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.