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.


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.

What is Provenance and Why Does It Matter?

This past May I attended a Provenance Seminar at the National Archives in Washington D.C. funded, in part, by a grant from the Kress Foundation. Before I worked in museums, provenance was not a word I was familiar with, but since I have come to realize all of the legal and ethical issues associated with it. Provenance is the history of the ownership of an object as it passes through time. Some objects have rather lengthy, illustrious histories. They may have been owned by royalty, barons, wealthy international collectors, or even foreign governments. Others may have been passed down through a family, uneventfully, from generation to generation. But whatever the case, it is the responsibility of a museum to make certain, to the best of its ability, that any object entering the collection has been transferred legally from one owner to another, and that no import/export laws were violated.

One provenance issue that has been of prime importance to museums in recent years is that of Nazi looting in WWII. A seminar that I attended in Washington D.C. in 2011 dealt primarily with this problem. During the war, Hitler and his officers confiscated many works of art during the invasion and occupation of Europe. Some works were taken from state museums, palaces, etc., others from Jewish family collections. After the war, rather than being returned to their legal owners, many of these artworks made their way to the art market, some resold a number of times, and they fell into public and private collections around the world.

In 2011 the Kress Foundation began the lengthy process of investigating WWII provenance issues regarding works collected by Samuel H. Kress that are now in museums and universities nationwide. Although the majority of the works have indisputable provenance, others have incomplete ownership data. Last November Fulvia Zaninelli, who is heading the Kress Provenance project from her office in the National Gallery in Washington D.C., made a trip to Brooks Museum to examine its Kress paintings as she has done at many other institutions. The images and information she has gathered here will be consolidated with those collected from other Kress recipients and any works that appear to have significant gaps in their provenance will be researched further.

Museums worldwide have taken up the task of researching their own collections to locate any of these objects and return them to their rightful owner. Success in tracing this type of information has been vastly improved due to the internet and many of the newly available resources were outlined and discussed at the Washington conference. Although it is still very time consuming, researching provenance can be extremely fascinating as you check old invoices, photographs, auction catalogues, publications, etc. to verify ownership history. And in the course of your investigation you never know what you may find along the way. In my own research I’ve found previous alternate titles for a work, ascertained that another painting had been cut down from its original size, and other evidence that consequently changed the date of a painting. Very much like searching one’s own genealogy, it takes you on different paths, and sometimes with surprising results.

Marilyn Masler
Associate Registrar

The Mid-South Scholastic Art Awards: A Student’s Perspective

2012 Best Portfolio Kyle Owens “Commitment”

The Mid-South Scholastic Art Awards has been something I’ve looked forward to every year of high school. I always try to greatly improve my artwork and advance my concepts to enter for the following year. Winning a gold key is so exciting, and the chance to have my work in an exhibition at the Brooks is such an unbelievable opportunity.

2010 Best in Show, Senior Division, Kyle Owens, “Alone . . . “

I can remember my art teacher looking at some of my work during my freshman year and telling me about Scholastic. He advised me to do a piece specifically for it. I wanted it to be better than anything I had previously done. This resulted in me obsessing over one drawing the entire semester only for it to not win anything. After this, I began working much harder with art and striving to be better. Soon everything I did involved art. I was constantly thinking about it and just wanted to be the best I could possibly be.

“Forgotten” (this painting also received an American Visions nomination), Kyle Owens

Now I’m in my senior year in high school and have won several Scholastic awards the past three years including “Best-in-Show” my sophomore year, “Best Drawing” my junior year, and “Best Portfolio” this year. These accomplishments have been such an honor and I’m very grateful that there is a contest like this that honors all the young artists around the Mid-South.

2011 Drawing Award, Senior Division, Kyle Owens, “Vanity”

Next fall I plan on attending Memphis College of Art while continuing to hone every aspect of my art. Hopefully after college I will be able to make a living doing what I enjoy the most and continue doing so for the rest of my life.

-Kyle Owens

Armed and Dangerous: Art of the Arsenal Exhibition Installation!!

I have mentioned this before, but one of the biggest perks of working in a museum are the rare behind-the-scenes looks we are allowed. I was first given the opportunity to photograph unloading and exhibition installations over a year ago. Now, it is part of my job to document our traveling exhibitions from start to finish.

