Brooks Museum of Art aims to move downtown by 2024

Updated: May. 15, 2019 at 10:11 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The $100 million fundraising campaign to build a new Brooks Museum in downtown Memphis is right on schedule.

The Brooks Museum is the oldest and largest art museum in the state of Tennessee.

It's been a fixture in Memphis' Overton Park since 1916, but now that's going to change.

And no one knows how hard that change will be better than the woman who runs the Brooks.

Surrounded by antique paintings, Emily Ballew Neff, the Executive Director of the Brooks Museum of Art explained the museum’s growing pains.

"It is a daily battle," said Neff.

Climate control, which is critical to preserving the priceless collection, is a chronic problem especially in the wing built in 1973.

"And it has become the most expensive building because of what we have to do in terms of the staff and that commitment to keep that building alive," said Neff.

The other major issue is there's no more room at the inn.

The Ernest Withers photo exhibit is housed in what was basically a hallway.

The Carrol Cloar paintings hang in what used to be a board room and a lounge.

The Brooks will be moving out of Overton Park, a home for more than a century.

It was a difficult, but necessary choice.

"And not for one moment do any of us think, or the board or staff think, this was an easy decision," said Neff.

The thought of moving downtown and being part of the rebirth, or the renaissance of Memphis, is particularly appealing.

"This was an opportunity for us to play a role in the city's larger vision of transforming downtown, which gets 36 million people coming across the bridge every year," said Neff.

All of the museum's treasures will be carefully boxed up and moved to a new Brooks Museum that will replace the existing Memphis fire house on front street.

The target date is 2024.

“And we have an opportunity to create something that we believe will have. That will be a kind of iconic landmark with lasting and ending impact,” said Neff.

Space is so limited, only three percent of the museum’s 10,000 pieces of art can go on display.

Museum patrons are donating the $100 million needed to build the new museum.

A special tourism tax will generate money to provide parking and infrastructure improvements.

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