Brooks Leaders Consider Downtown Location

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Leaders of the Brooks Museum of Art are considering a move to a new location close to the corner of Union and Front, according to several sources.

No formal vote on the move has been taken yet by Brooks board members. However, sources have told the Flyer that the plan before them now would involve relocating the art museum to sites now occupied by Memphis Fire Station #5 at 66 South Front and, possibly, an adjacent parking garage at Union and Monroe.

It is not clear whether or not the plan would involve both buildings. It’s also not clear whether or not either of the buildings would be razed for the project.

Emily Ballew Neff, executive director at the Brooks, did not confirm nor deny the information in a statement.

“As we've stated since the beginning of this process, we are exploring options for the Brooks Museum's future," she said. "A location on the historic riverfront is certainly an exciting potential option for us to consider. We will continue to work closely with our Board, our members and other supporters, and our partners at the City of Memphis as we move towards a final decision.”
Sources said a portion of the new facility could be paid for with state dollars from a re-configured Tourist Development Zone (TDZ). City officials are now updating an existing TDZ, approved to pay for the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid project, to include more areas around The Pinch District and the riverfront, which would include the proposed Brooks site.

Those officials will take that new plan before the Tennessee State Building Commission in December.

However, financing for a new museum would likely come from numerous sources like philanthropies, private donors, and more.

Memphis Fire Station #5 is the headquarters of the Memphis Division of Fire Services, which oversees all of the city’s 75 fire stations.

Brooks leaders announced last month that they were considering a move from Overton Park, the museum’s home for 101 years, because the museum was growing.

“However, this growth is revealing some concerning limitations about our current physical plant, which we must address,” said the museum’s executive director Emily Ballew Neff. “Visibility and accessibility are important to us, and we also need to think about how we can continue to attract important art collections to the Brooks. We do that by showing that we are a safe, secure, and worthy place to steward those legacies. We are exploring every possible option to achieve that goal.”

Brooks leaders said they would work closely with stakeholders in Overton Park, the Overton Park Conservancy, and the Memphis City Council.

“The Brooks Museum’s ultimate responsibility is to our collection and the 5,000 years of art that it represents; our supportive members and lovers of art everywhere; and the people of Memphis,” said board president Deborah Craddock. “If and when we elect to relocate, we will do everything in our power to ensure that our current museum facilities enjoy a productive and positive next use that benefits Overton Park and the entire community.”


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