Yesterday at the museum, we co-hosted with Indie Memphis musician Stoll Vaughan as part of the David Lynch-presented web series Interview Project. Vaughan played some music, showed a few of the interviews (which I highly recommend everyone check out – a new one is released every three days), and told some stories from the road. It was a great afternoon.
I mention it because at one point Vaughan (a native of Kentucky, currently living in LA) said something that really hit me. He said that in a city like Los Angeles people come to take, whereas in a community like Memphis they come to give.
That really struck a chord with me. It is something that I have long felt, but have never been able to voice so perfectly. Memphis is more than a city. We, especially within the arts, are a community where giving back is par for the course. Most of us have a healthy amount of pride in our city (don't you Love Memphis, too?), and are committed to making it a better place. Working at the Brooks, I am constantly reminded of what a transformative influence the arts can have on a person or place. (Read more about our community mural projects, art therapy programs, and more here). Also through the work of the Urban Art Commission, Rhodes’ CODA program, ArtsMemphis outreach, the South Main Arts District, the burgeoning Broad Ave scene, not to mention the countless individual artists that make great things happen around the city!
Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the NEA, is visiting Memphis at some point this week on a nationwide tour entitled Art Works that underscores this exact point. “Art Works” is a triple entendre referencing: 1.) art works, like the things that artists create; 2.) art works to transform a person, to make a place better, etc.; and 3.) art works because it creates jobs, employs people, stimulates the economy.
Next Sunday, December 6 at 2pm, we’re showing a movie at the museum that I think dovetails perfectly with this whole idea. It is called Downside Up: How Art Can Change the Spirit of a Place. John Weeden (the seemingly indefatigable Director of the UAC) and I decided to show this a couple months back, before the news of Landesman’s visit was announced, so the timing of it couldn’t be more perfect (though honestly, completely unintentional).
After the film, we will be holding an open conversation about positive things happening in our own community; areas where we’d like to see improvement; ideas about how we can better nurture the arts as an integral part of the city’s development, etc. Representatives from both the UAC and the Center City Commission will be there to listen and to explore ideas with us, the arts community, and all those interested.
So if you believe in the power of art, if you believe that art can make a difference in our community, in our city, please come out to lend your voice to this discussion!
Sunday, December 6 | 2 pm
Film: Downside Up
Can art make an impact on an individual, a community, a city? With the majority of its downtown deserted, many people had given up on North Adams, Massachusetts, until MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) located there and breathed life back into the community. The Brooks Museum collaborates with the Urban Art Commission to present this moving documentary about how art can bring the tentative, dangerous notion of hope to a city widely viewed as hopeless.
Stay afterwards for a discussion on how art makes a difference in Memphis with representatives from the Urban Art and Center City Commissions.
(Free for members; $5 suggested donation for non-members.)