This blog is written by Elizabeth Black, educator at Our Lady of Sorrows School.

Brooks Uncorked this Friday! Check Out Last Year’s Pics!

Friday, April 13 | 7 PM

Memphis’ greatest food and wine party partners world-renowned winemakers with the Mid-South’s most incredible chefs (including the Brooks’ own Wally Joe and Andrew Adams), live entertainment on the museum terrace, and a silent auction in the Rotunda for a sure-to-be unforgettable evening of eating, drinking, dancing and bidding at the Brooks. Tickets are $110, $125 at the door. VIP tickets are $150 (limited availability). Click here to buy tickets or call Laura Beth Davis at 901.544.6209 or email her at laurabeth.davis@brooksmuseum.org.

Check out pics from last year!

You Were an Art History Major? What Do You Do with That?

I couldn’t possibly tell you how many times I have heard those words while staring into the skeptical, patronizing faces of everyone from friends and family to peers and strangers. I grew up as an artist, exploring a vast array of media and creative options through a blessed experience in Arts Magnet programs. From there I discovered a passion for studying Art History, which I found to be the ideal combination of my love for creativity and academia. This love for the arts has developed into many incredible opportunities from working in Pompeii during the summers to graduate school offers in the world’s most prominent cities and, most recently, to working with the Marketing Director at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

I have made incredible progress in my pursuit of a career in the arts, but it has not been an easy journey. I was constantly barraged with critical commentary about how impractical it would be to pursue the arts to the point of my deciding to follow a Pre-Medical course in my first years of college. Art obviously won in the end though. Despite enjoying medicine, I found that I was much happier dissecting a painting than a pig. A single work of art holds a rich history that, if explored, can open dialogue for the past, present, and future in not only the visual arts but also economics, politics, social life, religion, international relations, and much more.

The art world has so much to offer if you are willing to look. From academia to gallery management to marketing to appraisal, there is no shortage of career opportunities for a career in the arts. I am excited to announce that I have been invited to spend the next two years with Christie’s Education Program in London to study Contemporary Art and the Art Market that will lead to a Master’s in Art Administration and Business. Until then, though, I am serving as a Marketing Intern at the Brooks and loving every minute of it.

The Brooks community is friendly and inviting and a place of wonder for a young art aficionado such as myself. Getting to work behind the scenes with the people who keep the museum alive has been an invaluable experience. Prior to working here, I spent countless hours perusing the galleries, attending film showings, and eating at the Brushmark. Through college, the Brooks was my encyclopedic art oasis of Memphis, and now I get to aid in spreading news of all that it has to offer to the Memphis community in hopes that everyone will get to enjoy the museum as much as I have.

The Brooks Museum and the arts in general have so much to offer anyone and everyone if they are willing to open their mind to new possibilities. I love the arts and working here has been an experience that I will value through the rest of my career and life. Keep in mind:The earth without art is just eh.

Best wishes and many thanks to the Brooks,
Amy Bower

This blog is written by Amy Bower, Marketing Intern for the Brooks.

Sustainability at the Brooks is Measured in Food and Art

Sustainable. As the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art approaches its 100th birthday, I think that word is appropriate. While we reflect on what has made the Brooks last for a century, we also look cautiously to the future, assessing the factors that will not only help the museum survive for generations to come, but will make this world and this city the kind of place those generations can enjoy.
By now, we’ve all heard that word used in the food industry, including the Brushmark Restaurant.

It may qualify as a “buzzword,” but it is so much more. Defining what sustainability means to me in terms of food is complicated. It includes things like proper crop and livestock pasture rotation, growing foods that complement their environments, and using farming practices that won’t harm those environments. Farming in a way that is good for us to eat and good for the Earth is complex. Doing it a way that is economical is even more daunting.

It is natural and responsible to want to associate our food, businesses, and lifestyles with a word that implies “forever.” At the Brooks and the Brushmark, we are constantly evaluating the impact our footprint has on the Earth and learning new ways to make that footprint smaller – through biodegradable takeout boxes, induction stovetops, reduced linens to launder, local produce, etc. We learn from the local community and are grateful for the support and insight of local advocates like recent E-Cheivement Award recipient, Margot McNeely, and Project Green Fork. We are proud to be Project Green Fork certified and embrace their vision of a sustainable Mid-South. We hope that the steps we take now – both small and large – will mean a better future for generations to come.

