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

Meghan Wilcox: Reflection of an Internship

Last semester my passion for the arts and desire to work within the field were strengthened tremendously. Looking back, I can honestly say that I owe a great deal of this heightened fervor to my time spent at the Brooks Museum. During my internship I learned a lot about the inner-workings of museums, their relationships with other institutions, and the public in general. This experience has opened my eyes to a side of the “non-profit” sector which I had not seen before. As a result of this internship combined with previous internships at UrbanArt Commission and ArtsMemphis, I feel I now have a well-rounded view of the innovation and commitment it takes to succeed in this field. It is amazing to see just how much these people really do for the arts and their communities. I was in awe by all the activity I witnessed at the Brooks.

Whether it was the creative and inspiring exhibitions curated by Marina Pacini or Stanton Thomas, the meticulous work of the preparators, Paul Tracy and Louis Giberson, or the heartfelt efforts of the registrar, the lovely Kip Peterson and Marilyn Masler, I know that all I saw was a joined and impassioned effort driven by each one’s love for the arts and for their museum. With all of that said, this is only a miniscule portion of all that goes on at the Brooks. So much goes into everything that is done! This level of devotion is what has truly inspired me to further my studies in Art History after Rhodes and to perhaps pursue a career that allows me to bring art to others in a similar way. I have really appreciated having the opportunity to get to know these people and their museum, and what really, I am proud to call “my” museum.

This blog was written by Meghan Wilcox Exhibitions Intern 2010. Meghan is currently in her senior year at Rhodes College.

Consumo Ergo Sum: The Intern and The Artist

Meet Meg Jackson, Exhibitions Intern for the summer! Read on to find out more about interning at the Brooks, plus gain an inside look at the upcoming John Salvest exhibition. Come see him work with your own eyes before the installation is complete!

Enthusiasm, ambition, and gratitude—each have proven the norm in the last two weeks as I began my summer internship for the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Last Friday morning, these sentiments were joined by a profound excitement and wonder, as my task for the day was to observe and record artist John Salvest install his work, “Consumo Ergo Sum.” Despite being a longtime art history student and an intern in several art institutions, this happened to be my very first opportunity to watch an artist set up artwork in a museum space. Stars filled my eyes, and I am certain I was not alone in my eagerness.

Typically, museum visitors meet screens or doors with signs that read “Installation in Progress” when art exhibitions are under construction. The Brooks, however, decided to put up only a rope at the gallery entrance, which offers guests a sort of backstage pass to the museum’s newest installation. The initial reaction of visitors as they came across Mr. Salvest working turned out to be as charming as the artist himself. Double takes predominated, as people appeared both surprised and curious by the scene. Or, perhaps “consumed” provides the best description.

“Consumo Ergo Sum” consists of bottle caps—various in shape, size, and color—assembled into a map of the United States. The process of installing this art is an interesting mixture of preparation and impulse. The caps are prearranged by color and amount needed to shape each state. Salvest starts with a pattern of the states, which he puts together like a puzzle. After traced, the paper stencil of the state is replaced with the bottle tops. Within the outline of each state, the caps have no particular order, yet Mr. Salvest appears most careful in their arrangement. He attentively places each cap one by one, turns it over and back again, and often changes its position. I noticed that he even once took a pencil to carefully push a lid just a smidge to the right.

Mr. Salvest frequently stood, walked towards the opening of the gallery, and looked at the work from a distance. His expression seemed pensive, engrossed. As I sat there considering the artist as he considered his work, a remarkable thought dawned on me. When examining art, I always have so many questions, many of which go unanswered. Here was my opportunity to ask questions to the person who has the answers. Abruptly breaking the silence, I asked Mr. Salvest, “Having installed this work in such disparate areas as Houston, New York, and now Memphis, are you ever curious as to how differently publics receive your art or your message? For example, is there any sense of, or worry for, regionalism?” So much for a customary icebreaker! Later I ask myself, “Oh, Meg, why did you not lead with ‘Why bottle caps?’ or ‘How did you come up with this concept?’” Hindsight personified would be a comedian, I do believe.

Mercifully, his look of surprise at the eager question gushing from the quiet girl in the corner immediately turned in to one of contemplation. Art today, he says, is received much better and more uniformly thanks to the Internet and other informing technologies. “Is this art?”, Mr. Salvest elucidates, is no longer the primary question when contemplating art. He goes on to say that this is one of the first times he has personally installed the work. Usually, the bottle caps and templates are sent to the exhibition venue for someone else to construct. I immediately recognized his presence as quite the coup for the Memphis Brooks’ staff and visitors—not to mention, the elated intern.