The Brooks staff discusses future shows several years in advance. Each meeting or preview lecture provided takes us one step closer to seeing the actual objects in person. When I learned about Armed and Dangerous, I was very excited to see all of the armor and weaponry throughout time! I thought to myself, my fiance always watches these war and roman-esque movies, maybe I can identify some of these things!

I grabbed our camera and snapped some great pictures (from a very safe distance, of course) of the installation. See them and other installations on our flickr page. Enjoy!

Viva La France!

Every now and then we get an email from our friend Elisabeth Callihan, who has been living in Paris for the last year. Elisabeth was formerly the Public Relations and Public Events Manager here at the Brooks and she is simply fabulous. She feeds us little tidbits of cool stuff going on across the pond. Her most recent email says, everyone is obsessed with florals here lately – dresses, pants, shoes – everything in florals. Also, drinking outside is big. So put on your best floral dress and come to the Brooks for a drink on the patio.

Florals and drinking aside, it’s been all about France at the Brooks this summer. We even had a Bastille Day celebration with the opening of our new show, The Impressionist Revolution. Come to the Brooks for some French inspired fun, which will continue through early October. Here’s a sampling of what you’ll experience:

-Nicoise Salad, Quiche Lorraine, and more at the Brushmark Restaurant
-95 works of French and related Impressionism paintings
-French pop and hip-hop music by DJ Leroy Trenton during Brooks After Hours
-French films
-A “Kid’s Café” gallery featuring scent games, dress up, and more
-French wine tastings
-Screenings of French operas and ballets
-Sidewalk Impressionists Chalk Festival on September 24

That’s A LOT of French fun! And for a lot less than a plane ticket to Paris. So what are you waiting for? Take a trip to France without the annoying and invasive security checks. Join the Brooks now at or call Andrea Carlisle at 544-6230.

This blog has been written by Diane Jalfon Director of Development at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

Discovering the Belz Museum as Part of A Taste for China

One of the greatest joys of working on exhibitions outside my area of specialization is getting to explore the collections of other museums. As part of the project A Taste for China currently on view at the Brooks, I visited several public and private collections looking for Chinese and Chinese-inspired art to borrow for display. As a result I spent an afternoon at the Belz Museum of Asian & Judaic Art which is located in downtown Memphis. I was very graciously received not only by their director, Belinda Fish and the institution’s preparator, Phil Bradshaw, but by Mr. Jack Belz himself. Together they gave me an extraordinary guided tour of the collection. Thanks to them, I was given great insights into how the collection came together and heard wonderful stories about their favorite acquisitions. Of course, this made the experience even more remarkable.

From the moment I entered the museum, I was a bit overwhelmed by the collection. Almost unbelievably huge and fine carvings of ivory and jade, or extraordinarily graceful ancient Chinese tomb sculptures, or panels of embroidered silk that were at once expansive and delicate stood nearly everywhere. Interspersed with these objects were still others, not just of different scale and material, but belonging sometimes to other cultural traditions—whether Jewish, Meji-period Japanese, or French classicism. Despite the richness and variety of the Belz Museum’s holdings, many objects stood out on their own due to their incredible quality and visual appeal. Among many memorable works was a terra-cotta sculpture of a Han Dynasty sleeve dancer. Though made of simple, almost unadorned clay with a rather matte surface, the piece—which shows a young woman moving her over-long sleeves in a graceful arching motion—perfectly evokes the elegance and sophistication known through ancient writings of that storied, almost mythical world. No less evocative are a series of crawling and obsequious courtiers, made of the same simple material. Arranged in a row, they capture the strict court etiquette of the Tang Dynasty and are rare examples of sculpture which literally depict people kowtowing. One could look at tomb sculptures at the Belz Museum for hours, and be amazed by the range, quality, and number of these works.

I was also very much taken by the museum’s collection of semi-precious stones. These run the gamut from rough but spectacular natural formations of amethyst or quartz to highly carved and finely polished sculptures of jade. Although the larger pieces of stone carving had the greatest physical impact, it was some of the smaller works that really caught my eye. Among these was a white jade sculpture of a head of Chinese cabbage. It is so delicately worked with curving stems and ruffling leaves that at first it really looks like an actual vegetable. Its maker took advantage of the stone’s translucence, and carved the piece so finely that light shines through it—enhancing the feeling that you are looking at a living plant. While I made a point of trying NOT to ask to borrow works that were on public display, I had to make an exception for the cabbage. Thanks to the generosity of the Belz Museum, the cabbage is now part of A Taste for China. But soon it will return to its home galleries.

