City Official: Others Would 'Love' to Move Into Brooks Building

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Brooks Museum of Art - KEVIN BARRE PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Kevin Barre Photography
  • Brooks Museum of Art

Other organizations would “love to have the opportunity” to move into the current location of the Brooks Museum of Art should the organization move, said Doug McGowan, the city’s chief operating officer.

The museum’s board of directors recently voted to add relocation to a list of its future facility needs, a move announced Tuesday. McGowan said, “I haven’t been given any indication that, if they decide to move, that it would be anywhere but here in the city of Memphis.”

A statement from Brooks officials said the museum is growing. That “is revealing some concerning limitations about our current physical plant, which we must address,” said the museum’s executive director Emily Ballew Neff.
Emily Ballew Neff - BRANDON DILL
  • Brandon Dill
  • Emily Ballew Neff

Museum officials have been silent on the issue since the release of Tuedsay’s statement, giving no interviews or further details to media outlets.

McGowan said the city owns the museum building, which is maintained by city crews. Also, the Brooks gets about $571,448 annually from city taxpayers to run the museum and maintain the city’s assets there. It’s an agreement akin to the Memphis Zoological Society’s contract with the city to run the Memphis Zoo.

McGowan said Mayor Jim Strickland’s administration is “excited by the opportunity that they want to grow and expand” and that anything that would help the Brooks reach more people “is a good thing for the city.” But he said he understands the needs of a growing organization.

“We’re certainly willing and excited to help them do whatever we can to meet those needs,” McGowan said. “They’re a valuable partner here and there is obviously plenty of people that would love to have the opportunity to occupy that space, should they move. There’s plenty of compelling places in the city where they might consider moving.”

A (financial) year at the Brooks

The Brooks generated revenue of more than $4.2 million in 2014, according to the latest tax information filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The lion’s share of that — just more than $3.1 million — was from contributions and grants. Only $136,418 was made through admissions and other service fees.

After expenses, though, the Brooks lost $100,286 in 2014, according to tax documents. That was slightly better than the $166,662 the museum lost the previous year.

Brooks memberships brought in $506,667 in 2014. Fundraisers brought in $77,000.

In 2014, the Brooks dipped $1 million from its $5.4 million endowment fund. The fund ended the year at just more than $4.4 million.

Salaries were the largest expense for the museum in 2014. It paid around $2.3 million to its 152 employees that year.

The only employee to earn more than $100,000 was then-executive-director Cameron Kitchin, who made $141,224 as a base salary and had a benefits package worth $4,546.

Taxpayer art

McGowan said the Brooks nonprofit organization owns most of the art in the museum and some of it is on loan from other places. But the city owns a few pieces of art in the Brooks collection.

He said he wasn't sure just how much of the art is city-owned. Nor was he sure how, exactly, the city came to own the pieces.
"Either it was given to us or we purchased it in some way, shape, or form years ago," he said. "I do know it is the largest art collection in the state of Tennessee. It’s something for us to be proud of, and it’s a real state treasure here right in the city of Memphis."    


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