Let’s Take it for a Drive Around the Park

I never dreamed that one of my duties as an art collection manager would be test driving vans. However, it was an assignment I readily accepted in order to select a vehicle that would best serve both the exhibitions and facility departments. The van selected should help fulfill the museum’s mission which, partially stated, is to enrich lives through our collections, exhibitions and programs. Translation: I needed a van capable of transporting very large artwork or many cases of wine or a truck load of tables and chairs.

The process of finding a van actually began a few years ago. I mentioned to the powers that be that it was probably not beneficial for a museum to own an art truck that was over twenty-five years old, nor was it very economical. The truck had on several occasions left both driver and occupants on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck. (Note: thankfully it had not happened while transporting artwork. But it could happen, right?)

Have you ever had the so-called pleasure of buying a new car? Personally, every twelve years or so, I purchase a used vehicle. I do this for several reasons: I do believe in recycling, I am poor, and I do not feel I can afford a new car note. I search until I find a used car that my friendly mechanic likes as much as I do. But this time, I could pretend that I had all the money in the world at my disposal and I could select any vehicle I wanted. Dreamland!!!

My trek began by contacting various art organizations around the country to ask which vehicle they used for transporting artwork. Next, I turned to the internet for a show and tell session. I, like most of my museum colleagues, decided on a Sprinter. The van offers the option of a high roof and extra long body, both very necessary in the art world. After another internet search that ended in sticker shock, it was back to reality. I could no longer pretend I had all the money in the world. Instead, I had a budget to work with. I began sending queries to CarMax, Auto Trader and Craigslist and then waited for the perfect match. The responses I received were not the right fit, either van-wise or budget-wise, so I continued to search and wait. The months flew by without a viable solution on the horizon.

In my opinion, there is probably nothing as sad as an art collection manager with an exhibition looming – particularly one that requires traveling around the countryside picking up artwork from lenders. I know you are thinking, why not rent a van? This time that was not a solution due to the size of several of the loans. So back to the sad, and now overly stressed, art collection manager without a van – not a happy combination.

Hey, enough about stress. Let’s move on to the happy ending…

Once the powers that be gave the go ahead, the van campaign began. Phone calls were made, letters were mailed, and personal asks occurred. The weeks went by and more requests were made. Thankfully, when donations from our many supporters came pouring in, the spendable dollars began to build. And suddenly, voila – an art van was purchased just in the nick of time! The shiny new van was immediately put to use as we began picking up the artwork on loan for the exhibition A Taste for China, which opened on March 26, 2011.

See, some dreams really do come true!

This blog has been generously donated by Kip Peterson,
Collections Manager for the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

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