I also had to make an exception and ask for the loan of one of the largest and most beautiful embroideries in Belz collection, a huge bedcover commissioned the early 19th century as an imperial wedding gift. It was made for Mianning, the Daoguang Emperor of China (1782 -1850). The bedcover—of pale lavender silk reserved for royal usage—is alive with birds, flowers, and insects. In particular, it is filled with symbols suggesting a long, harmonious, and fruitful marriage. As I learned, the large bird of paradise near the center—recognizable by his flowing tail—is probably meant to suggest the emperor himself and his place as ruler of China. The piece is worked with incredibly tiny stitches and uses a rich, nuanced range of colors that really capture the richness and beauty of the natural world. The bedcover is also fascinating as it reflects how European fashions, particularly for beautifully arranged garlands of flowers and foliage, were absorbed into Chinese design.

Since I was looking for objects to borrow for an exhibition project, I was also given a truly rare opportunity—the chance to visit the museum’s storage areas. I was astounded to learn that the Belz Collection consists of over 20,000 objects. As with most art institutions—including the Brooks—most of these objects are not on view. The storage area of the museum yielded even more wonders. I was astounded by the sheer number of works, but also the number of truly remarkable things, whether jade, lacquer, bronze, cloisonné, silk, or wood. In particular, the size and beauty of a cinnabar lacquer screen captured my attention. Intricately ornamented with writhing dragons and enriched with carved jade, it bespoke the brilliance and majesty of Chinese imperial court culture. Standing near it, and no less wonderful, was a carved cinnabar chair from the eighteenth century. I was thrilled to know that the Belz Museum was willing to loan these large, fragile works. Currently they are installed in the first gallery of A Taste for China at the Brooks.

The storage area also revealed great objects belonging to particular artistic movements that I had despaired of finding in private or public collections. Two of these works were loaned to my exhibition: a French dressing table and an Art Deco Coffee Set. The latter is a fantastic and fantastical example of the chinoiserie style. This design movement represents a light-hearted interpretation of Chinese art by Western designers. The table, which is encrusted with bronze, tortoise shell, gilding, and mother of pearl, all set against ebonized wood, opens to reveal a mirror and space for toilette articles. Its decoration emulates rustic Chinese scenery, but is more informal and fanciful than the lacquerware articles upon which it was based. The Art Deco service is of pewter, but inlaid with carnelian and jade. It embodies the fascination with the modern world that characterizes much of 1920s design. Although made in China, it was clearly intended for a European or American market. Both these objects are currently installed in our galleries where they are great complements to works from own and private collections.

While the main goal of A Taste for China is to explore the long cultural relationship between China and the West through the decorative and fine arts, it was also a great chance to learn about public and private collections with holdings in these areas. Having never been to the Belz Museum before, I truly was astounded by the breadth and variety of their collection. I am looking forward to my next visit, and to bringing family and friends along to see my favorites and to make their own discoveries. Actually, I have been back twice since my initial visit, and am continually surprised and transfixed by what I see. From ancient metal work of the Warring Dynasties period to very fine French Academic sculpture, the Belz Museum has many unexpected treasures.

This blog is written by Stanton Thomas Curator of European and Decorative Art for the Brooks.

Home School at the Brooks!

Home School at the Brooks is a program offered through the Education department where we set aside four days of the year for students that are home schooled to come to the museum and have a docent-led tour and participate in a studio activity.

For our last home school session of 2010, held in November, we focused on a collection of three special exhibitions that comprise our Picturing America tour: William Christenberry: Photographs, 1961-2005; Winslow Homer: From Poetry to Fiction; and Remembering a House Divided: Robert King’s Photographs of Civil War Re-Enactors. The tour primarily focused on American identity of the 19th century and gave students and parents a chance to see how art reflected the cultural, historic, artistic, social, and economic landscape of the time.