Subsequently, I mulled over the work itself. “Consumo Ergo Sum” means “I consume, therefore I am.” To me, the art comments on consumerism, materialism, and temporality. For my next question (thankfully much smoother in nature and execution), I asked about the collection of the bottle caps. Salvest explained that he collected the tops over time. He also mentioned that he has gathered enough caps to make the map nearly five times the size he usually creates. My mind reeled. How long did such an enormous collection of bottle caps take? Where does he store his gatherings? Does his collection inform his art, or does his art inform his collection? His art necessitates his own consumption, and consequently, this consumption provides a spectacle of consumption for the consuming art audience—oh my, the work seems like an onion in all its layers of meaning! I suppress my urge to set free my many queries and allow the artist to concentrate on his work. I am excited he will be working further on his installation this week, and I foresee his gallery talk Thursday as being both interesting and insightful. I, for one, find myself consumed with curiosity for the artist and his artwork alike, and I have no doubt visitors of the Brooks will be captivated in much the same way.

Memphis Scene: Community Curated Exhibit

Check out the talent of your fellow Memphians! Memphis Scene collected entries submitted from all over the city to compete via Flickr to gain the top spot in this diverse exhibition.

Celebrating the diversity of the arts in Memphis, the Memphis Scene exhibition now on view through August 1, 2010, harmoniously fuses music and the visual arts. From the blues, rock and roll, hip-hop, soul, and indie music to painting, mixed media, photography, and sculpture, the artworks in this exhibition capture the vitality, energy, and passion of our city.

In a historic place with a musical pedigree that is unmatched in the United States and a burgeoning art scene that is garnering nationwide recognition, the Brooks is honored to present a community-created, community-curated exhibition highlighting the talents of local artists and the music that inspires them. This showcase is much more than a display of art, it is a commemoration and a dedication to our city’s rich artistic heritage . . . and to its future.

Exhibitions: An Intern’s Perspective;Part Two

Learn more about Matthew Tamason here!

With the Gallery Management course, our principal assignment was to curate an art show at a location in Memphis. My classmate and I partnered up and, after months of preparation, put together Break Me Up; Build Me Down, an art show consisting of three young artists in a space on South Main. Having a limited budget for the show, we managed to find a space for free and spend our money mostly on hanging supplies and food/drinks for the event. Everything turned out surprisingly well: the work flowed together beautifully and we had a great crowd. It was really exciting to put together something so professional.

The show ran for one night only (March 27th) on 546 S Main Street.

My time at the Brooks Museum has been a truly wonderful and special experience as well. I am once again seeing the more professional and business side of the art world, but with inevitable eclectic and exciting energy that the art scene brings. My favorite aspect about interning at the Brooks has been the people. Everyone I have had interactions with has been extremely helpful, knowledgeable, and interesting. There is such a community among the employees there. I have also enjoyed my job of making “checklists” for prospective exhibitions in the museum – getting to research an artist and making a list of all his/her work and where the pieces are located.

Students examining Joel Parsons’ modern piece, What Goes Around Comes Around – a nude self-portrait facing the wall and propped up on cowboy boots.

My junior year has been a period of great reflection and many realizations for me. I have cemented the need for art in my life and career. I have witnessed the inner-workings of art institutions and the vast amount of time and energy that goes into art exhibitions. I have also enjoyed the social and dynamic aspects of this energetic world, such as going to gallery openings. While I am still uncertain what I will be doing post-college, I am really grateful to have had these experiences and be where I am now.

Want to intern for the Brooks? Learn more here.

Exhibitions: An Intern’s Perspective; Part One

Meet Matthew Tamason, Intern for the Office of the Registrar and a blossoming Rhodes scholar. Hear his experience and how he made it to where he is today

My partner Virginia and I hanging up Emily Stout’s Mermaids – a piece with five, life-size “rioting” mermaids made of charcoaled paper and quilted fabric.

The arts have always played a role in my life, but the amplitude of this role seems to vary with each phase of my life. As a young child, I would spend countless hours each day drawing with markers, crayons, and colored pencils. Upon entering middle school, I somehow marginalized this creative energy in order to focus on more “serious” subjects. Thankfully, that energy did not remain entirely suppressed – I still took art classes. But I never truly appreciated the skill and eye I possessed in the arts.

When searching for a college, I intuitively chose to come to Rhodes, a liberal arts college. Still unsure of what I wanted to pursue as a career, I had a feeling liberal arts would be the best bet for allowing me to explore options and find a passion. As a sophomore, I decided to fulfill my arts requirement and took a general painting course. Being without an art class my entire freshmen year, the reentry of art into my life put me at such ease. I realized that I needed art to have an active role in my life. Without this role, my life lacked an excitement, a certain vigor.