This blog is written by Andrew Adams Chef de Cuisine for the Brooks.

There’s an App for That!

One of the defining statements of our generation has finally come to the Brooks Museum! With a free download for the iPhone, iPad, and Android presented by ArtsMemphis, the world of the Brooks is now easily available at the push of a button. Museum information including hours, admission prices, directions and a floor plan of the galleries are available around the clock. You can peruse calendars of exhibitions and events and can directly purchase tickets for upcoming programs and film screenings.

Daily menu updates for the ambrosiac food offered at the Brushmark are available, as well as an easy access section for becoming a Brooks member or donating to the museum. When you visit the building, the app offers multimedia tours of special exhibitions and will soon offer audio tours of the permanent collection in English and Spanish.

As a family friendly bonus, (or simply a creative distraction for the more artsy adult), there is an interactive section with an artwork puzzle game, free-hand drawing and masterpiece coloring that is sure to entice your digital art cravings. You can share your art accomplishments via e-mail or Facebook directly from the app. Don’t miss out on this easy and incredible (and FREE) way to stay involved with the Brooks Museum!

Download the your iphone or ipad app
Download your Android app.

This blog is written by Amy Bower, Marketing Intern for the Brooks.

From Freelance to Grants Writer: Nicky Hitching Loves the Brooks!

Last year, when I was a freelance writer trying to go back to work full time, I was willing to swing in any direction. Write newsletters about widgets? Do the website? Handle the media? I was ready to strap on any of it.

It was one of the more serendipitous moments in my career that in October I was offered the job as grants manager at the Brooks. Write grants to get money to fund fabulous exhibitions and events? You betcha. In fact, as a former art history major who loves museums and art, I could not (and still cannot) believe I actually get to work here!

I have been at the Brooks just over four months now, and I cannot tell you how cool it is to work at the museum. In my prior life as a journalist, the work atmosphere tended toward scruffy, loud, open newsrooms and the constant ebb and flow of deadlines. Here, we have offices, often embellished with colorful posters from Brooks exhibitions. We are immersed in the work of bringing exhibitions and events to life that in turn bring art into people’s lives. The Brooks vision is central to our working lives: “Transforming lives through the power of art”: How do we do that? How do we bring more people to the Brooks, perhaps to experience an art exhibition, a family day or a school tour for the first time? There are certainly deadlines, there is certainly hard work, and there is certainly a lot to learn about writing grants and communicating why our programs and exhibitions so richly deserve support from foundations, corporations, and government funders as well as individuals. But it is great and good work.

I also find that working behind the scenes at the museum is fun, and for some reason it makes me feel a bit like Eloise, the children’s book character who lives at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. We see the places where most visitors don’t, while we have access every day to the things most people make a special trip to see. It is a great privilege, when you take 10 minutes away from the computer screen, to be able to go look at the Impressionist work, the Thomas Benton Hart painting, or powerful bronze sculptures. Depending on the time of year, I can peruse amazing artwork by Memphis teens at the Mid-South Scholastic Art Awards exhibition. Or watch school children pondering Burton Callicott’s “The Gleaners,” trying to figure out what those people and those dogs are doing on the railroad track, and what the painting is saying to them.
This is a great place, and a worthy part of the Memphis fabric. We are lucky, as a city, to have this amazing museum and all that it does to transform lives through the power of art. I am thrilled to be here, and hope every time I write a grant or proposal, I can convey all that is wonderful about the Brooks and worthy of funding dollars. Wish me luck!

This blog is written by Nicky Hitching, Grants Manager for the Brooks.

Amy Beth Rice: Adventures in Art Education from the Eyes of an Intern

While trying to think of an effective environment for socially-concerned art, I used to have visions of left-leaning galleries, street art, and house shows by small artist collectives. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t think of art museums. The word “museum” conjured images of quiet, chilly rooms housing  masterpieces being respectfully observed by a few individuals with clasped hands and raised eyebrows. However, my experiences at the Brooks and with my internship in the Education department began to gnaw on my preconceived notions of one-dimensionality and the Aztec dance performance during the Day of the Dead event definitely shattered them! The Brooks is so dynamic! I am so often inspired by conversations I’ve had with the staff in Education and others I’ve met here. The passion for art and to engage and educate the community is evident and it’s exciting to learn about and see the ways in which we do so.