In the studio, students did a series of three relief prints, or a triptych, where they focused on progressive change over time. The relief printing process reinforced the artistic process used by Winslow Homer and the subject matter paralleled William Christenberry’s focus on how things, specifically buildings, changed over time. Want to learn how to create your own triptych? Keep reading to see the process we used in the studio!

First, students created a simple outline of a building on their printing plate (foam board) using a pencil.

Next, the students printed. They covered their printing plate in paint using a brayer, placed a piece of white paper over the printing plate, pressed the paper down, and then removed the piece of paper like a sticker.

For the second print, they added texture onto the same printing plate. Our texture materials included seashells, a stylus, and other tools. After they added texture, the students printed again.

Finally, the students added any final details they wanted to include on their printing plate. With a final print, the students completed their triptych.

Once the process was complete, students matted their three prints onto a long sheet of paper and signed it like a printmaker – with a title, the number in the series, and their artist signature.

Looking back at some of the images from this home school session, I remember how much fun we (the Education staff) had making this print, too. In fact, my colleague was so smitten with hers that she hung it in our office. It’s a simple reminder that we are students of art, too… and it’s so much fun!!

If you’re interested in learning more about Home School at the Brooks, click here. We hope you can join us next year!

Check out more about the Brooks Education programs here.

This post was authored by our very own Tour Coordinator Sharon Atteberry.

What is a Museum Preparator? Find out First – Hand from our Very Own Paul Tracy!

Jingle bells tingling, shop lights twinkling, children behaving; the holidays are fast approaching! When I think about Christmas I think of Santa and his elves; busy, busy, busy. Being a museum preparator is very similar to being an elf, elves create Christmas magic and preparators create museum magic.

The current exhibition in the Chandler Gallery is a perfect example of the magical similarities. Curator, Stanton Thomas (a jolly old soul is he), chose prints from the museum’s permanent collection depicting food for the gallery’s holiday installation, (visions of sugarplums floating in his head.) Choosing 17 prints from the museum’s over 5,000 works on paper was no small task, but with the help of Associate Registrar Marilyn Masler and her vast knowledge of the collection and cataloguing skills, the exhibition came together. Many of the prints chosen had never been exhibited; at this point Stanton’s vision was merely a pile of paper stacked on the table in print storage.

Luigi Rist, American, 1888 -1959, Corsage, 1944, Wood block, 70/100, Brooks Memorial Art Gallery Purchase, from the American Color Print Society 47.710

As our fearless curator returned to his office to begin writing the text and labels that would give relevance to a group of very diverse artists and their work, the preparators began the preparations (hence the job title “preparator”) for making his vision a reality. There was much measuring, counting, ordering, cutting, mounting, cleaning, framing and more measuring to be done. In no more than the blink of an eye the preparators had transformed the pile of paper into beautifully framed works of art! It was truly an example of museum magic in action!

A few days later the prints were installed and the text and labels were hung with care, and just in time for the Holidays we had a Feast for the Eyes!

Development Department: Fashion vs. Culture

Diane Jalfon is the Director of Development and a strong, determined woman. A piece of advice: read her perspective and learn from her wisdom. Oh, and wish her a happy birthday, too!

I was driving home the other day listening to my friends at WKNO slog through their bi-annual pledge drive with a mix of admiration and sympathy. It’s admirable that season after season they summon an amazing amount of energy and optimism to reach their fundraising goals. But I’m sympathetic to the difficulty of raising money in these precarious economic times.

I mean, if you have to choose between eating out once a week or renewing your WKNO, zoo, or Brooks membership your are probably going to go with dinner out. Many of us are having to make choices like this these days. We’re re-evaluating what’s really important. Thankfully, there’s a lot of people choosing to invest in their community rather than buy designer clothing. Let’s face it – trends come and go. That Prada purse will be obsolete in a year or two but investing in Memphis has lasting effects. Things like WKNO radio, the world-class Memphis Zoo, and the always-interesting Brooks help make Memphis a more livable city.

Plus, there’s real value to investing in culture. For $75 a year, a family of 5 can come to the Brooks an unlimited number of times, receive free audio tours, participate in free Saturday morning art activities each month, enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres and beverages at 4 members-only receptions, see live music and special performances on Thursday nights, and get 10% off at the Brushmark Restaurant and Museum Store. You can’t even touch a Prada belt for less than $300.