As a junior in college, I chose to fully embrace my artistic eye and appreciation for the aesthetic. Deciding to minor in art, my class courses and extracurricular activities began to reflect my rediscovered passion. This spring I had the opportunity to both take a Gallery Management course at Rhodes and also intern with the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

Learn more about this story in our next piece, “Exhibitions: An Intern’s Perspective; Part Two”

The Memphis Scene: Community Curated; Intern Approved

Guest blogger, Jake Smith, is currently enrolled in his junior year at Rhodes. He is majoring in Art History and is interning for the Education Department. Interested in an internship at the Brooks?

“Hey, everybody! I am helping the Education Department at the Brooks put together an incredibly exciting new show called The Memphis Scene. Inspired by our upcoming exhibit, Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present, Scene will be completely curated by you, the community!
This is the first time an exhibition at the Brooks has been completely controlled by the public; from the artwork submitted, to choosing which artworks make it into the show!

We are currently seeking artwork submissions from the schools and studios of the Greater Memphis area, and we are really excited to see how creative everyone can be! Whether it’s a painting, sculpture, mixed media, drawing, or graphic design poster, it has a place in this show. “Music in Memphis” will be the theme for this special exhibit. And we aren’t talking about a velvet painting of Elvis; Memphis has an incredibly diverse music scene, as well as a diverse art scene, and we want to see them combined from every perspective!

Submissions are very easy to do. Once you have completed your artwork, snap a digital image (a .jpeg, preferably), and download a submission form from our website, Fill out the form, attach it and your image, and send it to us at After you submit, your image will be posted on Flickr, where the community can go online and vote for your artwork to be a part of the show! There are different divisions for professionals, amateurs, and youths, so even if you have never tried making art before, you could never ask for a better time to try it out.

We are really so excited to have the community involved in this project, especially because we want to show Memphis how worthy and valuable local art really is, and the best way we can show that is by putting the community’s own art inside the walls of the museum. We really hope everyone will provide us with some fantastic artworks, and we can’t wait to see what happens when Memphis’ music and art scenes collide!

The deadline for submissions is Friday, April 23, 2010. Chosen contestants will be exhbited in the Education Gallery starting Saturday, June 5, 2010.

Department Highlight:Exhibitions

Meet Elizabeth Henschen, Exhibitions intern and research guru! Check out her unique behind-the-scenes take on intern life at the Brooks!

“For the past five months as an intern in the Exhibitions Department, I’ve been exploring the process of exhibition making and the Brooks Museum’s role in the Memphis community and beyond. Museums do much more than house incredible works of art; they are the intersection of culture. Psychology, anthropology, politics and economics all play into how art is produced and experienced whether it is from centuries ago or today.

To me, a successful exhibit is one in which I lose myself in the show, completely forgetting what time it is or what obligations I have for that day. Working along-side Marilyn Masler, Kip Peterson, Marina Pacini and Stanton Thomas, I’ve discovered that there are numerous components that go into a making a successful exhibition, I hadn’t ever considered before. Everything from wall color to the arrangement of the artwork goes into months of planning and extensive research in order to create an impressive show.

Planning an exhibition doesn’t just involve the show itself, but goes beyond the museum doors. As an important component to each show, the exhibition catalogue serves as a way people can take the exhibit with them and revisit it long after the show is over. During the past few months, I’ve been able to witness the making of the catalogue for the up-coming show, “Venice in the Age of Canaletto” which opens in February. The catalogue features essays from multiple scholars and beautiful reproductions of many of the artworks in the show.

As part of the internship, not only did I investigate the process of exhibition making, but I also explored others ways in which the Brooks Museum fosters a learning environment. The Brooks makes a lot of information accessible to the public. For example, did you know that the Brooks has its own library? I had no idea, until I started gathering research material for one of Marina’s projects. The library is full of art journals, exhibition catalogues and art books, which upon special request, visitors can take full advantage of and explore for themselves. The museum archives are also a valuable source, providing information on past shows and events at the Brooks. On multiple occasions, requests came in from people seeking information on a particular show or artist.

In order to find this information, I searched through the museum archives which contain scrapbooks, exhibition catalogs and newspaper articles dating all the way back to the 1910s when the Brooks was first established. The Brooks is a valuable resource and through the sharing of information, links itself to the local and international community.

Combining academic interest with civic responsibility, museum professionals occupy a unique and vital position in the community. Although artwork and objects can create an initial response from the viewer, they can rarely speak for themselves and require the museum professional to communicate their full story. Through their expertise, museum professionals bring the subject to life, encouraging people to learn about their own history as well as other cultures and traditions. The museum professional is invaluable to society because without their effective communication, the power of knowledge is lost.”