I had no idea how much tedious effort it takes to organize an exhibition. Kathy Dumlao allowed me to help organize the student-created altar exhibition for the Day of the Dead event. This primarily took place through emailing, designing promotional and informative material for teachers, more emailing…and then a lot more emailing. I enjoyed the process, but it was not until the kids’ altars were installed and people began to enjoy and connect with them could I understand the richness of what we had been building.

Working on Peaceful Warriors: Aim For Change; showed me how involved the community could become in the exhibition. The photos and text in the show were created by high school students from Trezevant, Hutchison, and Westwood high schools after we visited with them in their classroom. My favorite part was that Karleen Gardner and Jenny Hornby allowed me to develop a powerpoint lecture in which I could use photography examples from the civil rights era and other revolutionary moments to babble on about what I’m most interested in: art and social change. The community then selected the photos for the exhibition on a facebook page. The images touched on a wide range of issues from gang activity to the importance of nutrition to animal cruelty. By focusing on “peaceful warriors” and their strategy to fighting a specific issue, the pieces offered a pathway to solution within their simultaneous focus on a problem. This gave the show a constructive, positive energy that inspired nonviolent action, yet it nicely accompanied the warrior theme of Armed and Dangerous: Art of the Arsenal.

It was exciting to see so many people in the auditorium for the student panel discussion that followed exhibition and to listen to the thoughts of the students and other community voices on the issues impacting our world. Together we pondered the meaning of  the exhibition and how a community can work together to face issues and I realized the active role a museum can play in fostering impactful dialogue.

I’m so grateful for all my experiences at the Brooks, all the fantastic people I’ve met, and the example the ladies in Education have given me of thoughtful, constructive thinkers and doers.

Life as a Brooks Intern by Joelle Pittman

I am a graduate student at the University of Memphis pursuing my Master’s degree in Journalism. I never thought I would be interning at 26, but after completely changing career paths and returning to school, I knew that interning would be the only way to gain first-hand experience in public relations.

 Interning at the Brooks has been a wonderful experience. Everyone has made me feel involved and I am able to utilize my skill set. This is certainly, and thankfully, not a “get-me-coffee” internship. I love working for the public relations manager, Andria Lisle, and am always kept busy with interesting projects. It is a wonderful way to incorporate what I am learning at school with the work place.

I have been coming to the Brooks my entire life as a museum-goer, but now as an adult, I have become a museum-supporter as well. This internship has made me value that position even more. The museum staff is passionate to make the museum an enjoyable and educational experience. I have a new appreciation for what the Brooks does for Memphis. It has always had prestige in the city, but now I understand why. The Brooks wants to reach everyone in the city, whether it be an elementary school, Alzheimer patient, or art student. The museum wants to have a positive impact on Memphis. And it does.

My internship is only for the spring, and I will be moving to Los Angeles in May to pursue entertainment PR, but I will always remain grateful for the experience here. I feel lucky that I am getting a peek behind the scenes of a place I have loved for so long.

Joy-Elizabeth “Joelle” Pittman
Public Relations Intern
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

Lectures, Films and Scholastic: What Museums Are Today

I work at the Admissions desk every weekend and have been for over two years. I have seen the progression of the Brooks in that short time, and realized that museums are so much more than the exhibitions they house. It is more, from my perspective, what each exhibition represents to the institution and to its audience.

The museum had a great crowd this month due to the opening of the Mid-South Scholastic Art Awards Exhibition, a Decorative Arts Trust lecture and the British Arrow Awards film. Those are three distinctive events all occurring in front of the eyes of all of the artworks the museum shows such as our extensive permanent collection that focuses on art that spans time to our traveling and in-house shows that represent so many interests…

Looking into the future, I believe that museums will offer even more to their cities. There are already so many possibilities and ways to turn an institution into exactly what you need it to be for you personally. One could come cost free on a Wednesday, have an inexpensive date on Thursday night or a picnic date on the weekend while lazily strolling around the museum with a full stomach. Or you could catch up with friends and family to eat and shop. I had no clue that museums offered so much! I look forward to seeing you here soon.