Don’t get me wrong – I like fashion as much as the next gal. But these days I would rather spend my money on something more substantial. Invest in the Brooks – it will expand your world and get you a whole year of fun. Plus you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you made a good investment in your community.

Click here to read more about all the memberships we offer or join now.

Diane Jalfon
Director of Development

Fashion Mimics Art: An Urban Insight

Anyone who has ever met me once knows that I LOVE clothes. I’m not picky-I’ll shop anywhere, but I frequent Urban Outfitters quite a bit. As the Memphis readers might know, we don’t have one here (yet), so I peruse their website in search of reasonably priced treasure. As an Art History graduate and museum employee, I also LOVE art and all things creative. So when I stumbled upon tee shirts with Barbara Kruger, Egon Schiele (my personal favorite artist) and Keith Haring imagery, I not only swooned, but was, as an art person, proud.                        

The debate over fashion mimicking art and vice versa is a moot one, in my opinion-they clearly inspire eachother. But in this case, there is an obvious I put this image on a white tee because everyone loves Keith Haring thing going on here. I can’t bring myself to purchase these kinds of shirts as proud as I am, simply because I feel like maybe art is becoming mainstream. Why would that bother me?

Maybe I’m taking this too personally. Art is something every person experiences and enjoys, and i love the fact that others appreciate what i hold near and dear to my heart. Which is probably why I’m feeling a bit too territorial. So now when I see someone sporting an Egon Schiele tee, I feel like I have the inside scoop. In these now regular occurences I’ll smile and think, “man, that Art History degree was worth it”.

Exhibitions Department: An Insight Into Ideas

A peek at one of the carefully preserved and beautifully bound books by Toof and Co. to be included in the exhibit; private collection.

One thing I have learned working in the museum profession for many years, dealing with so many amazing art objects, is that one idea always leads to another, one project always points the way to many more. And as it happens, the project I am working on right now, an exhibition showcasing the bookbinding of S. C. Toof & Co. came about in this same manner.

Over the past few years I had the opportunity to work on a catalog about the artist Carl Gutherz. While I was researching the period he spent in Memphis – the last half of the 19th century- I took a ridiculous amount notes as I reeled through stacks of microfilm, read through stacks of vertical files, and delved into countless online resources. (You never know what related information may come in handy, or prove helpful in the long run.)

When it was time to publish the Gutherz catalog last year, Toof Commercial Printing of Memphis was selected to print the monograph. Then it occurred to me that I remembered seeing the Toof name turn up in my research about the arts in Memphis during the 19th century, when Gutherz was coming and going from the city. Curious, I went back to my notes and found that yes, S. C. Toof & Co. had been in business shortly after the Civil War and that members of the Toof family had been involved with the Memphis Art League in the 1890s. And looking further in my vast stacks of notepads I found that the 1904 St. Louis Exposition, which included work by Carl Gutherz, had also shown examples of Toof & Co.’s exceptional skills at the art of bookbinding. The same and was true of the 1897 Nashville Centennial Exposition. Eventually the more I looked the more I found and I began to get that sense that thing were falling into place for a reason – you know, as if all the planets were aligned and things were meant to be. I had a strong feeling that Brooks should have an exhibition of Toof books in our Goodman Gallery – our gallery dedicated to art of the written word.

There is a happy ending. Not only was I privileged to see, first hand, many of the beautiful books bound by Toof and Co. , with intricate leather tooling, colored and gilt decorations that are housed in a private collection, but a selection of these outstanding books will be shown at Brooks this coming December! We are thrilled to be able to display these award winning books, produced at a time when some of the world’s finest and most creative bookbinding was done in right here in Memphis.

Marilyn Masler
Associate Registrar

FILM: No One Knows About Persian Cats

Thursday, August 12 | 7 PM

In his third film, director and writer Bahman Ghobadi tells the story of two 20-somethings trying to inspire others through music. What makes this film different from others is not only its characters, but itz location.

Negar and Ashkan, two possible lovers but definitely bandmates, are bohemian musicians who want to spread their sound and meet others like them from around the globe. They decide to get visas and passports and out of Tehran, Iran — where free speech and music are condemned and illegal.

Sought by the Iranian police, the two search for a safe practice space, venue and loyal friends. Based on true accounts, No One Knows About Persian Cats is an inspiring and unique must-see.

Persian with English subtitles.

For more information about this and other films at the Brooks, click here.

FILM:M for Mississippi: A Road Trip Through the Birthplace of the Blues

August 5 | 7pm

A documentary about Mississippi and its famous Delta blues, M for Mississippi tells the story of several artists and their cultural influences on music from the South. This film takes the viewer from one place to the next ranging from the fields and farms to the bars and juke joints to demonstrate the deep range of Mississippi music. A Q & A with the fillmakers will follow the movie.

Easily one of the best documentary films made about the blues in years.
– Blues & Rhythm Magazine

For more information about this film, or other films at the Brooks, click here.

Exhibitions Department: Behind-the-Scenes

Did you ever want to know how an exhibition is set up? Or wonder what everyone’s doing behind the closed doors of an upcoming show? Kip Peterson, Collections Manager/Registar here at the Brooks, finally shines some light. Kip is not only super smart, but she’s also really funny and nice. Read on — I guarantee pure enjoyment.

Ever wonder what happens once an exhibition has finished its tour? Well, Mr./Ms. Art Lover, many months of planning go into the take down, or de-installation, of a show. I’ll use Venice in the Age of Canaletto as an example.

Planning for the return of the artworks to each lending institution began about a year and a half before the exhibition opened at the Brooks on February 14, 2010.

Once the doors to the public close, the behind-the-scenes work begins. First, all of the artwork is checked, or condition reported, by a registrar to determine if any changes to the condition of the piece have occurred while on view at the museum. Once that process is completed the museum preparators, or exhibition art handlers, re-pack the work in the crate provided for travel. But wait, I’m jumping ahead, I want to tell you about the many details that happen before we repack the art.

After contacting several art transportation companies for both cost estimates and possible travel dates, an art transport company was selected. Then I contacted each museum registrar informing them that my preliminary plans had their loan being returned sometime during the last two weeks of May 2010. At that time I also asked if the museum intended to send a courier (registrar or conservator) to oversee the packing of their artwork. Granted, it was a bit early, but the exhibition was scheduled to close in May…as in…Memphis in May, and a limited amount of hotel rooms are available in Memphis! Out of the twenty museums lending to the Canaletto exhibition, eight responded that they would require a member of their staff to be present at Brooks when their artwork was re-packed for the return shipment home. Working with the assistant to the director I was able to secure the hotel rooms ahead of time. Check, scratch that off my list!

Next, I determined the exact route that each of the five trucks used to return the artwork to the lending museums, keeping in mind the value of each artwork, due to a predetermined value cap allowed per truck. One of the most important parts of the return process is finding the shortest, thereby hopefully the safest, route by which the artwork will travel. Additionally I must arrange with each museum for their delivery on a particular day, at a certain time, in order to fit their schedule as well as the truck schedule. Each climate-controlled truck will also have a courier – a museum Registrar – riding with the two drivers, overseeing the delivery of the artwork to the lending institution. (Little know fact: the truck has two drivers so that the truck keeps moving along the return route, another safety precaution.) Each courier has a “release” sheet listing each museum, address, contact person, phone number, crate identification number and crate size to be returned. Additionally, there are hotel reservations to make (after days on a truck one needs a shower!) and airline tickets to purchase (each museum courier needs to come home and get back to work!). Whew….

Now, let’s get back to the actual packing of the artwork by the museum preparators. Once repacked all crates are marked with the date packing is completed and a return label is attached. In this instance, because five separate climate-controlled art trucks will transport the returning artworks to the various museums around the country, the crates will also have a “color code” label … i.e. the RED label crates will be loaded on the westbound truck, the GREEN label crates will be loaded on the northeast truck, etc. In this instance it took three separate days for the five trucks to be loaded and begin the long journey home for the artwork.

I was very sad to see this exhibition come to a close. I felt like I was sending my child to her first day of school…without me…as I waved good-bye to each departing truck. This exhibition and catalogue had absorbed most of my work day for several years and now it was gone. Well, now I can look forward to Who Shot Rock and Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 — Present. What a great work life I have!

To learn more about our past, current and upcoming exhibtions, click here.

To learn about events surrounding the Who Shot Rock & Roll Exhbition, click here.